At stake, the future of the Indian polity | HT Editorial
On Tuesday, voters in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Assam and West Bengal will choose elected representatives for their state assemblies (Bengal’s polls will continue through the month). What voters decide on April 6 will play a key role in determining the future of the Indian polity in two fundamental ways.
One, the polls will shape the distribution of political power in the system. If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins Assam and Bengal, and is able to retain Tamil Nadu with its ally in the state, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, it will mark the continued eastern and southern expansion of the party. It will also mark the continued centralisation of the polity, where the idea of a “double engine” government — having the same party in power at the Centre and in the state — has voter approval. This will shrink the space for the Opposition and impact the balance in the federal system. Alternatively, if the Congress wins Assam, the Trinamool Congress retains Bengal, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam comes back to power in Tamil Nadu, and irrespective of whether the Left or the Congress leads the next government in Kerala, power will get diffused, the Opposition will get energised, and the BJP will face challenges.
Second, the outcome will also determine the balance of power within the Opposition camp — and whether it is the Congress which is still seen as the de facto challenger to the BJP or whether it is regional parties which will mount the more decisive challenge. There has been a disjunct between state and national politics, but both intersect too and this intersection will be on test on Tuesday.