Is this election really about Modi vs. Rahul?
Look everywhere, and the only discussions seem to revolve around the big fight between Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Most print and electronic media are awash with content discussing and predicting outcomes and by how much will either one win or lose.
A closer look reveals it not a fight between the two or even between the two parties; BJP, Congress. So what is the elections about really? What are the issues that matter to people and which party or parties will finally form the government?
At the booth level, a voter’s concern is the clear and immediate problem he faces, which almost always is a local one, and the only political person who can address it is his local representative – MP, MLA, Zila or panchayat leader. 2019 is about selecting a known and local face to represent the voter’s voice in Parliament. He is the only one who fully understands what the voter’s problems are and they look up to him for solving it after winning the seat in Parliament.
The voter doesn’t care for centrally focused issues like demonetization, GST, Rafale, or temple. The needs are very basic and the issues the voter cares about are those that impact him or her directly. If demonetization lowered the income, the voter cares. If the voter doesn’t get water for drinking and irrigation, the person cares. No amount of competitive mudslinging in Delhi by any party changes the situation for the voter at the local level.
This is why regional parties have emerged stronger over the years, as the focus has become more decentralized. The voter fully understands this, and so, the discussion and focus of the mainstream media on just Modi and Rahul will not wash with the voter. He remains very aware and concerned about exercising his franchise responsibly. For the voter, especially rural one, it’s an existential fight, unlike urban voters who have a steady stream of income. It is why rural India always witnesses a higher voter turnout than urban areas in the same state.
What’s BJP plan on Article 370 and 35 (A)?
All leaders of the BJP, including the PM and party president, have been speaking out strongly on the need to abrogate Article 370, as all leaders of the party’s former avatar have done since it was first included in the Constitution.
More recently, BJP leaders have begun speaking about removing Article 35 (A) as well. The promise to remove the contentious articles remained part of every manifesto of BJP, and the demand has grown louder. The general impression given is the party will take immediate steps towards the same if voted for a second consecutive term. Only, there seem to be no clear answers on how the government proposes to do so.
BJP’s Kashmir in-charge Ram Madhav campaigning in Anantnag in J&K gave an indication that the decision on the same is subject to Parliament discussing and voting in favour. Does this mean the BJP is now relenting on its hard stand based on ground realities? The party will do well to explain to the voters in the valley and outside it on how exactly they plan to proceed post-elections.
2.7 lakh paramilitary and 20 lakh police personnel securing the voting process; go out and vote
The centre has deployed over 2.7 lakh paramilitary forces, backed by 20 lakh police personnel and home guards to ensure a safe, free and fair elections. As per the Home Ministry, this is the largest ever deployment of security personnel for conducting trouble-free elections in India. With Phase 4 taking place tomorrow, voters must step out to vote, tomorrow and in all the remaining phases.
Why Etawah remains significant for the Mahagathbandhan?
The year was 1991. BSP founder Kanshi Ram decided to contest the Etawah seat in alliance with SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. Having tasted two previous defeats, a floundering Kanshi Ram sought the support of then rising leader from U.P, Mulayam Singh Yadav. It worked. Kanshi Ram defeated the BJP candidate by 20,000 votes, and it was the beginning of the rise of BSP as a political force in U.P.
Etawah is once again in the limelight as the two friendly-turned foe-turned friendly again, have come together to unite against the powerful BJP in 2019. Nearby, Mainpuri remains the Mulayam Singh’s bastion, but Etawah has been unpredictable. In 2014, voters here were in support of the BJP, but demographics have changed since 1991 and so has the mood since 2014.
For both, SP-BSP alliance and the BJP, a win in Etawah in 2019 delivers more than a symbolic message.