By S Sethuraman
There is a pattern the way the Centre has forced itself thick into State poll battles in 2021 (South and East) with the Modi Government’ and BJP’s determined objectives of not merely wresting West Bengal from Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and retaining Assam, but also becoming a decisive player in reshaping politics and policies in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Behind all this must be the larger concept (“Sankalp”) of bringing about a “New India” in 2022, 75th anniversary of India’s independence, but the objectives set like doubling of farmers’ incomes, are already becoming out of reach. The Prime Minister’s call for one-nation, one-law, one tax and one language has also been a tormenting factor given the Constitutional autonomy for states and cultural diversity.
Much of course depends on the way the people would have voted everywhere on April 6 and in Bengal till April 29. The outcomes are pronounced on May 2. Despite the resurge in pandemic Covid-19 in several states, the initial voting phases recorded a good 70-88 percentage in parts of West Bengal and Assam.
It remains to be seen how strong the polling can be in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The electoral scene in Tamil Nadu is cluttered up with smaller parties and scores of individuals with some influence outside the two traditional rivals, ruling AIADMK and DMK with BJP and Congress part of the two alliances respectively.
There are smaller alliances like AMMK led by T.T.V Dhinakaran partnered by Capt. Vijaykanth’s DMDK, which had once won some 29 seats. But AMMK, which is looked with favour by Ms. V K Sasikala, though out of politics for the present, can hurt ruling AIADMK whose dissidents may have found places in AMMK. Cine Star Kamal Haasan’s MNM is largely fighting a lonely battle despite his programme positively viewed.
The poll campaigns in Southern states will end on Sunday (April 4), two days ahead of voting on April 6 for the 234-member TN Assembly, 140- member Kerala Assembly and Puducherry (30 members). BJP at the Centre has thrown all its resources into these Assembly battles, deputing senior Ministers to preach and propagate the cliches, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have had a commanding presence in the battle zones.
Ruling AIADMK leader Mr E K Palaniswami and Deputy CM Mr O Panneerselvam have drawn considerable comfort from the BJP leaders’ supportive campaign and maintaining allegations of corruption and disrespect of women against DMK. A series of tax raids has also gone on on select leaders in the opposition including the son-in-law of DMK leader M K Stalin.
For his part, the DMK leader still remains confident of defeating AIADMK and “retrieving rights (like education) lost to the Centre” under Mr Palaniswami. An ally of DMK, Mr Vaiko (MDMK) sees “overwhelming support” for their Secular Progressive Alliance and says Tamil Nadu would fight the “Hindutva forces”.
Over 50,000 CRPF personnel have been deployed mainly for Bengal polls, with the approval of CEC .The official claim is it it is to ensure peaceful conduct of polls and to prevent any illegal infiltrations into polling stations.
Prime Minister Modi has stretched himself over the last ten days with his visit to Bangladesh, where his programmes and observations seemed designed to advance winning chances for BJP in parts of West Bengal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has headed BJP’s electoral campaigns in both Southern states and Puducherry, adding to his eloquence, visits to temples and mounting the campaign against ruling LDF in Kerala, which is hopeful of winning a second term. The Left has robust confidence that BJP cannot make headway in Kerala with its secular psyche.
Besides Home Minister Amit Shah, who predicts victory for his party at every phase in West Bengal and Assam, a number of Cabinet Ministers including Defence Minister Shivraj Singh have been taking meetings in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Mr Shivraj Singh has already announced that Tamil Nadu will have total prohibition with the expected return of BJP-supported AIADMK to power.
But the chain of developments, with the AIADMK Government headed by E, Palaniswami, in desperate dependence on BJP Government at the Centre, in its battle against DMK led by Mr M K Stalin, has given confidence to BJP in registering a double digit presence in T N Assembly. All these years, it had hardly won a seat here. It is looking with a degree of certainty that it would govern Puducherry.
BJP is fighting a bigger battle against LDF in Kerala, putting up 100 candidates, also inducting Metro Engineer Mr Sreedharan who is contesting from Palakkad. BJP has only one seat in Kerala Assembly.
The Modi-Shah visits and loaded speeches across the four states – Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala -and the Union Territory of Puducherry could well be to make BJP a fully national party, not to be any longer regarded as essentially a party of the Hindi belt. In any case, the BJP needs to secure a substantial presence in South India but no less critical would be to secure a second major triumph in UP in 2022 on the road to 2024 when the Modi era would have run for ten years. (IPA Service)