Issues before the coming polls

The Election Commission has announced the schedule for the polls to the five State Assemblies. The longest will be in Uttar Pradesh – spread over seven days. The result will be known on March 11, when counting for all the five States will be taken up. Whatever the outcome, one thing can be predicted confidently. If the BJP wins hands down, especially in UP, the party will claim to have won a massive referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization decision. On the contrary, if there is an adverse or a mixed result then the defeat will surely be dismissed as of no consequence. It will be claimed that national issues like demonetization do not figure in State Assembly polls. These elections are fought on State issues. An Opposition victory will undoubtedly be interpreted as a rejection of Modi’s demonetization decision which the BJP will be at pains to refute.

The UP outcome will be decisive. If despite demonetization UP votes for Modi, his victory in 2019 will be more or less certain. The coming weeks will therefore be a challenge for the SP, BSP and the Congress. They have not only to explain the real issues at stake – those of gradual dilution of citizens’ rights and abridgment of the democratic space which is going on without formally declaring either an emergency or dispensing with the democratic rights of the people. The role the United States silently and secretly played behind India’s demonetization decision, as brilliantly explained by Norbert Haering (, has to be exposed before the people in course of the poll campaign in each State so that the voters realize that what is at stake is just not demonetization but freedom itself.

The people expect the fragmented Opposition to be able to rise above their petty and partisan agenda and focus on the really important issues.  Scoring Brownie points at one another’s expense may turn out to be a costly game. The way some MPs accused of corruption were physically pushed about by the police at Bhubaneswar and protesting MPs in New Delhi are matters of concern as are attacks on BJP offices and houses of BJP leaders in Kolkata. Lawlessness will only cloud the real issues and play into the hands of those who want to reduce the coming electoral battle simplistically to one between supporters of black money and those supporting the Prime Minister’s drive for a swachchha Bharat.

Friday, 6 January, 2017