Telangana and Rajasthan, the last two Indian states, of the total five that are currently going through polls for the legislative assembly and possibly setting the tone for the next year’s general elections for the national parliament, are all set to go to polls on Friday, December 7.

The other three states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram had already voted in November, with counting for all five states scheduled for December 11.

The five state elections are being considered a precursor of the Battle Royale next year, with political pundits considering both Telangana and Rajasthan as swing-states that could very well alter the script of the national election. 

The global Indian diaspora, including that of New Zealand, have a significant interest in the outcome of these state elections, with many enthusiasts travelling back to their respective states of origin for campaigning, with many others committed to going back next year for the national polls.

The Indian Weekender takes a snapshot of the current state of affairs in the lead up to polling day and evaluates how political-capital of some of the key players is fairing at the moment.

Telangana: KCR, Modi and Naidu

The battle for conquering India’s newest state Telangana is heading for a close finish with the rising stakes of the joint opposition – Mahakutami – between Indian National Congress and Telugu Desam Party against the ruling incumbent Telangana Rashtra Samithi Party. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) may not be a significant political force in the state, but riding on the immense popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and absolute control on the power in the centre, could still emerge as a decisive political force in after-election calculations.

Elections in Telangana will directly affect the political fortunes of three leaders – caretaker Chief Minister and TRS leader K Chandrashekhar Rao, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and neighbouring state Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.

A clean victory for TRS will undoubtedly fuel KCR’s ambitions for a more prominent role in national politics, whereas a reasonably good show for the TDP supported grand alliance will raise Chandrababu Naidu’s profile in national politics.

On the other hand given the fact that these days there are no state-elections in India where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not a star campaigner, whereby enticing voters to factor his popularity ahead of local state-level issues, a good show for the BJP will set the tone for next year’s general elections.

In the 2014 assembly elections, Congress and TDP had a vote share of 25 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, whereby the combined vote share of 40 per cent would have trumped TRS’ vote share of 34 per cent.

TRS had then won 63 seats, just above the magic number of 60. Congress and TDP had won 21 and 15 seats respectively. It’s another matter that the TRS tally eventually rose to 91 subsequently with many independents and smaller splinter parties choosing to coalesce together with the party in the power.

However, regardless of these developments in the last legislative assembly, observers are convinced that KCR led TRS, which had a clear early advantage by announcing surprise early elections and immediately starting election campaign, is now facing a stiff challenge from the combined opposition who have witnessed a rise in their fortune lately.

Some experts opine that TRS may have peaked too early in the campaign.

However, nothing is finished till the electorate has finally voted and given their verdict which will be sealed on December 7.

Indian National Congress Party – which many dispels as a spent force in the country’s national political scene and does not have a strong, popular local leader within the state – would like to take away the satisfaction, and the model, of an effective, functioning grand opposition alliance, if it eventually succeeds, which it wishes to apply in next year’s general election against the current ruling dispensation.

BJP has nothing to lose in the Telangana elections since it never had a strong ground-level base in the state. On the contrary, if the party can make significant dents in the expectations of either TRS or Congress-TDP opposition alliance, riding purely on the back of massive popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then it will be a big boost for Party’s fortunes in the next year’s general elections.

Rajasthan: Sachin Pilot and Modi

The outcome of elections in Rajasthan will have an impact on the fortunes of two political party – BJP and INC – and two leaders Sachin Pilot and Prime Minister Modi.

Mr Modi is trying to use his extraordinary star-power to not only defeat the anti-incumbency factor against the ruling BJP government but also to buck an important trend in the state which has not returned any government back to power since 1993. A win for BJP in the state will augment its confidence and unshaken faith in the popularity of Mr Modi to bank upon for the next year’s general elections.

Sachin Pilot is the most influential face for the youths, outside of the Gandhi-clan, that the Party can put-up to a vast number of young voters who have grown up without any emotional baggage for the Congress Party and found themselves naturally attracted to accusations against the Party for unceremoniously bowing down to one single dynasty.

If fortunes of Indian National Congress Party have to turn around and pose any meaningful challenge to BJP and essentially Prime Minister Modi ahead of next year’s general elections, then it has to happen in Rajasthan.

This is all irrelevant before December 11, when counting for five elections will begin, and the verdict will be out.