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Alarm bells for 2019

Along with the Modi-magic, BJP must adopt a robust policy that will overcome the might of a united oppositional front.

Alarm bells for 2019

BJP is getting poll ready, going by the heated statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party chief Amit Shah. Also, the media advertisements indicate a "Modi shining" mood, ahead of the 2019 polls. Shah, known for his micro-management, has already started working at the constituency-level identifying the weaker states. But, new coalitions are also taking shape, and by 2019, there will be new, changed political equations.

Interestingly, there are already speculations whether the 'Modi magic' is waning and whether BJP will return with a majority in 2019. Added to that is the fact that three of the four BJP's major alliance partners – Shiv Sena, TDP, and PDP are not a part of the alliance now. While BJP was able to win 282 seats in 2014, the party has to work hard in at least 15 states.

Bharatiya Janata Party has come a long way from 2014. Today, it is the richest party with 100 million members. It has spread its tentacles far and wide and has become a pan-national party even capturing some states in the northeast. However, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Delhi, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry are difficult states where the party is not strong. The recent break-up with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir also indicates an uncertainty in the state.

The party has no allies in the south after the TDP quit the NDA, this year. In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the regional satraps, K Chandrashekhar Rao and Chandrababu Naidu, are firmly in the saddle. Tamil Nadu is a confused scene with discord among the Dravidian parties reaching its peak, but BJP has difficulty in improving its position, as it has not developed charismatic strong leaders in the state, nor is it invested in the Dravidian ideology that lies at the core of Tamil Nadu politics. Though it narrowly missed forming the government in Karnataka recently, if Congress-JD(S) coalition works, BJP will be at a disadvantage. Kerala continues to be oscillating between UDF and LDF. In Puducherry, Congress has firmly established itself.

In 2014, out of the 248 seats in six major states, NDA managed to get 224. But, this time around, it may not be a cakewalk for them. The Gujarat results show that the party has to pull up its socks as it will be difficult to win all the 26 seats it won the last time. The farmers and the youth are disenchanted with the party and it was only a last-minute Modi campaign that saved the party during the Assembly polls.

Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, which is in the pocket of BJP, is causing some concern after the recent by-poll defeats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. The stakes are very high as BJP won 71 seats in 2014 and performed exceedingly well in the subsequent Assembly polls. BJP cannot ignore the changing mood.

In Rajasthan, BJP won all the 25 seats in 2014. But, going by the present mood, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is not popular and the party seems to be stuck with her. The anti-incumbency factor is staring at its face in Rajasthan. The Congress is reviving itself going by the recent by-poll results. The forthcoming Assembly polls will indicate the future scenario.

In Madhya Pradesh, too, the party is facing considerable anti-incumbency with Chief Minister Shiv Raj Singh Chouhan bidding for power for the fourth consecutive time and it will be one of the dominant factors influencing the forthcoming Assembly polls. If Congress is able to present a united front, the chances of a BJP win may be doubtful. Here too, the party won 27 out of 29 seats in 2014.

Bihar is an interesting case after the return of Nitish Kumar led JD(U) to the NDA fold. Last time, Nitish was a part of the grand alliance with Congress and RJD. BJP and its allies won 31 of the 40 seats in 2014. With the changed political equations, it is imperative for BJP to do well. For this, it has to maintain the alliances with the smaller parties intact.

In Maharashtra, the oldest BJP ally Shiv Sena has at last broken ties with BJP and declared that it will go ahead alone in the next polls, though its minister continues to remain in the Modi Cabinet. Sena was the first ally to break away from the NDA alliance. In 2014, BJP Sena combine won 42 of the 48 seats with Sena getting 18. If the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP combine work together, BJP might be in trouble.

However, BJP also has many advantages. It has a committed cadre, unlimited financial resources, articulate leaders, effective alliance partners in some states and, above all, it has effective communicative skills. Ultimately, it is the mood of the voters, which matters. If BJP manages to secure the economy well with the expected GDP at 7.6 per cent, a good monsoon, proper selection of candidates, effective alliance partners and a good campaign, it might save the party with a decent number to form the government. BJP's win or defeat depends largely on the opposition's unity. If the opposition remains divided, then Dame Luck may smile again at the lotus party.

(The views expressed are strictly personal)

Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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