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Everybody knew it was coming, but nobody knew when. On Tuesday, we'll find out. India's Election Commission will announce the dates for the upcoming parliament and state assembly polls, officially opening the campaign season and putting an end to the present government's ability to enact policies that could sway voters (aka "sops"), reports the Times of India.
For the past week, we've been treated to full-page advertisements and election inserts in all the major papers, and the sops have been coming fast and furious in the leadup to the policy freeze. The question of whether the Congress version of India Shining will fall victim to the ever potent force of anti-incumbency remains on everybody's mind, and various speculation about ideological and practical points that may sway voters has begun.
But any veteran of Indian elections will tell you that alliances are much more important than issues in the era of coalition politics. In 2004, pundits made much of the voters' supposed rejection of the BJP's India Shining campaign, for instance, but numerical analysis showed that Sonia Gandhi's successful wooing of Tamil Nadu's DMK party (among other key allies) was the real difference-maker.
How the alliances shake out this time is anybody's guess. But they're certain to be the difference-maker once again.
In India, even more than in America, politics is rarely about "the issues."