In India, the election season is almost here and there is a lot of buzz as to whether Narendra Modi will have a second term, or will Rahul Gandhi be the new face of India or will something completely unexpected occur. There is a lot of uneasiness among the political parties regarding the election victory for this year. This is particularly true for the current ruling party, the BJP, especially after losing three major Hindi speaking states to the Congress. Furthermore, the attacks by the Congress president, Rahul Gandhi with respect to the Rafael deal and other events of economic distress that came about in India, because of Modi’s coming to power, are not helping the BJP in retaining its pure image.
Nevertheless, the BJP party has campaigned vigorously as a result of which Modi seems ahead in the race for the Prime Minister’s seat. However, his competition is still unclear. Some people think that Rahul Gandhi is Modi’s biggest competitor. However, it is important to remember that India does not have a two-party system. There are so many political parties in India which make it quite difficult to dismiss their existence. In the last elections, the BJP and the Congress had a combined vote share of just 51%. So, it’s clear that the upcoming elections are not about a BJP versus Congress competition that many have come to believe, but is much more complex than that.
The complexity arrives because of the presence of regional parties. Regional parties are political parties that are restricted to states, and comprise the aspirations and grievances of that region. Telegu Desam Party and Aam Aadmi Party are both examples of regional parties. On the other hand, national parties refer to political parties that operate in more than four countries with areas of operation extending all over the nation. Both Congress and the BJP are national political parties of India.
Regional parties play a very important role in the formation of the government at the Centre. The Congress and the BJP basically rise at the cost of each other without significantly altering the vote share of regional parties. In fact, the vote share of the BJP and the Congress party together, and regional parties alone have been somewhat equal. It can be inferred that among the voters, BJP and Congress together get roughly 50% of the votes and the rest of the votes go to the regional parties.
This has resulted in an increase in the political alliances between regional parties and national parties. So in any given state, where either the Congress or the BJP has an alliance with a regional party in the form of a seat sharing arrangement, vote share gets transferred between parties. For instance, in the state of Maharashtra, the BJP has an alliance with Shiv Sena in the form of a seat sharing arrangement. The two parties then divide up constituencies based on relative strength and local realities. The BJP vote share in Maharashtra is thus a combination of what it would have earned on its own plus what the Shiv Sena transferred to it. The same arrangement holds true for Shiv Sena. With alliances, votes can get transferred from national parties to regional parties in order to deliver a possibly larger vote share. This is done even if the manifestos of each political party are quite different. This was seen with the recent Karnataka elections where Congress formed an alliance with JDS in order to bring down BJP reign in Karnataka.
The BJP is determined to return to power for a second term to continue with its vision of India. However, in order for the BJP to form a government, the party and its coalition parties require a majority of 272 seats of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha. BJP is quite dependent on its performance in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharsahtra and Bihar as these states account for nearly 31% of total seats. However, BJP is quite worried because of the regional parties in those states and the political state of affairs. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav and the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati have formed a pre-poll alliance against both the BJP and Congress. In both Maharashtra and Bihar, the BJP has to give a larger number of seats to its allies—National Democratic Alliance, the Janata Dal United Party and the Shiv Sena party. The BJP is also likely to lose seats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh because of its loss in the local legislative Assembly elections to the Congress party in December. With respect to the states in the South of India, the BJP does not have much of a hold. If the BJP continues to face losses and fall short of the halfway mark in the Lok Sabha, there might be a greater role of regional parties in forming the coalition government to lead India.
Thus, this election will definitely prove quite eventful. The competition between all political parties is quite intense with alliances being formed in order to strengthen voter share or limit influence of other political parties. Therefore, it would be quite interesting to see what the state of the government would be after elections, and which political party holds dominance.
Picture Credits : merinews.com