Next general elections are only four months away with electoral exercise to begin sometimes March next year. In 2014, elections were announced on 5 March 2014 and the same were held in nine phases with first phase on 7 April and last on 12 May. Results were announced on 16 May when the BJP-led NDA coalition led by then then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi getting an unprecedented mandate with 336 seats and the ruling UPA reduced to 60 Lok Sabha seats.
Assembly election results of the five states that included three Hindi heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan along with Telangana and Mizoram were announced on 11 December. The BJP that was in power in three Hindi speaking states, lost all of them and could not do much in rest two.
In the background of the five assembly elections that were touted as a semi-final for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, there are three distinct combinations that are going to be in the fray. First is the ruling BJP-led NDA, followed by the Congress- inspired UPA and then a front in formation calling itself a non-BJP and non-Congress alliance.
Taking a close shot of these formations in each state and Union Territories could possibly offer a glimpse of the shape of the 17thLok Sabha that would be constituted after the popular mandate is known from the EVMs. Before we go further, it would be far better to underline the difference between 2014 and 2019. In 2014, the ruling UPA stood discredited in people’s perception. Congress leaders like Rahul Gandhi was an object of ridicule. Sonia Gandhi too was not very popular. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was lampooned by not only media but also by his rivals.
The BJP was a rising star with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi arousing popular expectation with his fiery speeches promising everything possible under the sky to people. Regional and smaller parties were eagerly jumping on the NDA bandwagon that was being led by a superman who had turned Gujarat into a paradise in 12 years of his chief ministership. Popular expectation from the BJP were at a historical high and big cross section of electorate particularly in the Hindi speaking states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand had overwhelmingly voted for the Modi party. The BJP had won 199 seats out of total 225 seats from these 10 states.
After four years and seven months of the NDA rule, a repeat of the 2014 performance is an impossible task for the BJP. Modi’s popularity is sinking with every passing day and his unfilled promises are haunting him and his government. As results of the three out of the 10 Hindi speaking states have clearly indicated that the BJP’s tally may dip to 23 seats from 63 that it held in 2014.
In rest of the seven states, the BJP had won 128 seats out of total 160 seats. In Bihar where it had won 22 seats, it seems highly unlikely that the BJP either on its own or with allies namely the JD (U) and LokJanshakti Party (LJP) of Union Minister RamvilasPaswan would be able to retain its tally of 2014. From all accounts, the RJD-led alliance has a distinctive edge over the NDA. In Delhi, Haryana, Himachal, Jharkhand, UP and Uttarakhand, the BJP is not very well placed.
Admittedly, the situation in UP is still very confusing because opposition alliance is still in a process of formation but there seems to be no doubt that the BSP, SP and RLD are going to contest the general elections together. The Congress may be or may not be the part of the alliance but in either case whether the Congress contests all seats or in alliance, the BJP is likely to lose a minimum of 40 seats retaining a tally of about 30 odd seats. In Uttarakhand too, it would be an uphill task for the BJP to win all the five seats.
The BJP can afford to nurture hope that it may improve its presence in West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala or in the north-eastern states but even in the best case scenario its tally would improve by a dozen odd seats. The BJP is going to lose seats in Punjab, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Holistically assessed, its tally is going to be down between 120 and 160 seats.
There is no alternative to Modi or TINA factor is going to help the BJP, argue those who wish to see the party return to power but this argument holds no ground particularly when people are disillusioned with the performance of the Modi government. Unemployment, farm distress, social unrest, rising communal tensions, precarious social peace, Dalit & minorities’ anger, rising prices of daily essentials, demonetisation and badly implemented GST have made the Modi government so unpopular that TINA factor has become redundant.
There is yet another section of political analysts who claim that people’s choices are different in Lok Sabha and assembly polls but that is true only in a wave kind of situation. There is no single political formation or party which is being looked with hope by people at large. The contest is wide open now and no singly party or group is enjoying an upper hand at present.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR), after his party’s spectacular victory in the recently held elections is trying to form a non-Congress and non-BJP front and is trying to rope in BJD in Odisha, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh and may be AIADMK in Tamil Nadu in his mission. KCR is trying to emerge as a kingmaker in case neither the NDA nor the UPA has a clear majority.
Various permutation and combinations are possible in case of a unclear mandate. Picture is hazy at present but in next two to three months it will become clear as different parties make their choices.>
Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.