The x-factor in State elections

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The x-factor in State elections

Tuesday, 06 April 2021 | Kalyani Shankar

The x-factor in State elections

It is always unexpected and sometimes might play a positive and at other times a negative role in the polls

Are there any X-factors that could play an important role in the ongoing five State Assembly polls? The  X-factors are always unexpected and might play sometimes positive and at other times a negative role in elections. In a few weeks’ time, we will know which way it has played in the Assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry. In West Bengal, Chief Minister (CM) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee is fighting a fierce battle with the surging BJP. Earlier, the TMC used to fight the Congress or the Left parties but Mamata since 2011 systematically decimated them. Now she is regretting it because the space left by them has been occupied by the BJP. It is the Muslim votes that matter a lot for Mamata. This time, to counter the saffron party’s influence, she is also wooing the Hindu voters. She should be worried about the role of the influential cleric Abbas Siddiqui’s new party, the Indian Secular Front. The Congress-CPI(M) coalition can either damage the chances of Mamata by denting her Muslim vote bank or polarising the voters into Hindu-Muslim division which could benefit the BJP. Since the BJP is not expecting Muslim votes, it will be the Trinamool that will be the eventual sufferer.

 The X-factor in Assam could be the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). Assam is key to BJP’s rise in the northeast. An exit poll data indicates a tough contest in Assam. While the NDA is likely to corner 42.9 per cent vote share, the UPA can secure 40.7 per cent of the votes. That the AIUDF could polarise the voters on the Hindu-Muslim line would go to the advantage of the BJP, particularly in upper Assam. Also, the Congress-led coalition has no tall leader in the State while the BJP has the incumbent CM, Sarbananda Sonowal, and former Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma who has been the saffron party’s northeast strategist. So it is again the Muslim votes that matter in Assam.

However, Tamil Nadu is a classic case where the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led alliance and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) coalition have been alternating in power. But that was when two iconic leaders, J Jayalalithaa  (AIADMK) and M Karunanidhi  (DMK), were leading their parties. This will be the first election that non-charismatic leaders are on the poll scene. While incumbent CM E Palaniswami has not done badly, the DMK is led by MK Stalin who had been groomed carefully by his father Karunanidhi for years. The AIADMK suffers from many disadvantages, including anti-incumbency. Its alliance with the BJP is frowned upon by the Dravidian voters. Kerala too has followed the trend of alternating between the Left-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). Now it is the turn of the UDF but incumbent CM Pinarayi Vijayan too has reinforced his forces by luring the Kerala Congress (Mani) into the alliance. This will be to the disadvantage of the UDF. Besides, Vijayan has managed to do well in establishing himself as a tall leader. If the LDF loses this time, the comrades will not have any Government in the whole of India. The BJP could be the X-factor in Kerala.

  (The writer is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal.)

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