Liberal Opinion: Politics: It is election time again

In less than two months of assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, India is heading for yet another round of battle for the ballot. This time the territories chosen for determining political supremacy are  North Eastern States. Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya will have new State legislatures in place by the first week of March this year.

Elections in the North East, like those in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, will continue to be viewed as semi-finals to the general elections in 2024.

The Election Commission, which conducts elections to State Assemblies as well Parliament, has  alrteady announced election schedules for Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya.
Tripura will go to the polls on February 16 whereas Nagaland and Meghalaya will vote on February 27. The counting of votes will take place on March 2.
The notifications for the polls will be issued on January 21 in case of Tripura and on January 31 in cases of Nagaland and Meghalaya.

While the term of the Nagaland assembly ends on March 12, the terms of Meghalaya and Tripura assemblies end on March 15 and 22, respectively. It is going to be the next litmus test for BJP as it gears up for the 2024 general elections in the country. BJP has set its eyes on the unconquered territories.

In the last round of assembly elections before the end of year (2022), the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party recorded a resounding win with more than two-third majority. Though BJP suffered a reverse and conceded power to its traditional rival, Congress, in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh, mood in the BJP camp is upbeat.

At its recent delegates conclave, BJP decided to extend the term of its incumbent President, JP Nadda, by one more year besides taking up resolutions to extend its jurisdictional control over the left out territories and States.

The BJP convention and the announcement of the election schedule for three North Eastern States has heightened political activity in the country.

Some of the Opposition parties, including  national and regional parties, held a meeting to work out modalities of putting up a joint third front against the ruling BJP at the centre. Present at one of such meetings were leaders of Aam Aadmi Party (that could not come anywhere near expectations in Gujarat assembly elections) besides Akhilesh Yadav who had his wife elected to Lok Sabha against a seat that fell vacant at the death of his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Interestingly, when the election schedule was being announced, Manpreet Singh Badal, a nephew of Shiromani Akali Dal chief patron Parkash Singh Badal, left Congress and joined Bharatiya Janata Party. It may be recalled that Manpreet Singth after leaving Shiromani Akali Dal some years ago, first formed his own party, and later joined Congress and served as a Minister in the Congress government led by Capt Amarinder Singh. He chose a time to join BJP when Rahul Gandhi was in Punjab for his “Bharat Jodho Yatra”.

Of late, BJP has been working on a strategy of wooing into the party fold as many Sikh leaders as possible. Though there were rumours that once again, it would seek an alliance with its traditional partner, Shiromani Akali Dal, the State party chief, Ashwani Sharma, scotched them saying there was no such move.

Former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh  had some time ago abandoned his party and joined BJP. Some of his former colleagues, including Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa contested the last  as BJP candidates. Kewal Dhillon contested the Sangrur Lok Sabha by election as a BJP candidate.BJP has laid bare its strategy of going alone in Punjab in the 2024 elections. It is why the Union Home Minister Amit Shah is heading for Punjab to launch what is being viewed as an election campaign for the next year Lok Sabha elections.

(Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience of 14 years with Reuters News and 30 years with The Tribune Group, covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows.)