Breaking Views: Early Review of the 2019 Political Blockbuster

The Assembly elections in five states have seen a trend of Congress’ revival and a downward spiral for the BJP.

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The winds of change are blowing in Indian politics. The Assembly elections in five states have seen a trend of Congress’ revival and a downward spiral for the BJP. But the direction in which the political winds will turn remains to be seen.

One argument is that many parties will fight the next elections against the BJP-led NDA government, and that the Opposition unity is still unclear. It will be a many-cornered fight. This is an oversimplified and superficial argument. The truth is there will be a direct fight between two parties or coalitions in most Lok Sabha seats across the country.

Congress and regional parties will try to negotiate for seats and the situation will change with time.

However, broadly, currently we can say there will be a direct contest for around 450+ seats. The remaining 93 seats will most likely witness a triangular contest.

Among these, 70 seats are from West Bengal, Odisha and Delhi where, at present, a triangular contest is on the cards.

We will discuss this at length later but right now let’s look at how to categorise these states and seats.

Seats With a Straight Congress-BJP Fight: 110

Snapshot

RAJASTHAN: 25 SEATS

MADHYA PRADESH: 29

CHHATTISGARH: 11

HIMACHAL PRADESH: 4

UTTARAKHAND: 5

GUJARAT: 26

HARYANA: 10

Out of this list, there will be a third factor in Haryana: The two parties of the Chautala family. But in the Lok Sabha elections, polarisation of voters could be at such a level that this factor won’t play a decisive role.

Seats Where Congress & BJP Face Off in Coalitions: 273

Snapshot

MAHARASHTRA: 48 SEATS

PUNJAB: 13

KARNATAKA: 28

TAMIL NADU: 39

BIHAR: 40

JHARKHAND: 14

TELANGANA: 17

ANDHRA PRADESH: 25

GOA: 2

JAMMU AND KASHMIR: 6

ASSAM: 14

KERALA: 20

In this category, there’s an issue over Maharashtra. Many believe that considering how Shiv Sena has been attacking BJP, this coalition could break. If this happens, it could turn into a triangular contest proving to be a big loss for the BJP. But in my opinion, both the parties will make up at the end. Hence, there will be a direct contest between Shiv Sena-BJP and Congress-NCP.

Tamil Nadu presents a similar situation. Even if we believe that Congress-DMK will be on one side with AIADMK-BJP on the other, what about Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth?

Even if these stars don’t join any party, it is safe to say these two would associate unofficially with some outfit.

In Andhra Pradesh, Congress-TDP will be against the YSR Congress and in Telangana, they will fight it out directly with the TRS.

Here, BJP and vote-cutter party AIMIM will also be in the mix. However, BJP won’t be a factor and vote-cutting won’t play an important role either.

Seats Where Regional Coalitions Will Battle BJP-Led NDA: 80

SP-BSP coalition is a given in Uttar Pradesh
SP-BSP coalition is a given in Uttar Pradesh
(Photo: The Quint)

UTTAR PRADESH - 80

The SP-BSP coalition is a given in Uttar Pradesh. Congress will also be in the mix for negotiations. They might arrive at a decision in the end. Even if they don’t, Congress will fight on every seat.

It won’t weaken its chances of achieving its most important objective: defeating the BJP. All sorts of unofficial alliances could take place in this state.

LS Seats Where Triangular Contest Is Likely: 70

Snapshot

WEST BENGAL: 42

DELHI: 07

ODISHA: 21

West Bengal is interesting. There are four players in the fray – ruling TMC, BJP, Left and Congress. TMC could reduce some risk by giving a few seats to Congress.

Whether the presence of the Left Front proves bane or boon for Mamata (Banerjee) remains to be seen.

Congress will either directly or indirectly align with Mamata. This seems highly likely. Therefore, we can include Bengal in the triangular contest category.

Now, we are left with the Northeastern states and the centrally-administered Union Territories. These 17 seats will witness a direct contest.

Snapshot

ARUNACHAL PRADESH: 2

SIKKIM: 1

MIZORAM: 1

CHANDIGARH: 1

ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR: 1

DADRA AND NAGAR HAVELI: 1

DAMAN AND DIU:1

LAKSHADWEEP: 1

PUDUCHERRY: 1

MANIPUR: 2

MEGHALAYA: 2

NAGALAND: 1

TRIPURA: 2

‘If Not Modi, Then Who?’

So, the ground reality of both the coalitions is pretty clear. BJP is raising the slogan of “If not Modi, then who?” because it knows that at the state level, there’s hardly any overlap between Congress and the regional parties. Hence, it is fair to say that in the 2019 polls, around 85% seats will witness a direct contest.

As far as Opposition unity, ie, the Opposition unity index is concerned, perhaps we won’t be able to see a typical united front in Delhi with a leader announced from the beginning. However, we shouldn’t be misled by this.

BJP has been using every tactic to divide Opposition votes in every election. This will happen again. BJP will try to support rebels, independents, small local outfits. From Shivpal Singh Yadav in UP to AIMIM – all will play a role.

However, BJP will also face rebellion from dissatisfied candidates. According to one estimate, BJP will introduce 80-100 new faces in place of the existing MPs. As a result, these rebellion games will take place in both the camps, cancelling each other out.

The real challenge for the Opposition is whether they are able to ensure a direct fight and focus on only one Opposition candidate – if not in every state, then in every Lok Sabha seat.

Will the Opposition be able to build a united front in time? It has only 12 weeks left. If we look at the election calendar, the Opposition must do this in the next 2-3 months.

(This article was originally published on The Quint Hindi )

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