As 2022 rolls in, Indian politics is heading into another election season in the shadow of the pandemic. Parties are eagerly awaiting the announcement of poll schedule by the Election Commission of India, with some like the BJP deliberating on virtual rallies in case large gatherings are banned.
The Election Commission has so far given no indication that elections could be deferred due to the advent of the Omicron variant, saying all political parties in Uttar Pradesh wanted elections to be held as per schedule while ensuring Covid-19 protocol.
Apart from politically significant UP, four other states – Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur – are headed to polls in the initial months of the new year. Even in states that will not be voting this year, parties are busy at work putting their house in order midway through to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Here are 12 exclusives from News18.com on how Indian politics may fare in 2022:
Narendra Modi to Assert Political Capital
2021 was Narendra Modi’s most challenging year as Prime Minister. The second Covid-19 wave hit India with all its ferocity, the BJP lost in West Bengal in a high-stakes fight, fuel prices burnt a hole in the pocket of citizens, five BJP Chief Ministers were changed and Modi had to rollback one of his boldest decisions, the farm laws.
As India steps into 2022 under the threat of a third wave, the scenario may not look so optimistic to some. But Modi clearly remains the ‘Numero Uno’ bet to counter the country’s challenges. A leader to whom there seems no threat politically even after over seven years in the chair with the opposition having little to challenge him in terms of an acceptable face or a credible narrative. Two recent statements made by Home Minister Amit Shah recently perfectly encapsulated the ‘Modi factor’ in challenging times. READ FULL STORY
BJP Gears Up for 2024 Semi-Final
In 2021, the BJP focussed its energy on retaining and gaining ground in the eastern part of India. While it successfully retained Assam, the party emerged as the leading challenger to the Mamata Banerjee regime in West Bengal. Heading into Assembly elections in five states, it is amply clear that the BJP is treating the Uttar Pradesh polls as the semi-final for the 2024 General Elections.
The importance of UP is the fact that it has contributed to the biggest share of the BJP’s Lok Sabha haul in the past two parliamentary elections — with 71 seats out of 80 in 2014 and 62 seats in 2019. READ FULL STORY
Challenges in Rahul Gandhi’s Road to Reins
2021 ended ending for the Congress pretty much how it began: confusion, leadership tussle, deep infighting, and poll losses. Going into 2022, only one thing seems clear — while he may come across as the reluctant Congress president, it is Rahul Gandhi who calls the shots.
But as inevitable as it is that Rahul Gandhi would take over the reins of the party, many of his recent utterances have confused the Congress. His Hinduism vs Hindutva narrative and blaming the PM for lynching incidents have left many in the Congress uncomfortable. READ FULL STORY
Punjab is Congress’ to Lose
Despite the revolt by Amarinder Singh, the Congress seemed to be holding a decisive advantage in the battle for the state assembly. The AAP was reeling under infighting and desertions. The Akali Dal continued to ward off image crisis and the BJP was virtually written off in the state after the farm laws saga.
The situation changed dramatically in the final days of 2021, with the ruling Congress facing the heat over sacrilege and lynching incidents in Amritsar and Kapurthala on top of a power tussle brewing between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Charanjit Singh Channi. The AAP is on a high, having emerged as the single largest party in Chandigarh civic polls.
The BJP has entered into an alliance with Amarinder Singh’s new party. The FIR against former minister and Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia in drugs case has given the Akali Dal a “political vendetta” peg before elections. READ FULL STORY
AAP-y New Year ?
For the Aam Aadmi Party, 2022 promises to be the breakthrough year when it can finally cross the hump of being a ‘Delhi-centric’ regional outfit and spread its wings in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and, later in the year, also Gujarat. If it manages to do that, and it seems likely, AAP would achieve what no other regional party has been able to do so far.
The Chandigarh municipal elections, in which the AAP emerged the single-largest party, has added a spring in the step of party cadre, with Arvind Kejriwal quickly following through with a three-day visit to Punjab. Political observers say Chandigarh is barely an indicator for Punjab, let alone for other states, but add that the AAP is emerging as a strong challenger in poll-bound states. READ FULL STORY
BJP and SP in Driver’s Seat in UP
At the moment, Uttar Pradesh looks like a bipolar contest between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party, with the Congress slightly farther away and the BSP virtually missing in action on the ground. Uttar Pradesh sends the highest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha, and it is no surprise then that the BJP has already billed the UP Assembly elections as a pre-cursor for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. In campaign speeches, Amit Shah has even spelt it out that if people want Narendra Modi to return as PM in 2024, they must re-elect the BJP in 2022 in Uttar Pradesh.
Akhilesh Yadav’s state-wide yatra has injected enthusiasm in the Samajwadi Party ranks and Priyanka Gandhi has been keeping Congress cadre engaged from time to time. The BSP is focusing on ‘Brahmin Sammelans’ to woo upper-caste voters who helped Mayawati come to power in 2007, but with hardly any noise on the ground. Will SP reap the benefits? READ FULL STORY
The Jinx of the Hills
Like every poll season, 2022 has one question for Uttarakhand – will the hill state, for the first time since its formation in 2000, re-elect the party in power for a second consecutive term? The BJP is riding high on the ‘double engine’ mantra – having the same party in power at the Centre and in the state – and is confident of breaking the jinx despite changing CMs twice in a matter of months.
In the Congress camp, former chief minister Harish Rawat has started consolidating power and position. The party even managed to engineer a defection in the BJP, bringing back to its fold cabinet minister and prominent Dalit leader Yashpal Arya and his MLA-son. The contest in Uttarakhand has thus far been bipolar, with the Congress and the BJP alternating in power. But this time, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party has entered the fray to shake things up a little. READ FULL STORY
Heartland Braces for UP Ripple
Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh may not be heading to elections in 2022 but neither the BJP nor the Congress is resting easy in India’s heartland. Apart from protecting their respective citadels, both are trying to keep their flock together amid challenges from within, while bracing for impact from UP polls.
In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP is eyeing consolidation while the Congress sorts out internal squabbles that saw it lose power despite winning the 2018 elections. Shivraj Singh Chouhan is looking to fortify position amid apparent challenge from Jyotiraditya Scindia who has been working to shed his regal image.
In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, Congress’ infighting problem is more profound since it’s one of the few states where it remains in power. Speculation is rife that the TS Singh Deo camp is biding time till UP elections and plans to stake claim to CM Bhupesh Baghel’s chair again in case the Congress fares poorly. READ FULL STORY
TMC to Take ‘Khela Hobe’ Playbook for a Spin
When the political history of 2021 is written, the battle for Bengal fought and won by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress will get particular emphasis. The poll victory definitely made it a golden year for the TMC and gave it a playbook to take to other states like Tripura and Goa.
In 2022, the Trinamool Congress is hoping to displace Congress’ standing in the opposition camp. It wants to take the Bengal trophy to every part of India and show that it is the “real Congress” with which others should tie up for the 2024 parliamentary polls.
From January, Mamata and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee will be seen travelling throughout India, ensuring good terms with NCP’s Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray and other important regional players. Its friction with the Congress will be something to watch for in the new year. READ FULL STORY
Catch-22 for Congress in Northeast
2021 saw the Congress’ fortunes go south in the Northeast. It stitched up an alliance with Badaruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Left only to be left languishing at the bottom of the table come results day. Its future in Meghalaya too is not sunny, leading to questions over its relevance in the Northeast.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram blames the party’s decline in the Northeast on ideological issues. “The problem in the Northeast is that there are no lasting ideological commitments. Regional parties tend to change their ideology very frequently, which is unfortunate. If the Northeast has to progress faster, then political parties should be steadfast to a certain ideology,” said, adding that if the Congress were to come to power at the Centre, many in the Northeast would switch back to the grand old party.
For now, ready to jump into the rumoured vacuum left by the Congress in the region is Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. READ FULL STORY
BSY’s Fight to Remain Relevant
Politicians are not known to retire, but 2021 will go down in history for just that. BS Yediyurappa, a politician with a huge mass base, decided to step down from Karnataka’s top post. It wasn’t as if the party’s southern satrap wasn’t under pressure to quit, but Yediyurappa made it known that his departure was on his own terms.
Yediyurappa was replaced with Basavaraj Bommai, but with 18 months to go for next Assembly elections, the BJP has been looking for a younger face to take over mantle. Yediyurappa was reportedly led to believe that his son and BJP state vice-president BY Vijayendra “would be looked after”, but recent raids on the former chief minister’s aides indicate otherwise. At the back of everyone’s mind remains the question – what is the degree of ‘retirement’ that BSY has taken? READ FULL STORY
BJP Needs New Narrative in Telangana
After losing deposits and winning just one assembly seat in 2018, the BJP was labelled as a party that had no future in Telangana. But it stunned everyone in 2019 by winning four of the 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. From there, the BJP revved up its engine by winning the Dubbaka bypolls in 2020, and followed it up with a doughty performance in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections where it came second by bagging 48 wards.
Despite both parties coming together for issue-based support, the saffron party is slowly but steadily creating a perception that it is the sole challenger to the ruling TRS. The Congress, which on paper is the second-largest party in Telangana, had won 19 seats in 2018 but has now come down to just six MLAs owing to defections and internal rifts. But experts say that to actually derive electoral gains in the southern state, the BJP narrative has to go beyond identity politics since “KCR has done well for both Muslims and Hindus without compromising on his Hindu identity”. READ FULL STORY