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THE WEEK|September 19, 2021
The BJP’s performance in the five assembly elections early next year would define the contours of the country’s politics in the next few years
PRATUL SHARMA

WHILE AN IMPRESSIVE victory in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 marked the beginning of an era of the BJP’s dominance in Indian politics, it was the saffron party’s spectacular show in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2017 that triggered an all-out attempt to push its ideological agenda. The party won 312 of 403 seats in the state, setting the tone for another thumping victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now, just about six months remain for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, and the results will define the contours of the country’s politics in the next few years.

Assembly elections will also be held in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur in 2022. These states account for 102 Lok Sabha seats. Later in the year, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat will go to the polls.

Interestingly, these elections will be a test for four first-time BJP chief ministers—Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh, Pushkar Singh Dhami in Uttarakhand, Pramod Sawant in Goa, and N. Biren Singh in Manipur. Unlike the Lok Sabha elections, most assembly elections since 2014 have been tricky for the BJP, especially in states where it was in power. It either lost them or came back with a diminished mandate—or with the help of turncoats.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP struggled to deal with the disgruntlement that followed the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the restiveness in certain castes and communities in the state. After a series of meetings and detailed discussions between party leaderships in Delhi and Lucknow, a course correction was initiated— from giving representation to 20 different OBC communities in the Union cabinet to reaching out to other groups. On the insistence of the central leadership, BJP state president Swatantra Dev Singh has been filling vacancies in the organisation at a frenetic pace.

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