2017 State Elections in India

Overview

Four states in India, including Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, have held elections over the past month. The state of Manipur meanwhile, will see elections being conducted in early March. The elections in Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand have already been completed with results expected to be announced on 11th March. The elections in Uttar Pradesh meanwhile are still being conducted, over seven phases, with the last phase slated for 8th March, along with the state of Manipur. The results for the state elections in both Uttar Pradesh and Manipur are expected to be announced on the 11th of March as well.

All of these state elections are being conducted for the respective state legislative assemblies and subsequently, their chief ministers as well. A total of 690 legislative seats, spread over these five states, will be contested by the national parties such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC), as well as a multitude of regional, or, state level parties. Strong showings in state elections by the BJP and INC can be a signal of either potential performance in future general elections, or a referendum on the ruling party at the national level. With the next general election, which will decide the next Prime Minister of India, slated for 2019, this year’s state elections are hence increased in focus. Furthermore, 2017 will see current President Pranab Mukherjee’s term ending this year. Since the state legislative assemblies vote for the President of India, along with the Parliament, the changes to the contested 690 legislative seats will have an impact on who becomes the next President of India.

Apart from the BJP and the INC, there are a host of state/regional parties that will have an impact on the state elections. The most prominent state party during these elections is perhaps Uttar Pradesh’s Samajwadi Party, whose leader Akhilesh Yadav is the incumbent chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The INC allied with the Samajwadi Party in 2012’s Uttar Pradesh state elections. The other major state party is the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from Punjab, who are the ruling party in Punjab, in a coalition with the BJP. They too have retained their alliance for these state elections. Another party that has emerged recently as a contender in Punjab has been the Aam Aadmi Party, that won the 2015 elections in Delhi. Goa too sees the BJP in an alliance with the state party known as the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party.

Issues by State

Punjab

Corruption and disenchantment with the ruling SAD-BJP alliance are some of the most prominent issues in Punjab’s elections this time around. The law and order and agricultural situation in Punjab has been an issue on folk’s minds as well. Meanwhile, while things do not look good for the SAD-BJP alliance, the INC is facing competition from the AAP who have emerged in Punjab as a prominent player since the 2014 General Elections.

Goa

The BJP rules Goa as incumbents in an alliance with the state party known as the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. The BJP has been contending with infighting in Goa in the run-up to these elections, and the AAP have gained in Goa too as a result. Issues that voters might be most concerned about include the mining in Goa, as well as cultural issues.

Uttarakhand

By far the most prominent issue that dominates the backdrop of the state elections in Uttarakhand is the imposition of President’s Rule in the state in 2016 for two months. Congress chief minister Harish Rawat was accused of corruption charges over being involved with the land, liquor and mining mafia in the state. Some Congress party members itself rebelled against Rawat, leading to the BJP pushing for President’s Rule in the state. Congress in turn responded with accusations that the BJP led federal government was needlessly interfering with the politics of a state government. The Supreme Court would later reinstate Harish Rawat as chief minister.

Uttar Pradesh

The ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party (SP), faced infighting between incumbent chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father and long time SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, with the younger Yadav ultimately winning the struggle. Caste has always played a role in elections in Uttar Pradesh, but the Supreme Court’s ruling stating that caste or religious identity cannot be used as an issue during election campaigns might cause a dent in that influence. Instead, issues such as corruption, development and demonetization have been pushed as campaign issues by all the major parties in the state.

Manipur

The major issue in Manipur during these state elections will be the tensions between the Kuki, Naga and Meitei groups in the state. The ruling INC state government created seven new districts in the state, carved out of districts that had significant Naga population. The announcement of new districts would see violence spread throughout the state. The BJP will be aiming to take advantage of this unrest in Manipur in order to oust the sitting INC government in these elections,

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