Millennium Post

Bumpy ride on Modi wagon

Poll season is upon us, well and truly. Over the last fortnight, the BJP was in a celebratory mood after three opinion polls gave its NDA alliance an average of 215 seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections due in April. The next best tally was that of ‘others’-  mostly the left and communist parties, and the regional parties like the AIADMK, BJD, SP, JD (U), JD (S) and few others. Congress Party-led UPA was seen languishing below 100.
There are a few key elements in this elections, on the anvil of which these survey figures need to be judged.

One, the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party as a reflection of middle class and urban youth’s frustration with the existing political order will challenge the BJP’s ‘pole’ position in urban constituencies in the general elections, 2014. Two, the states that can contribute to the BJP’s ascendance to the apex are already the ones that contributed to the party’s numbers in north India. These are, for example, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The 2009 results of these states were 16, 15 and 20.

Third, the states that can add to the net tally of the BJP are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. Barring the latter state,  where the BJP will have a much larger footprint, in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar the situation even at the end of the first round of campaigning by Narendra Modi, do not seem greatly rosy. The so-called ‘Modi Lehar’ has remained largely ‘still born.’

Fourth, in 2009, Karnataka had contributed a fair number to the BJP tally. But all the drama about the mining mafia, and the one about BS Yeddyurappa exit and re-entry surely have dented the image of the party enough. If this can be considered a harbinger for the party in the southern part, the NDA do not seem to have gained much from Modi storm in states south of the Vindhyas. 

Fifth and lastly, even as the election campaign of the so-called incipient Third Front begins its run and the Congress starts putting quantifiably more effort in its campaign, Modi will need a second wind on his sail, to emerge a victor.

So, the question to ask is this, can he get that second wind? This will depend on whether he can still gain significantly from the decline of the Congress Party in a more direct manner from states with large number of total seats where a three or a four cornered contest will emerge.

It seems unlikely at the moment since he will be competing with the non-Congress regional parties more, for the Congress Party’s yielded ground. These smaller parties have a natural advantage that since they have to look after a relatively small patch of land, they will be able to put greater effort and larger proven capabilities.

The BJP’s idea of fielding Modi so early in the Lok Sabha race was to significantly increase the party’s foot-print and support base. In that plan they seem to have failed that these opinion polls seem to have reflected. Consider this: with a huge anti-incumbency against the Congress, the BJP could add only about 40-odd seats more to its best ever showing of 1999.
The fact that these polls of the past fortnight were designed to show the BJP-led NDA at its best, by the corporate-run media, the forty-odd seat more is certainly not a big vote of confidence in favour of its prime ministerial candidate.

But, in the post-poll scenario the NDA is in a position to be called by the President of the country to form the government, unless Sunday’s talk of a non-BJP and a non-Congress, pre-poll front of 14 parties – a work-in-progress of the Communist and left parties – become a clear winner.

When that call from the Rashtrapati Bhavan comes, will Modi with 120-40 MPs of the BJP be able to attract more players on the NDA’s side? That is a crucial question that needs to be answered. A keen observer can safely say, when Nitish Kumar stared at the prospect and decided to go the other way, he could have been the ‘early bird.’

The other element in the poll spectacle that has emerged, barely a little more than two months to go for the elections, will be to watch the reaction of the big commerce and industrial groups.  They are receiving advisories of some of the business research groups like Edelweiss that say the BJP will not be a sure shot to political power in the country.
In terms of Modi’s second wind, these large business groups will have to decide whether they continue to back him unstintingly, or spread their ‘affections’ a lot wider, thus thinner. This too will define how the next two months can go.

At the end, this general election will surely prove to be the building block for the youth of the country as they come off age in the next thirty-odd years, thus defining the path the country will choose for its progress. 

The author is a senior jounalist
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