By Sushil Kutty
It doesn’t gel that analysts say if ‘elections are held today’, the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will win hands down, repeat its 2014 performance – “need not go out on a limb to predict that” as one fellow endowed by Carnegie put it – but that if elections are held 12 months hence, the BJP will face an insurmountable terrain. It doesn’t agree because the BJP looks more vulnerable today than at any other time in the four years of Modi-rule so far. But the BJP is on a Hindu-vote consolidation drive and give the party 12 more months and it will peak right on time!
Anger against the Modi government is at its peak right now, not the least because of the Kathua and Unnao missteps, and the Dalit and farmer unrest sweeping the country, but it doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the BJP is working to a pattern that will let it ride anti-incumbency. And, think, why the party doesn’t mind getting bad publicity because of gang-rapes and killings of eight-year-olds? The answer to that is that with every passing day, Hindu consolidation is firming up and the electorate is getting polarized to the advantage of the BJP. Court verdicts such as the one of Mecca Masjid case are helping BJP consolidate Hindu votes.
Compared to 2014, the country is more saffron today: 21 out of 29 BJP-ruled states. It was eight states four years ago. And right from day one of Modi-rule it was said that Modi will easily be at least a two-term PM. That will not be a damn-sure certainty if elections are held “today” but give BJP another 12 months and Hindu-consolidation will peak.
The Karnataka assembly elections will give indication which of the two national parties – even with all its shortcomings the Congress is still seen as the major opposition party – is seen as the winning party “today”. April 16, the Congress released its first list of candidates and supporters of those not picked took to the streets, indicating that a Congress ticket is valued and coveted. Logic suggests that at this juncture, aspiring candidates for a Congress ticket are more than those wanting BJP tickets. A similar uprising if it doesn’t take place when the BJP releases its list of candidates will tell a tale.
The Carnegie fellow says the “election’s clear front-runner (Modi)” will be “far from invulnerable” as 2019 approaches, and as his party’s losses pile up. “Underlying structural conditions suggest far rockier terrain may lie ahead,” the C-fellow points out, listing four fronts that will keep BJP strategists engaged: expanding beyond regional strongholds, recruiting new — and retaining old — coalition partners, withstanding a disappointing economic performance, and contending with fluctuations in voter mobilisation.
It’s a fact that the BJP in 2014 scored in its established strongholds, states in northern and western India: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh to chalk out an outstanding victory. These states accounted for over 75% of the BJP’s Lok Sabha tally. The argument now is that even as BJP increased its states tally to 21, if elections are held in 2019, anti-incumbency will have set in and the BJP will be nailed. The BJP will lose its edge in the eight states because of the Indian voter’s legendary penchant to not give a second chance to sitting MPs. So goes the argument.
Another surmise being made is that Modi and Shah, aware that it will be difficult to “engineer” another 2014 in the eight states, went on to expand the BJP’s footprint into parts of the country where saffron is not the favourite colour: Northeast. That is kind of foolish because the tradeoff is so lopsided: 25 northeast seats for over 200 seats in the eight states. That is giving ‘dolt’ a new radical meaning. Modi and Shah rendered dolts is like saying Rahul Gandhi lacks a Medulla Oblongata.
Also, not entirely correct, is the belief that the Congress still has the mojo to give a strong fight to the BJP in the Hindi heartland and by 2019, opposition unity will be established. The reality is the Congress does not stand a chance in UP/Bihar without a quick-fix with the SP and the BJP. That is also Rahul Gandhi’s considered view.
The gist of the matter is if elections are held today, the BJP will not muster seats enough to match 2014 and Modi will not get a second term. Denying him that honour will be the current mood of the people. If elections are held “today” opposition parties will have no time to fight among themselves and spoil chances of coming together. It will be either knit-up or shut up.
But give BJP another 12 months and it will get time to polarize, which is why the BJP is not bothered whether it gets all the world’s bad publicity for seemingly standing for rapists and killers of eight-year-olds. Hindu-consolidation is the BJP’s goal and 12 months will get it close to a full majority in Hindu votes. Elections held today and the BJP will lose. Elections held 12 months hence the result could be the opposite. (IPA Service)