The Election Commission’s announcement of election dates for West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry has set the stage for historic polls.
The elections will impact intra-UPA relations in the states and at the Centre and perhaps even affect government-opposition relations. It could also lead to the curtailment the ongoing budget session of Parliament from April 21 to April 8.
While the Congress and its allies are hoping for a victory in four of the five states — with a question mark on Tamil Nadu — all eyes are however on West Bengal where the Congress ally, the Trinamool Congress’ Mamataa Bannerjee is leading the charge to dislodge the Left from the Writers Building.
If Mamataa wins, her margin of victory would redefine her equations with the Congress. Though she is likely to include the Congress in government, many in the Congress are hoping that instead of getting a majority on her own, she would be dependent on their support.
In Kerala, it’s a do-or-die battle for the Left. As part of the cyclical change in Kerala, the elections could see the Congress-led UDF come to power. But a defeat in West Bengal may lead to an introspection in the CPM and a re-examination of relations with its Left partners.
More importantly, if it suffers a defeat, the Left could lose — at least for some time — the moral edge it held while competing with the BJP for opposition space at the Centre.
The announcement of polls in West Bengal has also given an impetus to the ongoing seat sharing talks between the Congress and Trinamool. The Congress is demanding 80 seats but the Trinamool wants to give around 55.
A similar situation prevails in Tamil Nadu where the DMK-Congress combine has to battle a decade of incumbency and the charges of corruption levelled by the rival combine led by AIADMK’s J Jayalalithaa against A Raja and the DMK leadership.
The spillover effect of Tamil Nadu will be felt in Puducherry. The muslim vote will be a determining factor in Assam where the Congress is hoping for a hat trick.