Can BJP counter Op­po­si­tion unity in Lok Sabha Poll?

Though Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi plays the mind-game bet­ter than the Op­po­si­tion lead­ers.

Alive - - Contents - ■ by K.V. Venu­gopal

Can the Bharatiya Janata Party with­stand the tor­rid-pound­ing from the Op­po­si­tion par­ties in the next year Lok Sabha elec­tions, af­ter its shat­ter­ing de­feat in the re­cent by-elec­tions to the Par­lia­ment and the As­sem­bly? The Op­po­si­tion is con­fi­dent of un­seat­ing the rul­ing BJP-led Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance at the Cen­tre af­ter the rul­ing party has lost its al­liance part­ner Tel­ugu De­sam Party and los­ing its grip over the Shiv Sena and Shi­ro­mani Akali Dal, and ef­forts were on to forge a strong al­liance to the rul­ing party at the Cen­tre. The harsh re­al­ity has dawned on the Op­po­si­tion par­ties that only by form­ing a Rain­bow al­liance against the BJP; they will be in a po­si­tion to form an al­ter­na­tive gov­ern­ment. It may be re­called that a sim­i­lar strat­egy adopted by the Janata Party, af­ter its for­ma­tion in 1977 and the Na­tional Front Gov­ern­ment and United Front Gov­ern­ments from 1990-91 and 1997-98 ended in dis­mal fail­ure. The Janata pari­var, un­for­tu­nately could not prove the then Prime Min­is­ter Indira Gandhi wrong, when she ridiculed them as “Kichidi com­bi­na­tion”

When the BJP led by Naren­dra Modi won a ma­jor­ity of seats in the Lok Sabha in 2014, there was no iota of about the new Prime

Min­is­ter’s mas­sive pop­u­lar­ity in In­dian pol­i­tics, if not in Gu­jarat. Even his de­trac­tors ad­mit­ted that he was pop­u­lar to the core, sim­i­lar to the stand­ing of former Prime Min­is­ters Indira Gandhi and Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee, among a sec­tion of com­mit­ted and blind fol­low­ers, and more so, af­ter his scin­til­lat­ing per­for­mance as a Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter from 2002 to mid-2014, that is twelve years at a stretch. The peo­ple then, in gen­eral, felt that Modi would do won­ders by rul­ing the des­tiny of the na­tion, and es­pe­cially, af­ter the BJP started win­ning the as­sem­bly elec­tions in some states and mak­ing his party in­vin­ci­ble. Nat­u­rally, the Prime Min­is­ter ac­quired su­per-hero di­men­sions and be­came im­mor­tal, when his ar­dent ad­mir­ers and even his vo­cal crit­ics be­gan speak­ing of 2024 Lok Sabha poll, and not the forth­com­ing one, that might chal­lenge his im­mense pop­u­lar­ity.

How­ever, with about ten months to go for con­clu­sion of the present term of the BJP, even Modi’s sup­port­ers have no other op­tion, but to ad­mit that the pop­u­lar­ity of the BJP, as well as that of the Modi are wan­ing, even though some po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts view that, in spite of the de­clin­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the BJP, Modi’s per­son­al­ity and or­a­tory skill out­wit his ri­vals in the Op­po­si­tion par­ties. For in­stance, the Prime Min­is­ter proved that he could make a dif­fer­ence to the as­sem­bly elec­tions in Gu­jarat and Kar­nataka, al­though, the party could not form the gov­ern­ment in south of vin­d­hyas be­cause of sheer num­bers. The Modi baiters would deny it flatly, as some po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors per­ceived that, had the Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar not split the votes in about eight to ten con­stituen­cies in Gu­jarat, there could have been a pos­si­bil­ity of a hun­gassem­bly.

BJP in 2019?

Even then, there is a firm be­lief among a sec­tion of peo­ple that, Modi can still walk into the fag end of a los­ing elec­tion cam­paign and turn it around like a wrist spin­ner, even though it has proved to be a myth in some parts of Kar­nataka, es­pe­cially at Old Mysore re­gion, where the caste­fac­tor out-shad­owed his pop­u­lar im­age. As the CPI(M) gen­eral sec­re­tary Sitaram Yechury de­scribed aptly, BJP, and more so, the Prime Min­is­ter, has the art of con­jur­ing gov­ern­ments out of de­feat, as was wit­nessed in Goa, Ma­nipur, and, not, but not the least, in Megha­laya, where the BJP could emerge vic­to­ri­ous in only two out of 60 seats. But, in Kar­nataka, the party’s for­mula had nose-dived, as the Congress and the Janata Dal(Sec­u­lar) had the last laugh.

The BJP is in power, ei­ther on its own or with its al­lies, in 19 of 29 States. Yet there is the plethora of

As the CPI(M) gen­eral sec­re­tary Sitaram Yechury de­scribed aptly,

BJP, and more so, the Prime Min­is­ter, has the art of con­jur­ing gov­ern­ments out of de­feat, as was wit­nessed in Goa, Ma­nipur, and, not, but not the least, in Megha­laya.

po­lit­i­cal par­ties emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous in cru­cial elec­tions and los­ing the by­polls. For ex­am­ple, in the lat­est round of by-elec­tions, it man­aged to win only two of 15 seats, one of each in four Lok Sabha and 11 As­sem­bly seats. In­ci­den­tally, the party lost the third con­sec­u­tive Lok Sabha by-poll in Ut­tar Pradesh. On all three U.P. seats, Op­po­si­tion out­wit­ted the BJP. For in­stance, in Kairana this month, the vic­tory of Rashtriya Lok Dal can­di­date Tabas­sum Hasan, was sig­nif­i­cant, in spite of po­lar­i­sa­tion at­tempts made dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign.

What­ever the fu­ture of Op­po­si­tion unity, there is a mes­sage in the sta­tis­tics for the rul­ing party at the Cen­tre. For in­stance, even at the height of his pop­u­lar­ity in 2014, Modi could en­sure only 31.34 per cent for the BJP, which is his­tor­i­cally the low­est vote polled by a party win­ning an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity na­tion­ally. To put this in

per­spec­tive, with a vote share of 39.53 per cent, the Congress led by Ra­jiv Gandhi lost the 1989 gen­eral elec­tion. In a nut­shell, the Congress manned by Indira Gandhi had the mor­ti­fi­ca­tion of re­main­ing in the Op­po­si­tion with a vote share of 34.5 per cent af­ter the 1977 Lok Sabha elec­tions, even though her party was mauled by the elec­torate in the en­tire north In­dia. Even dur­ing the hey-days of Indira Gandhi from early to late 1970s, the Congress vote share was only 36 per cent, as dis­closed by the former Bi­har Chief Min­is­ter Kar­poori Thakur. The dif­fer­ence, how­ever, is, that the flam­boy­ant Modi was unas­sail­able against a splin­tered op­po­si­tion. whereas the Congress led by Indira and Ra­jiv were de­feated by a com­bined Op­po­si­tion.

The Op­po­si­tion is happy over sta­tis­tics that the BJP’s vote share has dropped to a great ex­tent in the ma­jor­ity of As­sem­bly elec­tions held since the Lok Sabha poll in 2014. A com­par­i­son in­di­cates that in Bi­har, the drop was from 29.86 per cent to 24.42 per cent, whereas In Goa, it has been re­duced from 54.12 per cent to 32.48 per cent. In Gu­jarat, where it won all 26 Lok Sabha seats, the per­cent­age was brought down from 60.11 per cent to 49.05 per cent. In Ut­tarak­hand, the fig­ure raced down to 46.51 per cent from 55.93 per cent, whereas in Kar­nataka, the fig­ure went down to 36.20 per cent from the ear­lier 43.37 per cent and the dwin­dling per­cent­age in West Ben­gal was ev­i­dent, when it ended up with a weak 10.16 per cent in the re­cent by-elec­tion, af­ter show­ing a prom­ise of 17.02 per cent ear­lier.

The BJP also could not do an en­core even in Ut­tar Pradesh, where it picked up 71 of 80 Lok Sabha seats. For in­stance, its stu­pen­dous vic­tory in the last year as­sem­bly elec­tion, af­ter it gar­nered 312 of 403 As­sem­bly seats, achieved on a vote share of a mere 39.67 per cent, thereby mark­ing a three per­cent­age point drop, com­pared to the per­for­mance in 2014. Should the de­clin­ing trend con­tinue to haunt the BJP un­abat­edly, the party would find it well-nigh-im­pos­si­ble to win a ma­jor­ity in 2019, al­though it is not hop­ing for a re­peat per­for­mance like it did four years ago. The party is also aware that if the Kar­nataka model of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion by the Op­po­si­tion par­ties are at­tempted ev­ery­where, the num­ber of States in which Modi and his team are rul­ing will come down dras­ti­cally.

How­ever, the BJP faith­ful are hope­ful, that the Op­po­si­tion unity will not last long, af­ter the Congress and the JD(S) con­tested alone to test their strength in the RR Na­gar as­sem­bly con­stituency in Ban­galuru (post­poned ear­lier, due to death of the can­di­date) af­ter the JD(S) gov­ern­ment led by H.D. Ku­maraswamy was formed in al­liance with the Congress at Kar­nataka. More than the vic­tory of the Congress and painful de­feat of the JD(S), with the BJP sand­wiched in the mid­dle, the JD(S) pa­tri­arch H.D. Deve Gowda’s com­ment, that an al­liance with the Congress is only at the Leg­is­la­ture-level and not out­side, had glad­dened the hearts of the BJP sup­port­ers. Nat­u­rally, the other Op­po­si­tion par­ties were felt de­ceived over the un­char­i­ta­ble ut­ter­ances of Deve Gowda, when they were pro­ject­ing the likely vic­tory of the Con­gressJD(S) al­liance in 22 out of 28 seats in the com­ing Lok Sabha elec­tions.

Ar­ray of sta­tis­tics

The BJP mem­bers and cadres are, how­ever, dish­ing out ar­ray of sta­tis­tics that their party has only in­creased its vote­share, lead­ing up to the re­cent by-elec­tions to the Lok Sabha and As­sem­bly right af­ter the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion. For in­stance, in the Nur­pur con­stituency at the Ut­tar Pradesh as­sem­bly elec­tion last year, the Op­po­si­tion par­ties sep­a­rately could se­cure 17.6 per cent more than the BJP, whereas in the by-elec­tion at the same con­stituency this year, the united Op­po­si­tion could in­crease its vote share over BJP by a mere three per cent. Sim­i­larly, to the Kairana Lok Sabha by-poll in UP, the op­po­si­tion in uni­son could get only 4.8 per cent more than the BJP,

com­pared to its in­crease of 19 per cent over the rul­ing party at the same seg­ment in last year as­sem­bly elec­tion. The op­ti­mists in the BJP also as­serted that the party has snatched from the Op­po­si­tion 14.6 per cent at Nur­pur and 15.2 per cent at Kairana. They also averred that with an in­crease of two to three per cent vote share, the BJP would be in a po­si­tion to de­feat the united

Op­po­si­tion par­ties, as ac­cord­ing to them, as more peo­ple gen­er­ally ex­er­cise their fran­chise dur­ing the Lok Sabha and as­sem­bly elec­tions, than of by-polls and cite the rea­son for re­duc­tion in the num­ber of vot­ers at Nupur and

Kairana by-elec­tions for their de­feat..

A few po­lit­i­cal ob­servers of the elec­tion sce­nario opine that the sit­u­a­tion was more or less sim­i­lar at the ear­lier Lok Sabha by­elec­tions to Go­rakh­pur and Pulpur in Ut­tar Pradesh, when the united op­po­si­tion could fetch only 2.5 per cent, com­pared to its surg­ing ahead with a dif­fer­ence of nine per cent sep­a­rately in the ear­lier as­sem­bly elec­tions. Here, the BJP has re­cov­ered 7.5 per cent from the Op­po­si­tion, as the same old story has been told that the vot­ers were few and far in the by-polls, com­pared to the huge man­date in the

Lok Sabha and as­sem­bly polls. In­ter­est­ingly, sources in the party rea­soned that the up­per castes, who nor­mally vote for the BJP did not ex­er­cise their fran­chise in the by-elec­tions this year. They ar­tic­u­lated sim­i­lar ex­pla­na­tions for other by-elec­tions re­sults, too. How­ever, the party is aware that to up­set the com­bi­na­tion of the

Congress and NCP in Ma­ha­rash­tra, it needs to re­new its al­liance with the Shiv Sena in the com­ing

Lok Sabha elec­tions, as the cru­cial 48 seats in the State, could make or mar the prospects of the BJP when it makes a valiant at­tempt to reach the magic fig­ure of 272 to re­tain its power for an­other five years.

Need of the hour

It did not take much time for Modi and his men to re­alise that af­ter the with­drawal of TDP from the NDA al­liance, the need of the hour for the party is to en­sure that its love, hate re­la­tion­ship with Sena and SAD does not ham­per its prospects in the cru­cial gen­eral elec­tions, as both the par­ties clar­i­fied cat­e­gor­i­cally that they will no longer tol­er­ate the big­broth­erly at­ti­tude of the BJP. Im­por­tantly, the party has to tread care­fully while deal­ing with an­other al­liance part­ner Lok Jan Shakti led by Ram Vi­las Paswan, even though

Op­po­si­tion, as the same old story has been told that the vot­ers were few and far in the by-polls, com­pared to the huge man­date in the Lok Sabha and as­sem­bly polls. In­ter­est­ingly, sources in the party rea­soned that the up­per castes, who nor­mally vote for the BJP did not ex­er­cise their fran­chise in the by-elec­tions this year.They ar­tic­u­lated sim­i­lar ex­pla­na­tions for other by-elec­tions re­sults, too.

Op­po­si­tion to be shown: Never come as a force in unity in the elec­tions.

So­nia and Rahul Gandhi with Op­po­si­tion lead­ers at H D Ku­maraswamy's swear­ing-in cer­e­mony as Kar­nataka Chief Min­is­ter on May 23, 2018.

The at­trac­tion of youths is more with PM Modi's po­lit­i­cal cult.

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