2019 no longer a cakewalk for BJP

Kalyani Shankar
As the year 2018 comes to close, it is pertinent to look back and see how the year that was politically. It has been especially important as it taught a few lessons to the political parties of all shades. Till a few months ago, no one expressed doubts about Modi coming back to power in 2019 but now it is not a cakewalk. More importantly, the BJP juggernaut had been stopped during the year at least temporarily, giving a jolt to Modi Government and his party. The BJP’s defeat in the year began first in Karnataka and then in December in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh that is the bastion of the BJP. Modi is no longer invincible. The results in the Hindi heartland in December shows that the BJP could not escape anti-incumbency even in its bastions.
Secondly, the electoral fortunes of the Congress are looking up with the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress getting a big boost after the impressive wins in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. He has emerged as a leader in his own right after this. The Congress is now the biggest party in five relatively large states – Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. So, Congress-Mukt Bharat is no longer a reality. Also the party has shown it has strong regional leaders.
The tide began to turn from December 2017 when the BJP got a narrow majority in Gujarat. Then in May 2018 the Congress took a surprising decision to back the minor player JD(S) to form the Government in Karnataka to stop the BJP. This showed that coalition is the best bet for the Opposition. The picture of senior opposition leaders including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Deve Gowda, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Ajit Singh etc holding their hands was a telling picture. Since then Gandhi and the once-dithering Congress appears more focused and consistent. The Opposition is trying to forge a common anti-BJP front in 2019.
Thirdly, the BJP’s alliances are showing signs of strain as its allies are voicing concerns about the BJP’s ‘big brother’ attitude. Some have abandoned the NDA during the year and most important of all was the Telugu Desam in March. Bihar’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP)-led by Upendra Kushwaha was the latest to quit. What is worse is both of them have joined the Congress led UPA. Another strange thing is the tie up in the recent Assembly elections in Telengana between the Congress and Telugu Desam. The two parties had been bitter rivals since the birth of TDP in 1982.
Earlier, the PDP-BJP experiment collapsed in Jammu and Kashmir proving unnatural alliances cannot work in Indian politics for long. BJP lost the support of Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha in Bihar. Shiv Sena has been threatening to leave. Pavan Kalyan’s Jana Sena, also quit in Andhra Pradesh. The Congress on the other hand did the un thinkable by joining hands with the TDP and JD (S).
Fourthly, the BJP or its allies are today ruling in the seven states and this is indeed a big change from the earlier days when the Congress ruled the seven sisters for long. The BJP has proved that it has become a pan national party by spreading its wings in the West, East and Central India besides having roots in Karnataka. The northeast has become Congress-mukt now.
Fifthly, that the agrarian crisis has led to more than 3,00,000 suicides among farmers in the last twenty years. The BJP is in a denial mode even after suffering electoral loses in some states. It is going to be one of the biggest issues in the 2019 polls. The BJP should have taken note of it when 30,000 farmers came knocking at Delhi in October-November. They want an unconditional loan waiver as well as the implementation the recommendations of the M S Swaminathan Commission, a demand the successive Governments have been ignoring. The opposition as well as the BJP will have to come up with new narrative, as the farm loan waiver by different states is not the answer. They need more innovative solutions.
Sixthly the demonetization and the GST need to be addressed. It is clear that demonetization had hit people hard and even two years later the informal sector and agriculture are still suffering from it. Job losses are also evident.
Seventhly, the BSP chief Mayawati cannot be ignored politically and the year 2019 will see more and more parties running after her for alliance. Eighthly, the national parties have not been able defeat the regional satraps as has been proved by Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrashekhar Rao. Also the BJP has not been able to expand in the south.
The year 2019 will show how much the political parties will address the lessons learnt in 2018. It will be visible in the poll results but the NDA and the UPA both need a new narrative to woo the voters. (IPA)

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