The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to be the first past the vote system in 2019. The big question, however, is whether they will have enough seats to form a government on their own.
Even though people have expressed their discontentment with the party following large-scale policy changes like demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and various sections of the society, like Dalits, Muslims, and other minorities vying for reservation are miffed with the BJP, a significant number of voters favour the Narendra Modi over others. Hence, BJP remains the popular choice for voters—the Modi-wave stands strong, just a little weaker than it was in 2014.
If the opposition wishes to make an impact on the voters and dent BJP’s chances, it needs to have a stronger strategy than what exists now. While the formation of a Mahagathbandhan at the national level seems unlikely owing the lack of an agreeable prime ministerial candidate, conflicts regarding seat-sharing numbers, and larger ideological differences, smaller coalitions at the state-level may work in their favour.
For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have agreed to fight the polls together– according to speculation, Congress may join them as well. In 2014, BJP and its allies coloured the state orange and swept 73 seats out of 80. BJP bagged 42% of the state’s popular vote, while the SP, BSP, and Congress managed a vote share of 22%, 19%, and 7%. If the latter had come together, their collective vote share would have jumped to 48% which would have given them the popular vote in the state.
However, based on its current state, the alliance is in no shape to fight the elections and needs to be maintained by these parties very carefully. For example, Mayawati recently said that she won’t ally with the Congress in the state assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh– their ship seems to be sinking before it is even in the waters. If the Congress party wants to stand a chance at defeating BJP, it needs to play the role of leader, and bring all its allies together as a united front.
In Maharashtra on the other hand, Shiv Sena is miffed with the BJP, and has expressed its dissent about the working of the BJP on a number of occasions, even threatening to pull out of the NDA. It even fought the Mumbai Municipal Council elections independently. If the Shiv Sena sees that the likely political outcome in the country might not favour the BJP, they might well go their separate way. Congress is likely to form an alliance with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party who has expressed his desire to guide a rainbow coalition of the opposition parties.
If Congress does ally with the Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena parts ways with the BJP, the state will see divided results. In this manner, if the opposition manages to keep the BJP down to just over 200 seats, the party will need to form a coalition to lead an NDA government in the Lok Sabha. Thus, BJP too, needs to keep its present allies like Shiv Sena, JD(U), LJP close, and explore options with potential allies like TRS in Telangana and one of the newer parties in Tamil Nadu. Only then will they have the sufficient numbers to see them through and keep them safe even if they have to leave some allies behind. The bugle is yet to be sounded, but the war has already started; as always, it surely is building up to be an interesting race ahead of us, next year.
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