New Delhi: It is a little early to write about the assembly elections due next year in April and May. There is a good reason to. The country does not want a repeat of the abusive Bihar polls in which even the Prime Minister miscued.

The country only needs growth and development. It does not want divisions on the lines of religion, ideology, caste, region, gender or anything else served up at an inopportune moment by evil genius. There are early signs of that possibility that must be erased before they gain solider footing.

The CPI-M has begun its election rallies in West Bengal by raising the bogie of “communalism” against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Its targets are the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and Muslims of the state who are sought to be scared to voting for the party. This is no way to take West Bengal forward.

The country as a whole is becoming obsessed with economic growth and prosperity. This is unprecedented. The 2014 election that brought Narendra Modi to power signalled this change. Modi will be judged solely on growth and development when the time comes. He knows it. Isn’t it time that Sitaram Yechury’s CPI-M picks some lessons there?

Yechury is an urbane man and a trained economist. His party and he have every privilege to excoriate the BJP and whoever else they may choose to. But when the country is moving to other concerns centred on growth and development, shouldn’t Yechury and his party seize the chance?

West Bengal deserves better. It deserves the best in terms of economic growth. The growth of Eastern and North Eastern India are contingent on West Bengal’s growth. It is the gateway to the prosperity and rise of Eastern India. Sitaram Yechury and the CPI-M should be fully alive to the burden of expectations they carry. They cannot fail West Bengal. Divisive politics and excess of ideology have diminished the state. It is time to change.

The other worrisome state is Assam where the BJP expects to give a good battle to the ruling Congress party. The outcome is anyone’s guess except for one thing. If someone wins, someone else will lose. This is democracy and this is the unalterable truth about elections. Could one hope then that the Assam elections due sometime in April 2016 are fought decently? Hopes are slim.

The Union education minister, Smriti Irani, who is among the early campaigners in the state, has become the victim of a terrible slander. A state Congress official has uttered unprintable things. What makes men say such things? Why are they so scared of a successful woman?

The slanderer has since regretted. It is not enough. All political parties should introspect and pledge to keep the campaign respectable. The poll issue should be growth and development. Nothing else matters or should.

Elections are also scheduled in 2016 for Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. They may receive less national attention in the absence of mainstream political action. Nevertheless, the same rules of a decent and positive campaign apply to these states.

The ruling BJP at the Centre bears a special responsibility for amiable and restrained elections in the states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the BJP’s principal vote-fetcher. That situation carries multiple downsides.

State election campaigns, especially when closely spaced, eat into the Prime Minister’s time and energies for national and foreign policy priorities. They make the Prime Minister a partisan and end up lowering his office.

At the same time like all elected heads of government, Modi operates in a circumstance of competitive politics. He has certain duties to his party as he has them to the country. What this requires, therefore, is balancing of choices. Prime Minister Modi must balance his party and national interests in a manner that the nation is not put to disadvantage or harm.

The nation, he must know, comes before the party.

There is no doubt in this writer’s mind that he will do the required balancing. To a balanced campaign must be added the absolute imperative to keep the content lofty. Never can he swerve from the agenda of growth and development.

The opposition will doubtless bait him and other BJP leaders. The PM should stay clear of controversy and keep the engagement elevated. The PM’s colleagues are wont to speak loosely and hubristically. Ram Madhav has twice gaffed in six months. They should be disciplined in the campaign.

There is altogether good reason for the Prime Minister’s reasonable detachment from the 2016 assembly elections. State elections are exactly what they suggest. They are not a referendum on the quality of Central rule.

State elections should be fought by the state party leadership with the central organization aiding with campaign themes, broad strategies, finance, and star campaigners on a rationed basis. The less Narendra Modi is seen in these campaigns, the better opportunity it will provide to state party outfits to stand on their own feet and win. It will create the all-important state leaderships that the BJP lacks outside North India.

And if the Prime Minister in his few appearances remains in the domain of growth and development, it will set a tone of decency and rationality to the campaign. The fewer the PM’s appearances, the less chance it gives to anyone to inflate a state election out of all proportion.

So Prime Minister Modi, Sitaram Yechury, Mamata Bannerjee and others have a responsibility to keep the state elections next year a decent wholesome affair. Winning and losing elections is not a life and death issue. What matters is that the country should have an uneventful change of government, as and when that happens, while the dynamics and processes of growth and development carry on unimpeded.