The Pre-Poll Alliance of the Post-Poll Trend

As 2019 polls are around the corner, it’s only natural that the ruling party is in jitters as elections become the talk of the town. People at every tea stall are passionately discussing who might govern again, and every issue these days on news media is linked with the 2019 elections.

In such a situation, discussing where the graphs are turning will be absolutely fascinating. Before continuing, I would like to say that this process is based on statistical estimation and is subject to sampling errors and those that might be intrinsic to the model. In 2014, with Narendra Modi as their charismatic candidate, BJP nearly had a landslide victory, by riding the Modi Wave or Tsu-Namo, as reported by the newspapers. To ensure another victory, it had to retain its support in the orange states, expand its footprints to new ones, and add coalition partners to the existing pre-electoral alliance. So far, the party has expanded its base and formed alliances with the local parties in the North-East, Goa, and Manipur.

However, BJP’s decision of not granting Andhra Pradesh the status of a special state has resulted in its losing TDP (Telugu Desam Party) as an ally. Moreover, the anti-incumbency sentiments that voters tend to harbour pose a major threat to the continuation BJP’s wins. Research suggests that members of Parliament (MPs) are just as likely to get thrown out of office at the end of their term as they are to get voted back in. The effects of anti-incumbency at the state level also have negative spill-overs on national politics. Hence, the party is working to expand its support base in other states, and is trying for the 25 seats in the North-East to compensate for losses in other states.

Overall, the picture isn’t rosy for BJP on the coalition front, for as the Hindustan Times report says, “Pulling off an encore of BJP’s sweeping 2014 victory will be a tall order; to compensate for potential losses in its core areas, the party must venture into new territory. In 2014, the BJP swept areas where it traditionally enjoys strong support in northern and western India. Just eight states — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh — accounted for over 75% of the BJP’s tally in Parliament.”

Instead of the party games of coalition, however, BJP needs to focus on the aftermath of its policy decisions. The bank crisis, inflation, low job creation, demonetisation, and other bizarre policies have hurt its immediate popularity, with its social schemes and welfare projects as its only saving grace. According to a Bloomberg report, BJP’s popularity has dropped 7 percentage points over the last year, and is “estimated to dip below the 30 percent mark in the next few months,” if the trend continues.

In the community and caste popularity indices for Dalits and Adivasis, Narendra Modi has seen his favourability drop from 35% to 25% and from 42% to 37% respectively. BJP seems to be losing ground among upper castes too. A section among the upper castes feels antagonised as the BJP is hurting their interests by granting constitutional status to the OBC Commission, supporting the reservation in promotions, and amending the SC/ST Act.

According to the data, BJP can form a government with coalition, though this time it won’t be a cakewalk. This is why the next few months are crucial for BJP, as well as its long-time opposition– Congress.

Congress currently lacks good leadership and a clear and constructive agenda. Many of its good leaders are in roles that are either unfit for them, or prevent them from using their full potential. The culture of nepotism prevalent in the party is also taking a toll on its internal political health, making it lose its credibility as a potential ruling party.

Looking at the vote share analysis the Hindustan Times claims that, “Although the Congress formed the first United Progressive Alliance government in 2004, its performance in terms of seats was not very different from that in the previous three elections. The Congress had 140, 141, 114 and 146 seats in the 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004 elections. Its seat tally jumped significantly to 206 in 2009 and crashed to an all time low of 44 in the 2014 polls. The period from 1996-2004 represents some sort of a normal for the Congress, while both 2009 and 2014 are outliers.”

So far, the party has been receiving one electoral blow after another. The division of Andhra Pradesh to form Telangana adversely affected the vote share of party, as did its recent loss in UP. Himachal Pradesh, along with Rajasthan Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Goa and other Union Territories have hit UPA hard since 2014, making it tougher to for it to form the government.

Despite the bitterness between BJP and Shiv Sena, Congress’ alliance with the latter seems unlikely, resulting in a divided election in Maharashtra. As BJP advances in the North East, alliances in Punjab and Haryana might help in some redemption. With Bengal slowly falling from its hands, and its habitually poor performance in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, it needs the vote share in the states of Bihar and Odisha.

Clearly, a complete redemption seems too far-fetched, given the limited time they have. Congress currently needs realistic plans to improve alliances and build networks and should adopt a 1996 like agenda of 135 seats, instead of trying to recreate its victory in 2009.

Apart from these two polar alliances, there are many other parties that are gaining momentum and might act as game changers. AIADMK and DMK can change the political landscape as unlike DMK, AIADMK’s ties with the ruling party have clearly soured, making Tamil Nadu a deciding state for BJP. The leftist tilt of Keralites and the on-going power struggle amongst CPI, CPI-(M) and LDF make Kerala a difficult state to penetrate. The future of PDP and BJP in Kashmir remains uncertain.

As always, the elections promise chaos, for only time can unfold the true Indian political mood. May the best party win.

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