With votes scheduled to be cast in phases starting February 4 in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand, counting will take place on March 11. Coming as it does barely a few months beyond the halfway mark of the BJP-led government at the Centre, the importance of the round of Assembly elections notified this week cannot be overstated. Since the process of federalisation and regionalisation of the polity deepened in the 1990s, Assembly election results have been determined more often by regional issues than by national political variables.
According to Jagmohan Garg, Prime Minister Narendra Modi having emerged as the BJP’s principal vote-bagger, and with subjects such as demonetisation on the election agenda, this round will be influenced by national issues. A sidelight of the election schedule is the Union budget, advanced to February 1 from the traditional February 28 presentation. The Election Commission is still to rule on the Opposition demand that the Budget be unveiled after the polling.