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Look forward to in 2022: Polls in 7 states, redone Rajpath, balancing at home & abroad

The Trade Book 90 Jan 1
This year is of immense political significance. Nationally, it's the 75th year of Independence where Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to roll out some of his signature initiatives including the unveiling of a newly redone Rajpath this Republic Day and a new Parliament. At the same time, the year could alter the political landscape of India, as seven states are set to go to the polls, while a change of guard is expected at Rashtrapati Bhawan as well as the Vice President's lodge.

Of the seven states, six are BJP-ruled and it will go head-to-head against the Congress in five.

The imponderables that could change all plans is the looming threat of another Covid-19 wave and growing belligerence of China, which could negatively impact the economy. ET looks at what's in store.

The political scene

Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur will hold assembly elections in February-March. BJP, which has high stakes in all these, will be hoping to retain power in all, except Punjab. A win in UP for the BJP will have several far-reaching consequences for the party. It will come as a shot in the arm before the 2024 general elections, as the most populous state in the country sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. It will also open the road for the emergence of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as a national leader. A good electoral harvest will also bolster the chances of BJP's Presidential candidate. Towards the end of the year, BJP will be fighting another battle to win another term in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The fate of the Congress will also be at stake in 2022. The Grand Old Party will contest directly with BJP in Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, HP and Gujarat. If the Congress wins some, it will get more clout and confidence and smoothen Rahul Gandhi's prospects of becoming party president later this year and muffle the rebellion by the G-23 group of leaders. With regional parties like TMC, NCP and AAP trying to carve a political space for themselves outside their home states, all eyes will be on whether Opposition unity gains stability after the outcome of state polls. As the Narendra Modi government has made its development and welfare programmes a big selling point to woo voters, this year's budget will also be keenly watched, ahead of polling in the five states. President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu will pass on the baton in July and August, respectively. The buzz is that a woman or a tribal leader (or both) may hold the top two jobs. The new Parliament building may also be inaugurated later this year. Among important legislations, the Child Marriage Prohibition (Amendment) Bill, 2021 - which will raise the marriageable age of girls to 21 - is likely to be passed.

India & the world

On the foreign policy front, India will be deeply involved with the US through the Quad, with Russia and China through BRICS, besides entering the final leg of its term as a UNSC member. The PM will embark on a tour to Germany and later to Israel in the first quarter. India-Israel partnership has acquired a new dimension with the creation of the West Asian Quad - India-Israel-UAE-USA. The second in-person Quad Summit is being planned in Japan around April, which will give an opportunity for Modi to meet Biden on the margins. The forum's effectiveness in creating options to reduce dependence on China will be tested. China will come under focus as current BRICS chair, especially on question of whether it will hold an in-person Summit. If it takes place, this will be Modi's first trip to China since 2018. The annual India-Russia summit is likely to be held in the third or final quarter of 2022 in Russia, which will see Modi travelling to there for the summit. The year will also see the world reshaping conversation with the Taliban and addressing the question of legitimising the new regime in Afghanistan. India will have to both leverage and calibrate its big power diplomacy to ensure it improves relevance in an area critical to Indian security, especially in the context of terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Safeguarding India

In defence, force modernization and the challenge from China will be focus areas. This year is also likely to see tri-service theatre commands of the armed forces taking shape after two years of intensive studies to finalise the concept. A new Chief of Defence Staff is also likely to be appointed soon. Modernisation of forces continues to be an important area. The plan to acquire new conventional submarines under Project 75I will go through the shortlisting process. The air force is expected to go ahead with plans to acquire new fighter jets and unmanned aerial systems. A second winter at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has been stretching Chinese and Indian troops in Eastern Ladakh, even as the People's Liberation Army has upped the ante in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. A peace deal could be attempted this year to regain the status quo on the borders. The ongoing delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir is also being watched as it will be followed by the first polls after the abrogation of Article 370.

Social sector

The education ministry is likely to be busy with the full rollout of the National Education Policy. However, the biggest change is likely to come in the new National Curriculum Framework for school education which will have considerable Indian knowledge systems integrated into the curricula. The Central University Common Entrance Test (CUCET) - an entrance exam for admission to 41 central universities in India - is also keenly awaited, which it is hoped would put an end to the high cut-off problem.

Legal issues and agencies

The Supreme Court will be grappling with the Pegasus snooping case, which has political ramifications as Opposition leaders and dissidents were allegedly targeted, and the filling of vacancies in 2022, including nine that will be created in the apex court. Chief Justice of India NV Ramana will also demit office later this year. Many High Courts are functioning at less than half their strength. Challenges to the legality of electoral bonds, the Citizenship Amendment Act, changes in J&K's status, farm laws, challenge to EWS reservations are the other cases that will have a huge political fallout. Meanwhile, the probe agencies have their hands full. In the VVIP chopper case, CBI awaits sanction from the government to prosecute former bureaucrat and defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and four other IAF officials for their alleged involvement in the Rs 3,600 crore deal. In the fugitive economic offenders' case, the agencies will continue with efforts to bring back the likes of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Sandesaras, and Sanjay Bhandari from foreign shores.

Covid-19 can play spoilsport

If the Omicron variant of concern spreads, all these plans can go haywire. India will start vaccinating 15- to 18-year-olds from Monday and administer the booster dose to those above 60 from January 10.
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