Personalities, as much as issues, will have a bearing on the election battles in the hill state of Uttarakhand, tourist magnet Goa, and landlocked Manipur. Congress is in power in Uttarakhand and Manipur, but the BJP has readied ammunition by embracing several disgruntled satraps from its rival to mount challenges in both states, even as it aims at retaining Goa.
For Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat, who managed to win a floor test and save his government in May last year, the elections will be an even bigger test. Last year, a political coup engineered by rebel Congress legislators led by Vijay Bahuguna who backed the BJP to unseat Rawat shook the power corridors and led to chaos. The imposition of President’s Rule, litigations challenging it, and a sting video of Rawat purportedly offering money to lure legislators to save his government added to the flux.
Rawat managed to hold on, but many state Congress bigwigs, including Bahuguna, headed for the BJP, which has exuded the confidence of being more organised.
AAP in the mix
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) trying to wedge itself in the contest and new outfits throwing their hats in the ring give the impression that it is yesterday once more in the country’s smallest state.
Since the 1980s, Goa’s politics has been unlike the proverbial Goan ‘susegad’ lifestyle. It has been marked by disruptions, with politicians shifting allegiances (for instance, former Congress chief minister Digambar Kamat was once mines minister in a Manohar Parrikar-led BJP government), home grown outfits unsuccessfully challenging national parties and CMs playing musical chairs.
The 2012 polls marked a change when Parrikar, now defence minister, became the consensus candidate for Goans, as one standing against corruption following the mining scam.
Much water has flown under the Mandovi bridge since 2012. The euphoria with the ruling BJP has died down. The Congress has failed to put up credible opposition. The AAP does not have a local face for its campaign. A local party called Goa Forward Party of three Independent MLAs is contesting elections and former RSS state chief Subhash Velingker has set up his Goa Suraksha Manch.
Parrikar’s successor Laxmikant Parsekar recently dropped two of his Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party colleagues from the cabinet following their outburst against the government. This has raised the prospect of new combinations.
Singh up against BJP, Irom Sharmila
Anti-incumbency is weighing against CM Okram Ibobi Singh, who has ruled the ethnically polarised Manipur for 15 years. But his Congress government — in alliance for the first two terms — is for the first time facing an aggressive BJP that is eyeing Manipur after conquering Assam this year. His party will also be up against an unknown factor in Irom Sharmila who ended her marathon fast against an army law to launch a political party named People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance.
The BJP, bolstered by rebels from the Congress, including three former ministers and several ex-MLAs, fancies its chances after 2002 when it won four seats. Singh has seen his image as a tribal-friendly leader take a beating after an allegedly staged ambush and creation of new hill districts despite protests from the tribes. The tough stance is expected to earn him dividends in the Valley, where the Congress won 28 of the 40 seats last time. Keeping the BJP away from the Valley, and with a few bonus seats from the hills (14 out of 20 in 2011), could help Congress retain power for the fourth straight term.