Bidding goodbye to a year of roller-coaster politics (IANS Column: FairPoint)

Politics is melodrama, it is said, and indeed the nation got to see loads of it throughout 2022.

Even the roller-coaster of Covid did not affect the ebbs and flows of politics. Politicians went along with their theatrics, produced their own versions of little Bollywood dramas. The year 2022 will be memorable for its ups and downs – politically, health, wealth, employment, inflation or security wise. It had all the elements of a blockbuster that produced its heroes, villains, jokers, losers and gainers.

Apart from the politically intense activity due to elections in some states, and the accompanying rhetoric, charged speeches and stinging quotes, the year also saw huge activity of the country’s premier investigating agencies – the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) – both remaining in the news with unearthing of plots and unveiling of hidden cash worth hundreds of crores.

The year began with election season in the politically high-stakes Uttar Pradesh and towards the end, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat. Both states gave the BJP enviable wins with Gujarat giving a massive one-sided mandate.

The country saw almost a semifinal like situation with polls in seven state Assemblies, 28 Assembly bypolls, five Lok Sabha by-elections and the Rajya Sabha elections. The country also got a new President and Vice President this year.

The year saw the BJP fight to maintain its dominance in the state Assemblies, while the Opposition, on the other hand, and the Congress in particular, continued to struggle to get the right numbers.

After getting almost wiped out in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the year ended in a positive note for the Congress which won the elections in Himachal Pradesh.

While the Congress is trying hard to get back on its feet, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made the year memorable with its massive win in Punjab, besides becoming a national party and snatching the Municipal Corporation of Delhi from the BJP.

The party got a vote share of 13 per cent in Gujarat in the recently-concluded Assembly elections. It also won five seats, thus opening its account in PM Modi’s home state, which helped it become a national party.

In Punjab, the 10-year-old AAP created history by dislodging the Congress and forming a government in the state. And in Delhi, it ended the 15-year dominance of the BJP in the MCD.

AAP’s victories are no longer a surprise now, much like what losses and defeats have become for the Congress. Or is it like one man’s growth is another man’s downfall?

In Gujarat, AAP’s gain was definitely at the Congress’ cost, which felt that AAP’s absence would have helped them win 33 more seats.

It is the losing glory of the Congress that forced Rahul Gandhi to embark on perhaps the most important political move of his career – the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Started with an effort to unify the Congress and retain its position by strengthening links with the masses, the Yatra has been generating response from the public of late.

Rahul Gandhi has been maintaining that his Yatra is “for spreading love”, but whether this gets translated into votes is what that will ultimately count.

Rahul Gandhi and the Congress are preparing for a better 2024 through the BJY, but there are other players also who are preparing for a national role.

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao has openly stated his national ambition after converting his Telangana Rashtra Samithi into Bharat Rashtra Samithi.

The 21-year-old party opened its office in Delhi with much fanfare and the function was attended by Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy, VCK leader and MP T. Thirumavalavan from Tamil Nadu and leaders of several other regional parties.

Farmer leaders from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu were also present during the event. With this, his mission has gone national as he dreams to dislodge Modi.

KCR is probably making a beginning with the Karnataka Assembly elections scheduled for April-May 2023, where he is eyeing the six districts which were part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State and were known as the Hyderabad-Karnataka region before being renamed as ‘Kalyana Karnataka’. These districts have 40 Assembly seats.

The BRS chief has deployed survey agencies to these six districts to assess the winning prospect. KCR is said to be working on an alliance with the JD-S.

The year 2022 has also unveiled scams and treasure secrets of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, shocking her supporters and admirers all over the country and affecting her national ambitions.

The arrests of her minister Partha Chatterjee and influential leader from Birbhum, Anubrata Mondal, within weeks of each other in connection with the teacher recruitment scam and the cross-border cattle smuggling racket, respectively, has got the Trinamool on the ropes.

The Mamata Banerjee government, which is already riddled with multiple scams relating to recruitment irregularities in the education sector, received yet another jolt as the Calcutta High Court on December 23 ordered the cancellation of the entire 2018 panel of 1,500 new recruits in the fire services department. This follows allegations of corruption and irregularities in the recruitment process.

As scams continue to tumble out, Banerjee’s image took a big hit this year, and she is being seen as a leader of one of the most corrupt and violence-prone state regimes.

Amid all the political ups and downs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP continue to maintain their place. The opponents have been maligning Modi vehemently, with many indulging in name-calling, but his popularity has not been affected. Except for the loss in Himachal Pradesh, the party has had a good share of electoral victories.

Its ability to break the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in Maharashtra may be criticised as political opportunism, but the fact is that Uddhav Thackeray gave his opponents the room to outmanoeuvre him. Not making Devendra Fadnavis the CM was also a BJP masterstroke in the state.

The whole year saw political dramas being played here and there, someone’s graph going up and some others waning.

But, for the general masses, the year is ending with a lot to complain about. Rising prices, jobs, health costs, security, etc…. the issues are many and mounting. And, unfortunately, no leader is talking about these. As has now become a routine, the Parliament saw only ruckus, and ended ahead of schedule this time also.

The politics of melodrama will continue in the new year also. Year 2023 is likely to witness a lot of fire in the political theatre as the countdown for the 2024 general elections begins.

(Deepika Bhan can be contacted at deepika.b@ians.in)

20221225-104404

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