Sunday Snippets: Sunshine for the saffron tide?
By Venkatesh Raghavan
The four poll bound states, namely West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam besides the Union Territory of Puducherry at present have a common thread that is expected to influence people’s minds against the farm laws that were passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in November last. However, whether this protest will be a strong enough determining factor to affect the fortunes of the ruling BJP in the polling arena is still circumspect.
The farmers – BJP leaders claim them to be middlemen or Aadhatias and not farmers –under the banner of Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) have announced that it will send its representatives to the poll bound states to both inform and educate the people on why they should ensure the defeat of the saffron alliance at the hustings. However, even the Morcha, which has been agitating for the last over 100 days demanding the complete withdrawal of the three new farm laws, seem to have weakened and taken over by Bharatiya Kisan Union, which is largely based in western Uttar Pradesh. Its leader Rakesh Tikait feels that his supporters would be able to effectively advocate a negative vote against the BJP. However, the tidings coming from West Bengal and Assam seem to be reassuring to the extent that the farm law protests should at best be treated as a fringe issue.
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Amidst the spate of events that has led to poll-fever picking up in the four states and the union territory, there have been complaints galore from voices in the opposition ranks about hijacking of candidates by the BJP for being fielded in the electoral fray.
For example, some of the mixed reports that emerged from West Bengal’s capital city Kolkata dwelt at length with this anomaly. The person who was not even aware of what hit him learnt to his surprise that he has been declared as an official supporter of the BJP. Besides, the BJP’s IT cell has gained notoriety in the state for attempting to vilify the ranks of the ruling TMC in the state. The factors that favour BJP in West Bengal are the alienation of the aspirational class from the Mamata-style governance and the total marginalization of the Congress and Left parties who are in the poll fray. News pouring in from the north-eastern state of Assam indicate a consolidation of the saffron Party’s vote bank that might result in a placid victory for a second term.
Interestingly, in Kerala, the saffron party’s parent cadres from the RSS tried to evoke sympathy among the masses by playing the victim card and accusing the Left front of targeting its foot soldiers with physical violence, well in advance of the battle cries for the state elections. The state which is known for its pronounced anti-saffron tilt, was also witness to some hilarious barbs coming from BJP’s star campaigner Amit Shah, who compared God’s own land with Somalia at a rally during the previous hustings.
Puducherry is still awaiting its climax, leading up to the polls, with the Congress-Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) alliance expecting a favourable outcome, riding piggyback on the sympathy wave created by the brazenness of former Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi. The BJP too is optimistic and might as well swing it their way in the event of a cliff-hanger situation akin to what transpired in the post-poll scenario in Goa a few years back.
The BJP-All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) alliance in Tamil Nadu will be facing an anti-incumbency factor. However, the alliance partners might be able to tilt the scales in their balance owing to a favourable image the NDA government at the Centre enjoys with the electorate. DMK’s Stalin will be the man to watch out for, as it will give a clear indication of how much sway the Party holds in the state under his steering.