- Exit polls have smashed PM Modi’s narrative of a historic majority return to power.
- Regional parties have come to the fore – leaders like Naidu, KCR and Akhilesh are out to get support for greater influence in the Lok Sabha.
- Reports have opined a 4% rise in BJP vote share in 2019, but that isn’t amounting in more seats.
- Apart from a close to 50% Hindu vote share, Muslim, Christian and Sikh voters are not inclined to vote for PM Modi.
With all the seven phases of the staggered 2019 Indian General Elections over, the stage is set for results to be announced on May 23rd.
The incumbent government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had five eventful years at the centre. The BJP government, with full majority under its arm, ventured out with some bold initiatives and actions.
A number of the initiatives have fallen flat and many have now been forgotten. The government’s actions like demonetisation and GST brought pain to the live of the voter.
But that has led to the BJP government basing its campaign of PM Modi’s image as a strong and decisive leader. Banking on the Modi wave from 2014, is now both touted as a strong undercurrent and an ebbing narrative.
BJP is claiming it might not be showing much but there’s an apparent undercurrent keeping up the narrative of Modi. But on the ground, such a national wave is hardly showing in 2019.
No sign of a Modi wave
Although the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) hasn’t been able to match the impact it created in the run of to the 2014 polls, the incumbent party still seems to enjoy a significant upper hand against Congress or any of the major regional parties.
The CSDS-Lokniti Pre Election Survey indicated that the national mood was in favour of awarding a second term to Narendra Modi.
But each region in India has its own set of issues, ideology, trend and political direction. With anti-incumbency combining with national issues like the agrarian crisis and rising unemployment – where BJP has fallen short of its goal.
With polling done, predictions based on fluctuating voter mood in the last couple of months give BJP-led NDA a decent chance of returning to the majority, albeit a diminished one. But a clear majority for BJP itself will be surprising given the divided mood in the country.
Gain in vote share, but fall in numbers
The CSDS survey showed that BJP will have a 4% rise in its vote share in 2019. But this rise will mostly be in its already heavyweight seats in bastion states Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, New Delhi and Rajasthan.
BJP will also increase its vote share in states like West Bengal (where it performed increasingly well in Panchayat elections) and Assam-led North East region (where its regional coalition NEDA has grown from strength to strength.
On the contrary, it is expected to encounter some disappointment from its performance in 2014 bastions like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Bihar has also emerged a tricky state for BJP with rising popularity of Congress-backed RJD which has finally found Lalu’s successor in son Tejashwi.
Congress too, as per the survey, is expected to improve its percentage performance of vote share from 2014 which stood at 19% to 23%.
In the case of the BJP, the four percent rise is unlikely to correspond to more seat share.
More united opposition
Despite the rise in vote share, and increased popularity of the party in many states, BJP will face the brunt of opposition Congress and regional heavyweights like SP, BSP, TDP, AAP, TNC, and RJD coming together.
In 2019, the opposition is stronger than expected, and also mimics the BJP-led NDA’s unity in 2014. The strong opposition with number of coalitions will result not just in consolidation of votes but might change the sentiment for a number of neutral voters who’ve struggled to found a concrete alternative to Narendra Modi.
The neutral voter has been hesitant to place its trust solely in Congress alone. But with the prospects of a coalition headed by a Third Front of multiple strong regional parties might sway the neutral votes away from BJP in key states like UP, Bihar, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
In bastions like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh too where its expected to have easy wins, BJP will not be able to repeat the clear sweeps of 2014.
Regional parties will be more significant
In the run up to 2019, supporters of the regional parties, led by the southern states have expressed a very strong anti-NDA sentiment.
Leaving Karnataka where BJP has been able to make leaps with its government, non-UPA and non-NDA supporters are more inclined in the favour of their parties joining hands with Gandhi instead of Modi.
Four of ten voters as per the CSDS survey were against having BJP in the centre again, before polls began in April. But with many supporters of regional parties in assembly elections unsure of their prospects in the centre, had voted for BJP in 2014.
But with numerous fronts being opened including the Akhilesh-Mayawati led ‘Mahagathbandhan’, Naidu’s political extravagance and K Chandrasekhar Rao’s ‘Third Front’, there are multiple alternatives to Modi coming to the fore, though distant possibilities.
Caste votes will make or break
In the run up to 2019 polls, BJP has a clear advantage against biggest rival Congress, with strong support among critical social groups like upper castes and the OBCs. Although BJP doesn’t have a strong support in the lower income groups, their votes have been subject to change in the past.
Mayawati with SP alliance is trying to keep the Dalit vote bank intact, which might vote for BJP, given lack of seats won by BSP in 2014, that might be construed as their vote going insignificant.
Polarized politics from BJP and inability to side line religion and communal issues from mainstream politics will hit BJP hard. While less than 50% Hindus believe BJP should come back to power, more than 50% Muslim voters wish to see the back of PM Modi. Similar anti-BJP ‘no second term’ sentiment is propagating in Christian (60%) and Sikh (70%) voters.
This in itself speaks volumes about the current mood of the nation.
Time to find friends in foes
With results around the corner, NDA has performed decently in the North, West, Northeast and Central parts of India. But strong positioning in southern states is still an elusive prospect for BJP.
Even though it has taken substantial steps in the region, its presence doesn’t match up to the following of regional parties or the pro-Congress numbers in the states.
Close to 45% respodents to the CSDS survey in southern states were not happy with the direction of the incumbent BJP government after five years of PM Modi’s tenure.
With things not going as planned for Modi and Shah’s all conquering BJP of 2014, it faces the prospects of embarrassment on the back of underwhelming performance in some of its bastions in North and West.
And with tally in the South certain to stay at the disappointing levels for BJP, making a historic majority comeback might be an illusion solely in the head of PM Narendra Modi.
BJP’s allies in the NDA will play a crucial role if there’s a chance of it retaining the power, but with the regional party effect dominating the landscape and even surging during the polling period, it looks like BJP’s and Amit Shah’s task is cut out to beg, borrow or steal MPs to put Narendra Modi back in the top office.
- BJP is facing the brunt of a more united opposition with regional heavyweights like SP, BSP, TDP, AAP, TNC, and RJD coming to the fore.
- SP-BSP alliance is a big blow to BJP’s rout in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 – the party stands to lose as much as half of its incumbent seats.
- BJP’s inability to gain significant momentum in the southern states is a major factor is the expected demise of the government.
- With a majority comeback now looking unlikely, it’s time for Amit Shah and BJP to scurry for tie ups with regional parties.