By Nitya Chakraborty
With only less than three months left for the assembly elections to the five states in February/March 2022, full scale preparations at the level of BJP’s central leadership as also state leaders to look for maximum allies to take on the Congress and the other parties like Samajwadi Party and the Aam Aadmi Party in the assembly elections to Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. As of now, BJP is far advanced as against the other contenders in campaigning and resource mobilisation.
The Congress which is the principal party challenging the BJP in four states, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur, have started preparations at its own level and some talks have started with the smaller parties which are positioned against the BJP. The assembly elections in both 2022 and 2023 are a sort of dress rehearsal for the Lok Sabha polls in 2024 and so the challenge is being taken up by the BJP that they are fighting the first part of the battle for 2024.
Punjab is the only state ruled by the Congress and the Congress high command which worked on the decision to replace the powerful chief minister Amarinder Singh by a less known dalit congress minister Charanjit Singh Channi, has to prove that its decision was right and this can be done by ensuring comfortable victory of the Congress party in the coming assembly elections.
All indications suggest that four fronts will be contesting in Punjab in the 2022 poll, the Congress, AAP, the Akalis-BSP combine and the BJP possibly in alliance with Amarinder Singh’s new party. Initial reports suggest that Amarinder has not been able to dent into the Congress base and the Congress high command sources feel that the new dalit chief minister is helping the party in regaining some base. Whatever is the ground level position, the Congress has to take the challenge seriously and look for small allies including the two left parties CPI and the CPI(M) which have pockets of influence in the state.
CPI once had powerful base in Punjab and at one time, the party had two Lok Sabha members. The CPI(M) has also pockets of influence which assume importance in marginal constituencies. The Congress high command can consider an electoral understanding with the two left parties to expand the base of the secular front in the state. The Congress will be benefited in many constituencies since a small vote share of the left also will be crucial in marginal constituencies. AAP is emerging as a powerful contender and the Congress can gain by forming an electoral alliance with the Left. This will also contribute to the wider unity of the secular forces before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Similarly in Goa, the Congress is facing Trinamool also apart from BJP which is the ruling party and is determined to retain power in the state by hook or crook. The Congress is talking to the smaller allies and in the similar manner, talks can be held with the CPI and the CPI(M) which have pockets of influence among the workers and the fishermen. By giving a few seats to the left in the overall alliance against the BJP led front and the Trinamool, apart from AAP, the Congress can gain some benefits.
The Congress high command is now de facto led by Rahul and Priyanka do. For Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka, who is the party in charge for UP has declared putting candidates in all 403 seats. This can be a long term strategy of a party which needs expansion of its organisation in every village and at booth level. But this is not the right time to do such experiment with long term implications. UP is the highway for reaching Delhi and the BJP has gone the whole hog in mobilising all its resources and financial power to retain power in the state which has 80 seats in Lok Sabha.
If the Priyanka announcement is the final policy of the Congress for state assembly elections in UP, that is detrimental to the interests of the opposition unity as a whole. It is in the interests of the combined opposition that the BJP needs humbled in state elections in UP so that the saffrons cannot make use of UP success in the assembly for influencing the pace of campaigning for Lok Sabha poll. There has to be a firm policy of avoiding the division of anti-BJP votes. Even without any formal alliance, an understanding can be arrived between the Congress and the SP before the assembly poll. SP is the largest opposition party in UP, that has to be recognised by the Congress.
In Manipur, there is a good possibility of Congress alliance with the CPI which has considerable influence in Manipur politics. The Congress can only gain by having such alliance along with the other local parties which are positioned against the BJP. Congress lost both Goa and Manipur in 2027 assembly elections because of the floor crossing by its MLAs. This time, the party has to be careful about selection of candidates. Both Gopa and Manipur can be won by the Congress if the organisation is mobilised to the optimum along with the expansion of alliance of secular forces.
Rahul Gandhi has been in the forefront in fighting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi focusing on the anti-people nature of the PM’s policies. This has to be accompanied by hard work in expanding the alliance of the secular parties so that the anti- BJP votes do not get divided. The state assembly elections in 2022 and 2023 have assumed the same importance as the Lok Sabha polls. That is what the Congress leadership has to keep in mind. (IPA Service)