The poll comes soon after the BJP’s much publicized demonetization move.

Poll dates announced for 5 battleground states here is how parties are facing off
news Politics Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - 14:00

The Election Commission of India on Wednesday has announced the dates for the assembly elections in five states- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Goa. The poll results of all the five states will be declared on 11 March.

This will be the single biggest electoral exercise since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and will involve a total of 690 constituencies, 403 of them in Uttar Pradesh alone. Goa has 40 seats, Punjab 117, Manipur 60 and Uttarakhand has 70 seats.
 
Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh, the most significant and largest in terms of constituencies (403) among these states is set to witness a tripartite struggle between the ruling Samajwadi Party, opposition Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP.

Highest number of electorates also means maximum number of Rajya Sabha seats are from the state. The state will go for a seven-phase polling starting from 11 February. The second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh phases are scheduled for 15, 19, 23, 27  February, 4 and 8 March respectively.

A weakened Congress is expected to play a secondary role in the UP elections, with the party yet to fully recover from the drubbing in the 2014 elections. If one goes by the May 2014 general elections, the BJP are firm favourites.  In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP managed 71 seats, while all the other parties were reduced to single digits.

Why a loss for the BJP would be the only surprise in the UP polls

But a lot has changed for the BJP since then, including the demonetisation move. The Samajwadi Party is currently caught in internal turmoil,  and the party’s fortunes will depend a lot on how the tussle is settled. 

 
The complex caste/ religion calculus makes UP polls most interesting for poll observers. 

Punjab

In Punjab, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BJP alliance is going to face opposition from the Congress and an enthusiastic AAP. It will be interesting to see how the emergence of AAP will affect the vote share of the existing Congress and BJP-SAD combine.

The state will go to polls on 04 February.

The Congress and the AAP have accused the ruling government to be part of the drug racket syndicate that has made headlines last year. Incidences of sacrilege of the Sikh religious text will also be a major issue this election.

The AAP has also announced a number of pro-Dalit poll promises for the state with a high percentage of Dalits.

Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand, one of the few states in the country where the Congress is still in power, will see a resurgent BJP fight for power. Polls will be held in a single phase on 15 February.

The Congress faces embarrassment with CM Harish Rawat -tainted by corruption charges- becoming probably the first sitting CM to get a CBI summons. 

Goa

The state will go to polls on the same day as Punjab.

The BJP government led by CM Laxmikant Parsekar is facing allegations of corruption and has come under criticism for the poor civil infrastructure in the state. However, the popularity of former CM and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar cannot be discounted.

A depleted Congress will be looking to make amends. AAP also may emerge as an important player given Goa’s size. Rallies by party convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal saw some amount of success.

Manipur

The state will go for a single-phase election on 12 January.

Unlike elsewhere in the country, a popular leader of the BJP joined Congress in Manipur. The Naga Peace Talks will be the most important issue in the upcoming elections. The influential National Socialist Council of Nagaland/Nagalim will in all probability emerge the kingmaker in the state.

The state has been under curfew for the major part of the past two weeks due to road blockage by Naga groups.

The ruling Congress at present seems to be in a good position, but analysts believe a fledging TMC might capture a few seats. The rest of the seats are likely to be shared by the breakaway faction of the Congress- Manipur State Congress Party and other regional parties like Naga Peoples Front. The Nationalist Congress Party, Lok Jan Shakti Party are also contenders this election.      

The terms of the legislative assemblies of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur end in mid-March, while the Uttar Pradesh assembly's term expires in May. As per the law, elections to the legislative assembly of a state must be held, and the new assembly formed well before its term expires.

The Election Commission had last week asked the five poll-bound states to brace for elections, and had urged strict adherence to the Model Code of Conduct that would come into force immediately after the announcement of polls.

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