Sanjay Kumar is a professor and currently director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. The views expressed are personal.

For BJP, 2019 poses hardly any challenge

Published Aug 20, 2017, 12:41 am IST
Updated Aug 20, 2017, 12:41 am IST
At the moment, the BJP has managed to form the government on its own in 13 states.
BJP logo
 BJP logo

When the BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by getting absolute majority of its own, the question of the possibility of a united Opposition, or a formidable Opposition party against the BJP in 2019 was hardly being discussed. The reason was obvious as many analysts believed that the Congress may have performed badly in 2014, but it would soon be on the revival path. However, this question has become extremely relevant today in the light of political events that have unfolded in the last three years. First the ability to win Assembly elections has been firmly demonstrated by the BJP in various states. During last three years, the BJP has managed to defeat the Congress convincingly, even in the states where the Congress had been in power for many years namely Haryana, Assam and Maharashtra. The BJP has expanded beyond the Hindi heartland, managed to form government in the north-eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir in the North. It also continued its winning spree in the Hindi heartland by defeating the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine in Uttar Pradesh. Even in a state like Bihar where it lost the election, it has managed to form the government demonstrating the clever art of politics. Leaders like Nitish Kumar, who was projected as the face of the joint Opposition against Prime Minister Narendra Modi has joined the NDA. Equally noteworthy is the declaration of National Conference leader Omar Abdullah that the Opposition should start preparing for the 2024 Lok Sabha election as no party can defeat the BJP in 2019.

The 2014 General election results were insufficient to answer the question of whether there will be a formidable Opposition to the BJP in 2019, but political developments post-2014 provides a clear answer to that question. Going by the current political mood, there is hardly any possibility of a challenge for the BJP in 2019 and results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are almost a foregone conclusion. At least, as of now, there is no indication of political climate of the country taking a complete U-turn in the next two of years before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. There is hardly any sign that the BJP’s support base — which it managed to develop during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections — has weakened. On the contrary, it has only expanded. The expansion of the BJP is far and wide. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP was the ruling party only in five states, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa and Gujarat while a coalition partner with Akali Dal in Punjab. At the moment, the BJP has managed to form the government on its own in 13 states. Besides the states where it was in power before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it has managed to add the list the states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Though the BJP in alliance with Akali Dal lost elections in Punjab, it managed to form the government in Bihar with the JD(U), in Andhra Pradesh with the TDP and in Jammu and Kashmir with the PDP.

 

The BJP’s electoral base has expanded significantly since 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, of the total 4,120 Assembly seats, the BJP had won 887 seats and polled 18.2 per cent votes. At the moment, the BJP has in its bag 1,346 Assembly seats and its vote share has expanded to 25.3 per cent — a significant increase during the last three years. It is also important to note that the BJP not only managed to increase its support base in the Hindi heartland but was able to establish new territories, mainly in the Northeast. The vote share of BJP has increased from 8.1 per cent in the north-eastern states in 2014 to about 23.7 per cent at present.In UP, the party’s vote share increased from 27.4 per cent to 38.2 per cent while in the West its vote share increased from 26.8 per cent to 34.6 per cent. All these clearly indicates a significant presence of the BJP in the current national politics. Another major factor is the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has remained intact. Studies conducted by the CSDS during last few years clearly indicate a sizeable proportion of Indians wanting him to see as country’s Prime Minister even after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. There may have been some hope after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections that Rahul Gandhi may be able to emerge as the alternative to Mr Modi in due course of time, but within three years the hope seems to have turned into a distant dream for the Congress.

Sensing that Mr Gandhi may not be the best match for Mr Modi’s popularity, there has been a search for a face amongst other Opposition parties. In this Mr Kumar’s name was on top of the lis, but after the recent political turnaround in Bihar even that possibility has disappeared.  At times, name of Jayalalithaa was floated as a face of the Opposition but after her death the AIADMK itself is in trouble. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik is getting old and would be lucky to save his own state in the next Assembly elections due in 2019.  The firebrand West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may be popular in her own stat, but it is difficult to imagine that the Left may be willing to accept her as a face of the joint Opposition.  And will the Congress be willing to accept her as the leader of the Opposition? The NCP leader Sharad Pawar, who’s name as prospective PM candidate floats now and then is too old to lead the battle against Mr Modi.  The RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav is debarred from contesting elections and does not have a clean image. Thus, the list ends with no ideal Opposition leader worthy of tackling the Modi juggernaut. The answer is clear, there is hardly any contest to the BJP and to Narendra Modi in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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