The regional elections in India are currently underway in dive states: Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, and Punjab. Polls suggest that despite the political hardships the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is facing, it will still win the elections, with the opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) also hoping to win the state. In Uttarakhand, the BJP is also facing hardships there. Since they won the previous elections, issues mounted in their party forced the last two Chief Ministers to resign under their leadership. Despite this, polls suggest they may win the Himalayan state, hoping to make history being the first party to serve a second consecutive term. BJP is poised to win Goa without much trouble as well as the northeastern state of Manipur. However, they have a tough competition with the Janata Dal United (JD(U)) there. In Punjab, a state that made headlines for the farmers protests in the past two years, it has been projected that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is likely to win the elections with the Indian National Congress (INC) losing its governance on the state. However, polls show that it will be a hung assembly with no party forming a clear majority. In addition, AAP is competing in all of the regional elections this year in an attempt to expand their governance and popularity from Delhi to the rest of the nation.
Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India and comprises a population of around 200 million people, which is roughly the population of its neighboring country Pakistan. The current party in government is the BJP, which is also the ruling party of India. The regional parties of this state are SP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). This state is an important state especially for the BJP because it is their base and has been the key to helping them win the last two general elections. Winning this year’s election for the BJP would foreshadow a victory for them in the next general elections of India, which will be held in 2024. Uttar Pradesh has been an important ground for the BJP since the 1990s where they have pursued their Hindutva nationalist politics in the region. In 1992, the Hindu nationalists were responsible for demolishing a mosque in the city of Ayodhya, where they believe that it is the birth place of Lord Ram. The BJP has pursued the idea of building a temple in its place ever since. However, the BJP has faced trouble in Uttar Pradesh. Last year, the state held panchayat (village council) elections and the SP party managed to win 760 wards versus the BJP which won only 719 wards. In addition, 10 legislators (which includes 3 ministers), resigned from the BJP and joined SP. Despite these setbacks polls suggest that the BJP and Yogi Adityananth are set to return back into power with a comfortable majority.
Uttarakhand is a state located right next to Uttar Pradesh. The state came into after being carved out of Uttar Pradesh. Since then, the state has held four assembly elections. In these four elections both the INC and BJP have dominated, with both parties being elected non consecutively. The BJP has faced challenges in the state as the last 2 Chief Ministers have resigned due to party conflict and to avoid a constitutional crisis.. The current Chief Minister, Pushkar Singh Dhami, has had a challenge in managing the assembly among his party and attempting to win his constituency for a third term. The INC has faced issues within their own party on the basis of ticket distribution and Harish Rawat, former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, is leading the way in campaigning for the party and trying to win this year’s assembly elections. However, Rawat previously lost his constituency while running last election as the incumbent Chief Minister, and in 2019 lost the general election by a huge margin while running as a candidate from that same constituency, so winning this year’s election is a big deal for Rawat and he has highlighted this. It is uncertain who might win, but due to a string of victories for the BJP in the nation and the downfall that has resulted in a string of loss for the INC since 2014, it is foreshadowed that the BJP might win this year’s assembly elections in Uttarakhand.
Goa is a state located in the southwestern region of India. Unlike the rest of India, which was colonized by the British, Goa was colonized by the Portuguese along with the Union Territories Daman and Diu. It wasn’t until 1961, 14 years after Indian independence, that India annexed their territory into Goa, Daman, and Diu, which India calls the liberation of Goa. Previously the INC dominated the elections for the state. However, since 2017, the BJP has come into power in the state and for this year polls show that though the BJP will lose seats in the Legislative Elections, they will nonetheless be able to retain their majority. It is likely that they will return back into power with the INC foreshadowed to lose the elections.
Though most of the states voting in this year’s regional elections are located in the north, Manipur is an exception, along with Goa. Manipur is located in the northeastern region of India. Northeast India comprises the seven sister states, which includes Manipur. The region is unique from India because the people who reside there are ethnic Tibeto-Burmese groups, compared to North India which comprises Indo-Aryans, and South India which comprises Dravidians. In the 2014 and 2019 general elections, the ruling BJP has dominated the region including Manipur, which was a significant blow to the INC, who had enjoyed its comfortable rule without any opposition in the region since independence. The BJP won the regional elections five years ago and is likely to win again this year.
However, a new player has entered into this state, the JD(U), which is part of an alliance with the BJP and is the current ruling party in the state of Bihar, where the BJP has formed a government coalition with the party. JD(U) is contesting in 39 seats and has claimed to have candidates that have rebels from the BJP and the INC. However, the majority of their rebel candidates are the BJP. A famous police officer known for fighting illegal drugs, Thounaojam Brinda, has left her police career and joined the JD(U) and will contest against a BJP minister. The BJP has rebuked the JD(U), stating they are not winnable in the state and the INC alleges a proxy war between the two parties. Even if the JD(U) wins the election, it will face the challenge of keeping the legislators within their party. In Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh two other states in the northeast India, most of the JD(U) candidates who won in previous elections have defected to the BJP, so this is a challenge that the JD(U) will face in Manipur if they win. Voting is set to start on February 28, 2022 and end on March 5, 2022.
Of the 5 Legislative Assembly Elections that have taken place, all eyes are on Punjab. It is called the breadbasket of India, and the agricultural industry is the most prevalent and dominant industry in the state. Punjab alone produces 1% of the world’s rice, 2% of the world’s wheat, and 2% of the world’s cotton. In the past two years there were new political developments that took place in the state. The ruling BJP party and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced 3 new farm bills stating it was an effort to help farmers. However, farmers claimed that this was in fact against them and feared that these bills would give control to the corporations to control prices and production instead of the government, stating their distrust in them. In response to this, farmers in Punjab and neighboring state Haryana took to the streets and protested the farm bills in hopes of repealing them. After a year of protests the government decided to repeal the farm bills.
Another development that took place was the resignation of INC member Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. He was replaced by Charanjit Singh and made history by becoming the first Chief Minister of Punjab from a Dalit (lower caste) background. The regional party Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) party broke their 20-year alliance with the BJP over the farm bills are now in an alliance with the BSP for this year’s election. This year’s election is a matchup between the INC and the AAP. The AAP debuted in the last election and became the largest opposition party. AAP is hoping to win this year’s election in Punjab and become the ruling party. Polls also show that the AAP will become the largest party, but the assembly will be hung, meaning no party will achieve a clear majority in legislative assembly.