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Tripura Suspense

By Insaf

The CPM must be on tenterhooks. Ballot boxes to be opened today will decide the fate of the party’s 25-year rule under Manik Sarkar, the country’s poorest Chief Minister. Will the people’s mood swing to the right? Two exit polls have predicted that the BJP is all set to storm the Left bastion, whereas a third says it’s going to be a photo finish and a fourth that the red flag will flutter. While many would take these with a pinch of salt, it is no secret that for the BJP this is the biggest challenge in the North East. It has been successful in edging out its main rival Congress in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. But Tripura is “battle royale” as team Modi has canvassed and canvassed hard. With the Congress having indulged in a half hearted campaign, it’s undeniably a bipolar fight–CPM Vs BJP. While Amit Shah will add a big feather to his cap if the BJP forms the government, for the Left a rout will put a big question mark on its basic survival and relevance. Other than the BJP aspiring to have a Congress-mukt Bharat, its aim to drive out the communists from country has been well seen in attack strategy in Kerala. Will the shade of red fade to saffron?  

Regional Players

In the other two north eastern States, Nagaland and Meghalaya, the fate of regional players will be known today. The BJP has being playing truant with them in Nagaland, at least. It simply said goodbye to its 15-year-old ally, the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and decided to tie up with Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDDP). What should be of concern is that Delhi as power centre is coming handy to the BJP and not its intent. Recall, the Naga peace accord is still under wraps, far from getting resolved. Its strategy of riding piggy back with one or the other gives it a firm foothold in the Christian-dominated State. Likewise, in Meghalaya, the results will give a verdict on the voters’ choice. Will the National People’s Party (NPP) turn out to be a strong contender against the Congress, and the BJP in the sidelines? While Congress CM Mukul Sangma is confident of a victory, the exit polls show its exit after a decade in power. It needs to be watched how NPP plays it cards with the BJP.

MP, Odisha BJP Hit

Madhya Pradesh and Odisha give a rude nudge to the BJP. On Wednesday last, the Congress followed in the footsteps of Rajasthan, by winning the byelections to two Assembly seats– Mungaoli by defeating sitting BJP MLA and retaining the Kolaras. While the margin of victory was low, a little over 2000 and 8000 votes respectively, the jolt to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was big given he with his ministers had campaigned aggressively. At the other end, the win for young turk Jyotiraditya Scindia offers a bright ray of hope of leading the bigger battle in the ensuing Assembly polls later this year. In Odisha, the BJD oozing with confidence, got extra pleasure of defeating the BJP in the Bijepur Assembly bypoll, a seat held by the Congress. While the BJP may try to soften the blow by saying the trend in the bypolls would not get translated in the Assembly elections, it would need to work doubly to battle the three-term anti-incumbency in MP and to aim having its first ever government in Odisha.

Big Task For BJP States

Fourteen BJP-ruled States have been given a heavy load of homework to do before 2019. None other than Prime Minister Modi held a meeting with his team of chief ministers and deputy chief ministers on Wednesday last in Delhi and spelt out the task before them. Expedite implementation of the welfare schemes and “work hard” to take his government’s flagship programmes to the masses. Importantly, they were asked to submit the organisation works in their respective States, while chief Amit Shah would assess the party’s organisational strength and preparedness for the big battle. Guess, this would help decide how vigorously the BJP should push for NaMo’s next big project “one-nation-one-election.” Therefore, the CMs were categorically told to create public awareness about benefits of simultaneous polls and ills of frequent elections, such as corruption and mis-utilisation of public money. At their end, the CMs spelt out what they were doing and their achievements. While preparations for 2019 have been afoot, the big meeting suggests that recent bypolls in their ruled States spell trouble. After all over confidence can spoil report card.   

An acute water scarcity across Gujarat has taken the fun out of Holi festivities in the state this year.

Dal Badlu Bihar

Bihar fits the bill as a dal badlu (party swapping) State. Reinforcing the club of opportunists is former Bihar Chief Minister and President, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) Jitan Ram Manjhi. On Wednesday last, he quit ruling NDA, joined the ‘Mahagathbandhan.’ Recall, he was with JD(U), quit in 2015 when asked to step down from chief ministership to pave Nitish Kumar’s return to the hot seat and earlier had stints with Congress, JD and RJD! Apparently, Manjhi is eyeing a Rajya Sabha seat or a governorship, but as BJP didn’t oblige, he hopes RJD-Congress would. In return, he promises to campaign for them in upcoming Assembly bypolls. His exit doesn’t bother the ruling BJP-JD(U) as four Congress MLCs have crossed over. Other than party, the State offers alliance switching. Remember, Nitish dumped RJD, the Mahagatbandhan and allied with bitter foe Modi to retain his kursi. Likewise, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP had quit UPA and shockingly joined Modi-led NDA for greener pastures, which sadly remains an illusion for the aam admi.

Karnataka’s Worry

Karnataka is giving the Election Commission a headache. With elections round the corner, the State government has picked up an issue of EVMs and VVPATs (Voter Verifiable paper Audit Trail) with Nirvachan Sadan. It fears these are deliberately being sent from BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Obviously, hinting these would have been tampered with. The State electoral officer has sought to dispel these unfounded fears and said these would be deployed based ‘on requirement, availability and other logistics like transportation.’ Further, he went into details and told the government there was no specific State-wise allocation or quota of EVMs and VVPATs nor were there any designated EVMs for each State. Apparently, of the 85,000-odd EVMs required, 67,000-odd will go from Gujarat and UP and the remaining 18,000-odd from Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Public Sector Unit BEL. Will the Congress government be convinced, or will it at a later stage use it as excuse if the tide changes. Time will tell. —INFA

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