5 Reasons Why Modi-Shah May Not Call for an Early General Election

Despite being a known risk taker, Modi is unlikely to take this one. Not when stakes are so high.

4 min read
If the BJP wins, a loss of seats compared to the previous elections can be disheartening on the eve of the general election if it is held in 2019.

A veteran editor, who also happens to be my guru, describes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s working style as predictably unpredictable. The PM is known for throwing surprises – demonetisation being clearly the most audacious one. Having tracked his moves for years, hazarding a guess is a risky affair. But conventional wisdom suggests that early Lok Sabha election is unlikely.

1. History Suggests a 50-50 Chance of Success After Early Elections

Significant preponing of general elections by choice has happened just twice — once by Indira Gandhi in the early 1970s and the second time by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004.

Indira Gandhi came back to power with a thumping majority in the fifth general elections in 1971, riding on her popularity after taking a series of seemingly pro-poor measures. The “Garibi Hatao” slogan, among others, worked in her favour. Vajpayee did not prove to be so lucky despite the seemingly catchy India Shining campaign.

Modi’s “New India by 2022” slogan seems closer to the India Shining dream. Will he take the risk like Vajpayee? The India Shining fiasco is fresh in the BJP’s collective memory and an astute politician like Modi is unlikely to go down that path.

2. Growing Rural Distress

Despite rising pace of urbanisation in the country, there are at least 340 Lok Sabha seats which are predominantly rural. Right now, there are visible signs of an ailing rural economy — collapsing prices of potato, paddy and wholesale milk are some of the symptoms.

Growth in rural wages has been stagnant for years and anecdotal evidence suggests that a vast majority of rural population is still waiting for their achche din to come.

Even if the forthcoming budget goes all out in doling sops to the countryside, rural distress is not going to go easily, unless procurement prices of major agri commodities are significantly hiked.

Will Modi take the gamble now in the midst of reports of restive farmers? Seems very unlikely.

3. Recent Election Results Have Not Been Very Favourable for the BJP

Recent civic body elections in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have not quite gone the BJP way. The Gujarat Assembly verdict too, at best, was a face saver.

With by-elections scheduled in tough Lok Sabha seats – Alwar, Ajmer, Phulpur and Araria to name a few – the BJP’s invincible tag under Modi’s leadership has come under a bit of a threat.

There is a possibility of the BJP regaining that tag if it does well in most of the eight Assembly elections scheduled this year. Will the Modi-Shah duo take the challenge now when chips seem to be slightly down or wait for more opportune moment?

4. Opposition Regrouping is Work-in-Progress

To say that the opposition parties are getting traction on the basis of Gujarat elections alone is a bit premature. As the Lok Sabha elections approach, one-upmanship among opposition parties is going to go up.

Seat sharing, arriving at a common minimum programme, projection of a credible and acceptable face as a Prime Ministerial candidate — these are some of the many tricky issues that have not been ironed out yet.

In fact, most of these issues have not even come up for serious discussion among worthwhile opposition parties. The opposition space seems to be in a disarray at the moment and the confusion is likely to persist for a long time. Modi therefore is likely to wait for new ruptures to come to the fore.

5. Period of Institutional Uncertainty

Following the so-called revolt by four of the five senior most Supreme Court judges, the relationship between the executive and the judiciary is delicately poised at the moment.

Many politically significant cases, Aadhaar being one of them, are coming up for hearing in the apex court. The Election Commission has a new boss. The special court verdict on the 2G case is likely to result in realignment of forces in politically significant Tamil Nadu.

Moreover, the full import of some of the recent events – RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s sentencing in corruption case, toughening stand of the BJP’s long-term ally Shiv Sena and the possible entry of Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan in politics – have not been fully analysed.

Keeping these conditions in mind, this does not seem to be the most opportune time to take as big a risk as calling for general elections. Despite being a known risk taker, Modi is unlikely to do this one. Not when stakes are so high.

(We Indians have much to talk about these days. But what would you tell India if you had the chance? Pick up the phone and write or record your Letter To India. Don’t be silent, tell her how you feel. Mail us your letter at lettertoindia@thequint.com. We’ll make sure India gets your message.)

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