The writing on the wall

The writing on the wall

The election scene in 2014 was clear. It was Modi wave all the way. The fight was straight between the BJP and the Congress at national level. In the two Telugu states, it was between TRS and Congress in TS, and between TDP BJP combine v/s YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh; and, the results were a foregone conclusion.

The election scene in 2014 was clear. It was Modi wave all the way. The fight was straight between the BJP and the Congress at national level. In the two Telugu states, it was between TRS and Congress in TS, and between TDP BJP combine v/s YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh; and, the results were a foregone conclusion.

But, the political scenario in the country is beginning to witness some unexpected churn, leading political parties and observers to believe that the results of the next general election may not be a foregone conclusion as it was assumed till recently.

Conventional wisdom in Indian politics says the road to New Delhi passes through Uttar Pradesh. When BJP swept the polls in 2014, it won 73 of the 80 seats in India’s most populous state. In 2017 again, the BJP won the state assembly elections with a huge majority. But within a very short period on March 14, the BJP suffered a serious setback as it lost the byelection in Gorakhpur Parliamentary constituency, the constituency represented by the Chief Minister Adityanath himself.

Till a few months ago, the discussion used to be on the number of seats the BJP would get in the next election. It was being said that BJP was sure to come back to power and Narendra Modi would become the Prime Minister again. That though the alliance partners were unhappy they would fall in line before the elections was the general talk.

But the political scenario seems to be changing very fast. There is a growing feeling that the BJP has a major challenge before it and getting a comfortable victory is not that easy. Though BJP claims that it is ruling in majority of the states in the country, the electoral setback in Chitrakoot assembly byelection in Madhya Pradesh in November last, the tough situation it faced in Gujarat elections, setback in the three byelections in Rajasthan indicate the emerging trends.

On one hand, there have been no out-of-the-box solutions to the problems faced by the country. On the other hand, the banking system is under pressure due to bad debts. Add to this the prospect of political realignment of the opposition – a new challenge the BJP has to face.

It cannot be said that the Modi magic has vanished but it is a fact that there is no other speaker in the party who is as effective as Modi. Of course, the party also has the advantage of having good strategists.
Be that as it may, the AICC president Rahul Gandhi seems to have undergone a transformation. There is visible change in his body language and the way he has been speaking on various issues. He is now more coherent. The Karnataka Assembly election will be a real acid test for Rahul Gandhi and if the Congress gets the edge, then it should be a real cause of worry for the BJP. It will give a new lease of life to Congress and it may become more aggressive in its campaign against the BJP.

Analysts say that there are 193 Lok Sabha seats where the Congress and the BJP are in a direct fight. Currently, BJP holds most of them, but even a small change in the scenario would be a loss for them. If that happens, the BJP will once again need to lean on its allies to retain power. And there’s already trouble brewing in the NDA family. The BJP’s oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, is also not too happy with the BJP.
Though the Prime Minister Modi remains the biggest mascot of the ruling party, the opposition seems to be confident of being able to challenge his ability to carry 2019 entirely on his own.

Down south a rift has taken place between the Modi-Naidu Jodi which has forced the saffron party to look towards new friends in Andhra Pradesh. There are reports that YSR Congress has cozied up to BJP.
Though it was thought that the sentiment factor has receded in both the Telugu states, it now appears that it is going to play a major role in next elections.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, who is considered to be a master strategist, on one hand, is announcing and implementing various schemes with special focus on farmers and, on the other, he is kindling the sentiment factor by lashing out at the Congress, saying that the state Congress leaders acted as “stooges” to the rulers from Andhra and did nothing for the people of the region, and, after losing power, they were creating roadblocks in the process of converting the state into ‘Bangaru Telangana.’ He is also trying to showcase how real transformation took place only after the Telangana state was formed and TRS came to power.

In the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is going whole hog against the NDA government in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular, saying that the Congress left AP in lurch in 2014 and the BJP which claimed that it was committed to implement the provisions of AP State Re-Organisation Act and accord the promised special status category had cheated the people of the state. He is openly appealing to all Telugus to teach BJP a lesson by ensuring that TDP wins all 25 Lok Sabha seats.

One thing is for sure that the TDP has been successful in generating anger against the BJP among the people of the state. Amidst this scenario a disturbing trend seems to be emerging. There is a clear change in the trend of campaign by all political parties. Normally, national parties take on their opponents on policies and programmes or would talk about the failure of the respective governments in maintaining law and order or charge them of driving the country into political chaos or ignoring farmers.

Personal criticism used to be rarest of rare weapon. But with advancement of technology, social media has become one of the biggest campaign tools. Every party is hiring techies to man their social media centres as part of building their brand image. The flipside of it is already being witnessed. An unsavory trend has begun. The bitterness among parties seems to have reached a new high. The tone and tenor of some of the leaders is obnoxious. This is something which is not expected of national parties because they claim to believe in cooperative federalism and have a long history of having been led by stalwarts. The teasers of political battle, however, indicate that an exciting fight is on the cards in 2019.

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