The X-Factor in State Polls

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While attention may be focussed on the protagonists in the upcoming assembly elections in five states, it is the cameo actors who may be emerging as the X-factor to decide the results, reports Sanjeev Sharma

WEST BENGAL

Yashwant Deshmukh, Founder C Voter said the X factor in West Bengal will be the entry of influential cleric Abbas Siddiqui’s new party, the Indian Secular Front — into the electoral fray.

Deshmukh said if the alliance gets successful in poaching on the Muslim votes of Mamata Banerjee it can ruin her prospects of retaining the state. If the Muslim religious leader and his party gets successful in poaching on the Muslim votes of Mamta Banerjee it can ruin her prospects of retaining the state. Also, if the entry of ISF into the electoral battle leads to polarisation of Hindu voters, it can significantly benefit the BJP, he added.

As per the C Voter e Times Now survey findings for 2021 assembly polls, West Bengal is expected to observe a keen contest in the upcoming Assembly elections.

The survey shows that incumbent chief minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to score a hat trick as her party is expected to get 42.2% votes. According to survey findings, BJP can make significant inroads in the state in the upcoming Assembly polls. The saffron party has been campaigning aggressively in the state and it is likely to secure 37.5.0% votes.

Notably, the entry of a Muslim front — comprising the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the influential cleric Abbas Siddiqui’s new party, the Indian Secular Front — into the electoral fray can spell trouble for the Trinamool Congress.

ASSAM

Deshmukh said the X factor in Assam is AIUDF contesting elections in alliance with the Congress. While this coalition is likely to get substantial lead in Lower Assam, where there is a significant Muslim population it can lead to Hindu polarisation in favour of BJP in Upper Assam and the party is likely to have a sizable lead in this region, he added.

The CVoter-Times Now survey data indicates a tough contest in Assam in the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state.

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.



A regional analysis of potential vote shares indicates a polarized election, the survey data shows Congress eAIUDF combine having a clear lead in Lower Assam, where there is a significant Minority population.

With minority vote gravitating towards Congress-AIUDF alliance, Upper Assam is expected to witness polarisation of Hindu votes, benefiting the BJP and the party is likely to have a sizable lead in this region.

Bodoland is expected to have an interesting contest, if BJP manages that, the party is likely to retain the state. Notably, the absence of Congress stalwart Tarun Gogoi is helping BJP.

TAMIL NADU

This will be the first Assembly election in the state after the death of political stalwarts of Tamil Nadu — J. Jayalalitha and M. Karunanidhi.

Deshmukh said the DMK has the advantage of grooming MK Stalin, the political heir of M. Karunanidhi, groomed by his late father for 15 years; Stalin has successfully filled the leadership vacuum to a large extent after the demise of DMK patriarch in 2018.



Deshmukh said no such succession has taken place in AIADMK. Political successors of Jayalalitha have struggled to step into Jayalalitha’s shoes. This leadership crisis in AIADMK could be a decisive factor in the electoral results going in favour of DMK, he added.

Tamil Nadu is unlikely to repeat electoral history by introducing new actors into the mix. Film actor Rajinikanth has been a non-starter in state politics. He never got more than 5% of approval rating in Tamil Nadu politics. Another film star Kamal Haasan is also likely to remain an insignificant political player in the state.


KERALA

Deshmukh said a notable trend is regarding the shift of Christian votes. The left front in Kerala has made a smart move of bringing Kerala Congress (M) in the alliance as the party has a significant base among the Christian voters in the state. KC(M) joining forces with the Left Front has benefitted the alliance and it was evident in the recently held local body elections. Importantly, swing of Christian voters towards LDF will be a key factor if the alliance returns to power in the state.

Kerala is all set to reelect the ruling LDF and thus buck the trend of defeating the incumbent every electoral cycle. According to the data the electoral race is tight and by no means one sided. Despite a close race LDF has an edge due to the Chief Minister’s popularity and changes to the social coalitions underlying both primary alliances.

Incumbent Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan enjoys high popularity ratings due to a perceived deft handling of Covid-19 pandemic. According to the data, voters consider his performance as one that met their expectations during an unprecedented crisis. This is imparting a much needed electoral edge to the LDF that is locked in a tight race with Congress led UDF.

The survey found that Rahul Gandhi’s southern gambit is getting lost in translation. His shift of base was meant to herald a change in strategy for the Congress. The aim was to crystallize Congress’s perceived advantage in South India and rally the electorate along the North-South divide. Instead of getting the advantage, Gandhi’s move to contest Lok Sabha elections from Wayanad has branded Congress as a pro Muslim party and led to anti-Muslim polarisation in the state. Local and national media assessed that Rahul decided to contest from Wayanad because the constituency has a significant Muslim voters. This branding of Congress as pro Muslim party has been one of the major factors for the shift in Christian voters to the LDF camp.

As for BJP, the party has been unable to take off in Kerala. BJP has not been able to emerge as an alternative in the state. Public perception is that BJP has not been to secure the winnable social coalition yet.

PUDUCHERRY

Congress is likely to lose its southern toehold of Puducherry due to anti-incumbency. The sentiment is attributable to unpopularity of the government and the Chief Minister in particular.

Deshmukh said the outgoing Chief Minister V. Narayanaswamy’s popularity is lower than the ones of other outgoing Chief Ministers at the end of their respective terms. Clearly, the collapse of his government has not generated any sympathy for him. On the contrary the government’s collapse may be the result of astute politicians reading the tea leaves.

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