WHAT 2016 COULD MEAN TO 2019?
Posted on 2016-04-12 12:13:13
“Kanhaiya’s JNU movement becomes the harbinger of Communist revitalization in India”
“The grand revival of the Left in Modi’s India”
“Communist comeback is a direct response to the fringe Right becoming the new Centre of Indian Politics”
These could be some of the potential headlines that the Lutyens editorial witchcraft practitioners could dream up this May, some 2 years after the historic rise of Modi, if the pre-poll electoral trends hold true (a big IF must be stressed here). Most of these headlines would be directed essentially at creating self-doubts in the Right camp, especially among the chattering Dilli variety and the old-guard establishment of the BJP. Already many among the online RW folks – who can invent doomsday scenarios at virtually every drop of a hat (or vote in this case) – are crying copious tears at the ‘supposed’ decline of Modi.
As is always the case, these headline chasing wizards and witches of Dilli would be way off the mark in all probability (as they have consistently been since the 2010 rise of Bharat Consciousness). A ruthless analysis of the 2016 elections is needed for us to make sense of the emerging political trends, especially with a clear sight of the next general election of 2019.
At the heart of the issue is the fact that these 5 states that are going to polls this summer are essentially non-saffron geographies; for instance, even in the 2014 peak, BJP had won some 10 MPs out of the 116 LS seats in these 5 states with a strike rate of under 10%, and 70% of those 10 MPs had all come from one state, Assam. In 2016, BJP in all probability is sweeping Assam. In fact, the saffron brigade has made fresh inroads into these North Eastern state by creating a unique new Hindu spectrum of votes built on ethnic and tribal demographics rather than the usual template of caste equations. This in many ways signals the breaking of new electoral ground by the Indian Right which has always in the past faced artificial limitations by virtual boundaries created through socialist structures of governance permeating a communist mindset among ethnic populace and tribals.
The way RSS built the BJP’s edifice in Assam, virtually out of thin air, is something that will have a long lasting impact on the eastern hemisphere of India. For this achievement alone, 2016 will go down as another important epoch of the Modi era in India’s politics. In immediate practical terms, a victory in Assam means that BJP and NDA will be a strong contender to win at least 11 MPs in the 2019 election which is an added cushion of 3 more seats from the 2014 peak of 282.
What is happening in the neighboring Bengal is extremely difficult to fathom. BJP did indeed have a chance of creating a history in this blatantly communist state, but for some reason the party decided to go slow which left many Bengali Hindus in a lurch. Interaction with local saffron workers had revealed that the party leadership always believed that BJP was viable only in some 40 seats so they never really put up a fight across the state. Whatever the reason, the fact is that now the Left-Congress alliance is putting up a brave fight and are accruing all the anti-Mamata votes. Indeed, as we had discerned in our pre-poll survey, the alliance has every chance of winning a landslide if “free and fair” elections are held in the state where the ruling party enjoys huge dominance through state patronage.
What we discovered in both the rounds of polling till now is that in many areas TMC workers were able to force voters into voting for the ruling party. Our team found that in at least 7 different polling booths of 2 districts, there were no polling agents of any opposition parties which gave a virtual free run to the strong arm tactics of ruling party cadre. In such an atmosphere it would be virtually impossible for any pollster to project any numbers as the swing-polling-booth arithmetic would simply not work because the ruling party votes would be skewed in particular geographies where they have capacity for strong arm tactics. So, let us consider both the sets of scenarios in West Bengal;
- Scenario 1: if TMC manages to retain power, it would be more-or-less status quo for the state politics. Yet, for the voters of Bengal, it would only mean deep frustration that the left – despite its unnatural and impossible alliance with the Congress – is simply no longer a viable alternative in the state. This would mean that BJP can slip into the role of the main opposition party by 2019. In any case, BJP’s performance always improves by leaps and bounds in national elections when compared to state elections and also because the nationalist vote which usually went to Congress in the past would now shift to BJP because the former is conceding space each passing day. Thus in scenario 1, BJP can become a potent force for at least 25% vote-share (8% more than the 2014 peak) in the state which would make it a viable contestant in at least 10 MP seats
- Scenario 2: In case the Left-Congress alliance manages to overcome all the systematic rigging and strong arm tactics of ruling TMC and still emerges victorious, it would only symbolize the depth of loss of Mamata in Bengal. Even more so, it would enable Mamata to realize the futility of her efforts to build a minority vote-bank and force a rethink on her politics. In fact, it would be far more productive for her to nurture a Bengali Hindu vote base than continue on the “secular” path. Moreover, a Mamata without power would need a Modi-led BJP to simply stay relevant in a Communist controlled West Bengal. In such a scenario, a BJP-TMC combine can become a viable force in close to 30 MP seats of the state in 2019!
Thus in either political scenarios of Bengal, BJP would stand to gain purely from the 2019 national election standpoint. What this means in the context of the larger eastern hemisphere is that by winning Assam and attempting to grow inorganically in other North Eastern states along with the emerging dynamics of Bengal, the saffron party has now created a cushion of anywhere between 20 to 30 MP seats for itself for the next general elections.
It is pertinent now that BJP concentrate heavily on the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Being in power at the centre and having a lot of traction among young voters of southern Indian states, it really is surprising that there seems to be absolutely no coherent saffron strategy in either of the states. In TN, for instance, BJP has still not joined any of the alliances or made its stand clear. In a possible close contest, BJP could potentially emerge as a kingmaker in Tamil Nadu and then demand a large pie of MP seats in 2019. Ideally, a BJP-ADMK alliance could sweep TN and then forge a strong partnership in all 39 seats for 2019, but the often talked about Modi-Jaya friendship has never gained actual political traction on the ground.
Similarly, in Kerala, there is by all accounts, a floating vote-base of around 22 to 28% mainly constituted by different segments of Hindus, but BJP has not yet made a strong pitch for the same. In fact, recent ground reports suggest strong levels of frustration among Congress workers dismayed at its national leadership for forging an alliance with the main enemy, the Communists, in Bengal which has left them faceless to approach voters. It is said that scores of WhatsApp jokes about the Congress-Communist alliance are doing the rounds in the hinterland. In this information overloaded era, Congress cannot simply get away with an alliance in Bengal and a fight in Kerala, especially when voters see that the Communist parties are the big brothers while Congress is merely a bit player in Kolkata. Thus most Congress leaders are now facing an existential dilemma in the state. As Congress keeps disintegrating and as the Hindu vote consciousness keeps gaining ground across India, Kerala would be no exception. By 2019, once again BJP can emerge as the main opposition in the state with a potential vote-base of 25% and political viability in 5-6 MP seats of the state.
On the whole, 2016, rather than being a “grand revival of the Left”, is actually unfolding an opportunity for the BJP-RSS to create a cushion of some 40-50 seats – from merely 10 seats that it had in 2014 – in the eastern and southern hemispheres of India to make up for any potential losses in the north and the west where BJP had peaked in 2014. In the end analysis, the NaMo juggernaut is actually gaining strength to maintain its decade long hegemony over India while the Lutyens continues to live in the fantasy land of Kanhaiyalal.