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Action-packed 2021 for Indian politics

By Aditi Phadnis
January 04, 2021 08:08 IST
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It will be the year of preparation for the electoral test in Uttar Pradesh, due in 2022.
But before that, the West Bengal assembly election will set the mood for the rest of 2021.
Aditi Phadnis reports.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo

Elections will dominate the discussion in 2021.

The talk will not just be about politics in the states where they are due -- Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry will go to the polls in April-May, and possibly also Jammu and Kashmir -- but also whether all elections in India can be held simultaneously.

One way or another, a final decision on the latter is expected to be taken in the coming year.

With Opposition governments in place in West Bengal, Kerala and Puducherry, a Bharatiya Janata Party ally in Tamil Nadu, a BJP government to defend in Assam and with J&K an unpredictable outlier, the year promises to be studded with thrills and spills -- for both the Opposition and the ruling alliance.

For the BJP, elections in both Assam and J&K (if they are held) represent test cases, for they will deliver a verdict on the party's core promises on the issue of immigrants, the rights of the national religious majority and the assurances to the residents of J&K on their special rights.

It will also be the year of preparation for the electoral test in Uttar Pradesh, due in 2022.

IMAGE: Shah at a Samajik Samuh Samvad event in Kolkata. Photograph: ANI Photo

But before that, the West Bengal assembly election will set the mood for the rest of 2021.

The challenge is huge.

The Congress and the Left Front have decided on an alliance.

The last time the two parties allied was in 2016 and together they notched up 36 per cent of the vote and 76 seats.

Although with 44.9 per cent vote and a whopping 211 seats in a house of 294, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress had a massive majority, anti-incumbency was not such a big political factor in 2016.

This time, it is.

Add to that the undeniably rise of the BJP and West Bengal could either see a big revival of the Left-Congress alliance -- or its complete decimation.

IMAGE: In October, Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, left, announced Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, right, as the AIADMK's CM candidate for the assembly election. Photograph: L Anantha Krishnan/ANI Photo

Tamil Nadu is another state where the BJP and ally All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which is in government, face a challenge.

The release from prison of Sasikala Natarajan, the leader of the faction considered dominant in the government, likely in the first three months of the new year, could have unpredictable consequences.

All other things being equal, the Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, along with its ally the Congress, should have an edge, given the problems of incumbency.

For the BJP, Tamil Nadu represents a frontier that seems hard to beat.

As the Centre consolidates its administrative position in J&K, it will have to take a decision on delimitation before the assembly election.

This is an exercise fraught with problems.

But the government is determined to ensure elections in the state, so 2021 will be crucial in its history.

While the polls and their outcome will be significant for the Opposition, 2021 will see some closure on the issue of leadership within the Congress as it holds internal meetings and party elections.

In parliamentary terms, 2021 is unlikely to be a significant year for the government -- or the Opposition.

Through the year, only eight Rajya Sabha members will retire: Four from J&K in February; three from Kerala in April; and one from Puducherry in November.

Among those retiring will be Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), who is also leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

With Ahmed Patel's death, Azad would have been the key troubleshooter for the party.

The Congress will have to decide whether to field him again from some other state or replace him.

In terms of executive actions, the biggest decision pending is a Cabinet reshuffle.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, who crossed over from the Congress to the BJP, enabling a BJP government in Madhya Pradesh by dislodging the Kamal Nath-led Congress government, is awaiting a central berth.

Former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha, also needs to be accommodated in the Union Cabinet.

More representation from poll-bound West Bengal and Assam is also likely.

The government is said to be working on a plan to rationalise ministries.

Maybe this will be done in tandem with the reshuffle.

In other policy measures, the highest on the list of priorities is the 'one nation, one election' idea that will likely be fleshed out this year.

Also, with the report of the joint parliamentary committee on data protection due any day, a new position of a data regulator will be created.

This legislation is expected to be historic for it is bound to have an impact on the life of every Indian citizen.

All in all, 2021 promises to be a year of frenetic political activity -- both for the government and the Opposition.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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Aditi Phadnis
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