Indian politics may enter a turbulent phase after March 10

By Sheela Bhatt

It is fascinating to see that the short-term fate of Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party is intertwined in Punjab, India. Out of the five states that have gone to the polls recently, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are likely to deeply influence national politics.

There are four possible scenarios here among other possibilities:

1) What if Congress loses Punjab? 2) What if the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wins Punjab handsomely? 3) What if BJP loses UP? 4) What if BJP retains power in UP?

UP has 80 Lok Sabha seats so obviously it’s the most important of five states going to polls but what’s happening in Punjab which has 13 Lok Sabha seats is intriguing.

If the Congress loses Punjab, the party will implode within, and the Nehru-Gandhi family will be compelled to fight a no-holds-barred battle of survival. The Congress rebel group, G-23, will also get reactivated after the 10 March results.

More importantly, Congress would lose bargaining power in any post-election opposition politics.

Right now, most analysts believe that there is a “protest vote” in Punjab and people want to get rid of the tried and tested Congress and Akali Dal.

There is a kind of political demand from the voters to provide decent services — be it hospitals, schools, and civic services without corruption. That’s at the heart of AAP’s rise in the state. Not to forget that in Punjab — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity ratings are low and haven’t helped his party’s electoral fortune at all. It’s an added advantage to the newcomer AAP.

Arvind Kejriwal is a bush-shirt wearing politician who enjoys an image of a non-corrupt common man.

Since the birth of Punjab in 1966 religious importance of Sikhism has been at the heart of state politics. AAP win will change this fundamental of politics.

In such a unique state AAP’s emergence is stunning proof of churning happening in India. AAP’s founder and leader Arvind Kejriwal has built up his goodwill by running urban civic services efficiently in New Delhi and by handsomely defeating BJP twice — against all odds. In case AAP wins Punjab, it will be continually at loggerheads with the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

If Congress loses Punjab and Uttarakhand and fails to win even 10 seats in UP, then Sharad Pawar, Mamata Bannerji, M K Stalin, Uddhav Thackeray, Left parties, Tejaswi Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav may come together to ensure Congress is cut to size.

If Congress isn’t leading the anti-BJP force of the united opposition, it will be difficult for the BJP to continue with their standard rule book of the Saffron politics and Hindu-identity based political campaigns. Because, once the regional forces get energized, every Lok Sabha seat will acquire its own agenda and caste-based fights.

In UP, while there is no strong wave, it is clear that a bipolar contest is taking place between SP and BJP. Both sides are giving a tough fight on each seat with BJP having an edge in Purvanchal. But it is very visible that the BJP is nervous and is walking on a tight rope.

If BJP loses Uttar Pradesh, Congress and the rest of the opposition can rejoice as it will give them a huge psychological advantage. In the long term it will make their fight more difficult with the BJP raising the Hindu identity politics to a new level.

If the BJP wins UP, then it is likely to be haughtier in its pursuit of power and will soon turn to Maharashtra and other states where it is weakened or weakening or in the Southern states which aren’t traditionally BJP states.  (The article appeared in Gulf News)

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