By Kalyani Shankar
Is there an x-factor that could play in the on-going five states assembly polls? X factors are always unexpected and might play sometimes positive and other times a negative role in polls. In a few weeks’ time, we will know which way it has played in the Assembly polls to Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu Kerala, and Puducherry where the incumbent chief ministers are defending their five- year rule. As has been in the past, the x-factor could knock them out or retain them.
In West Bengal where the chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is fighting, a fierce battle is on 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 because the space left by them has been occupied by the BJP. It is the Muslim votes that matter for Mamata. This time to counter the BJP 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 Banerjee by cutting into her Muslim voters or polarise the voters into Hindu – Muslim division which could benefit the BJP. In West Bengal, the Muslim voters are crucial and the new coalition can damage the chances of Mamata. Since the BJP is not expecting their votes, it will be the Trinamool that will suffer. However, predictions are that Mamata Banerjee will win but with a narrow majority
The x-factor in Assam could be the AIUDF. Assam is key to BJP’s rise in the northeast. The C-Voter-Times Now survey data indicates a tough contest in Assam in the forthcoming Assembly elections. As per the survey data, while NDA is likely to corner 42.9% vote share, UPA can secure 40.7% of the votes that will be polled in the Assembly elections. The AIUDF could polarise the voters on the Hindu – Muslim line and that might give some advantage of the BJP, particularly in the upper Assam. The Congress AIUDF might get a lead in the lower Assam. Also, the Congress-led coalition has no tall leader in the state while the BJP has the incumbent chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and the 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.
Tamil Nadu is a classic case where the DMK led alliance and the AIADMK coalition have been alternating in power. But that was when two iconic leaders J. Jayalalithaa (AIADMK) and Karunanidhi (DMK) was leading their parties. This will be the first elections that non-charismatic leaders are on the poll scene. While the incumbent chief minister E. Palani Swamy has not done badly, the DMK too is led by Stalin who had been groomed carefully by his father Karunanidhi for years. According to the pendulum’s swing, it is the turn of the DMK coalition this time. The AIADMK suffers from many disadvantages including anti-incumbency. Its alliance with the BJP is frowned upon by the Dravidian voters. Even within the party, there is a power struggle. The return of Sasikala, Jayalalitha’s close associate might play some role though she has declared that she is not in politics. The BJP, which has been aggressive in other states might remain a minor player because of the lack of leadership in the state level. Two x-factors –superstar Rajnikanth and Sasikala have bowed out of the election scene. As for the smaller parties, including the new players like film actor Kamal Hassan’s Makkal Needi Maiyam would be minor players. So, there is no particular x-factor unless the AIADMK led alliance gets unexpected support from many quarters.
Kerala too has followed the trend of alternating between the left-led LDF and the Congress-led UDF in power. Now it is the turn of the UDF but the incumbent chief minister 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 manged to do well in establishing himself as a tall leader. Moreover, if the Kerala Congress (Mani) influence among the Christians works, it will be a big factor. There is stiff competition among Congress aspirants for the top post. If the LDF loses this time, the comrades will not have any government in the whole of India. They had already lost their two other bastions -West Bengal and Tripura. The BJP could be the x-factor in Kerala as it leaves no stone unturned. (IPA Service)