The poll will determine balance of power between Centre and states

With the poll bugle sounded for the Assembly elections in four states and a union territory, 824 seats are up for grabs, making this the most important electoral battle since the General Election of 2019. Continuing with last year’s Bihar poll template that factored in pandemic-appropriate precautions, the ECI has spread the elections over a month.
The announcement of dates for Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry assembly elections has focussed attention on the strong repercussions their outcome will have for national politics. BJP governs Assam, is a strong challenger in Bengal, and its ally AIADMK administers TN. Any setback for BJP in Bengal and Assam and ally AIADMK in TN could bring the opposition roaring back into contention in national politics. Buoyed by its emergence as a close second to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the Lok Sabha poll of 2019 in West Bengal, the BJP has upped the ante to wrest power from the TMC. The saffron party got a boost in the state recently when seven Trinamool MLAs jumped ship to join it.
However, CM Mamata Banerjee is valiantly fending off anti-incumbency in a bid to win a third term by wooing voters with various schemes, including providing coronavirus vaccine free of cost. In neighbouring Assam, the shadow of the violent anti-CAA protests looms large. The ruling BJP-led coalition has to contend with the ‘grand alliance’ forged by Congress and other parties. The stakes are high for Congress, whether the party realises it or not. The fall of the ministry in Puducherry will have consequences in both Tamil Nadu and Kerala: The DMK has now been less accommodative of its claims in Tamil Nadu while in Kerala, the party and the UDF heads will have to convince the voters that they are not up for sale if they were to be voted back. It is also to be seen how the party puts up a fight in Assam. The regional majors — the Trinamul Congress, the AIADMK and the DMK — will have their bases intact whether they win or lose but power is a major factor that keeps them going.
A loss is sure to leave the Trinamul gasping for breath, and hence the stiff opposition to the eight-phase voting in the state. The Left is of little consequence in West Bengal and hence a return to power in Kerala has become all the more critical for the formation.  Overall, while the BJP is keen to expand its footprint, the other parties are desperately trying to hold their ground. The May 2 verdict will be crucial to the fortunes of various stakeholders. A very interesting and significant electoral battle looks to be unfolding. The polls will shape the trajectory of national politics, determine the balance of power between the Centre and states, and reveal the current strength of national and regional forces.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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