Opinion: What to expect from 2019 elections

Written By: Ujjwal K Chowdhury
Delhi, India Published: Aug 15, 2018, 04:44 PM(IST)

File photos of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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It is to be noted that Maharashtra, UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are the states, which will hold the key to the formation of the next government.

The recent victory of Harivansh Narayan Singh as Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha shows that within and outside the Parliament, the Modi-Shah combine remains powerful, ruthless and capable of last-minute surprises, through sam, dam, dand and bhed. Politics is not for the faint-hearted and winning has become a habit that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have acquired, as they proved once again. 

The fallout of Singh’s victory throws up a number of interesting points. Apart from showcasing the might of the BJP, it also shows that its allies in the NDA are just bargaining hard without any desire to desert the Modi-Shah camp. Also, any possible tensions between the BJP and the JD(U) were finally put to rest with Nitish Kumar’s candidate being elected. The Bihar chief minister personally contacted several parties, many of whom “helped” him to see his “Man Friday” win. 

The other interesting thing to note was the stance taken by the Shiv Sena in the election. The party which voted for the Congress presidential candidate Pratibha Patil in the past on the grounds that she was a Maharashtrian, did not have the same thinking when the name of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate Vandana Chavan came up as the united Opposition’s candidate. 

This was despite the fact that she had been a very efficient former Pune Mayor. As a result, she had to withdraw and BK Hariprasad from the Congress party was put up by the Opposition. The Sena, which claims that it will go alone in the forthcoming Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha elections, did not even abstain, but actually voted for the ruling-coalition’s candidate as Rajya Sabha deputy chairman. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which also had its own long-term parliamentarian, Naresh Gujral, as a probable candidate for this post, swallowed its pride and voted for the NDA’s candidate. So, it is clear that the JD(U), the Shiv Sena and the SAD have nowhere else to go in 2019.

Such stances are good indicators on what parties are likely to do in 2019 if the major parties do not get an outright majority. The “fence-sitters” — Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), AIADMK and YSR Congress — are in all probability likely to join the NDA, if they win in their respective states. The AIADMK, which has been broken virtually into three camps post Jayalalitha’s demise, is most likely to be within the NDA, should the need arise. The party has little choice as it faces a resurgent DMK, which, in spite of the death of M Karunanidhi, is in a stronger position as their succession plan with Stalin is in place. For the BJD and TRS, it is pure opportunism and the fact that they see the Congress as a bigger threat than the BJP in their respective states, Odisha and Telangana. 

Coming to the Opposition parties, it is clear that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will not go with the BJP, but the Congress is still not ready to do business with AAP in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana where the party has some influence. The AAP and Congress going their separate ways in these three states in the Lok Sabha polls is an automatic advantage for the BJP, which the Congress leadership — blinded by Ajay Maken in Delhi and Captain Amarinder Singh in Punjab — has so far failed to understand. 

The situation between AAP and the Congress shows that a “Grand  Opposition” is just a lot of rhetoric with no clear agenda or common minimum programme in place. So, though parties are basking in the glory of a BSP-SP-Congress-RLD coming together in Uttar Pradesh and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) reportedly ready to do business with Congress in Bengal, the Opposition, to remain relevant in the fray for 2019, must urgently put up an agenda of governance, catering to regional aspirations and demands. 

The concerned parties also need to look at better ways to target groups like farmers, Dalits, minorities and Armed Forces’ veterans in various parts of the country, all of whom have shown their anger against the government. So far though, they have no clear agenda for them. 

As a result, a one-on-one contest between the BJP and a so-called “United Opposition” is a myth. As the situation stands, there are likely to be triangular contests in many states — by virtue of the nature of parties and their unclear strategies there (like Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, etc.), and also due to the fact that a direct contest may actually benefit the BJP in states like West Bengal, and  some of the states in the Northeast.

The last major point to note is that 2019 will be decided by key states. It is to be noted that Maharashtra, UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are the states, which will hold the key to the formation of the next government. Both the NDA and the Opposition would do well to specifically recognise the main regional parties from these states and their aspirations as they hold the key to the results more than ever before. This was demonstrated in the Rajya Sabha election.

But before the grand finale, there are state elections to consider. So, now, as the battle shifts from Parliament to the heat, dust and rains of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the pressure is on the Congress, which has to take on the BJP in these states. How the Congress will take along the BSP and the Left with it in these states and how effectively it can cash in on some amount of perceived anti-incumbency in all these BJP-governed states, will determine the contours of a possible “United Opposition”, and its chances ahead. So far, though, with a little over 100 days to go and no Congress alliance or agenda in place, the prospects for the Grand Old Party look bleak. 

(Ujjwal K Chowdhury is a media academic and a columnist)

(This article was originally published on The DNA. Read the original article.)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)


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