The die has been cast with the Election Commission announcing the poll schedule for Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur in the new year. The elections are particularly crucial—not only will they determine the political future of a new generation of leaders such as Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Sukhbir Singh Badal, they will also serve as a dipstick of the nation’s mood under the impact of high inflation, slowing economic growth and a raft of big-ticket corruption scandals that have hurt public morale. The main focus will be on Gandhi, Congress general secretary and political heir to Sonia Gandhi. By placing himself at the centre of the electoral battle for Uttar Pradesh, he has taken a risky gambit. If the Congress performs creditably in India’s most populous state, it is bound to revive the clamour for him to assume executive responsibility. If the party fares poorly, the political shadows will only lengthen, indicating that matters will go from bad to worse. So, unlike normal, the nation’s attention will be on this mini-general election this February rather than the annual Union budget.
• Uttar Pradesh
Source: Election Commission of India, ministry of statistics and programme implementation
Graphic: Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint