how to read 2019 lok sabha poll results

there are three major players in 2019 lok sabha elections- the ruling bjp, main opposition party congress and a vague third front, which can comprise of various regional parties led by leaders including Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Naveen Patnaik and others. There can be a number of outcomes. One can be either the bjp or congress attaining absolute majority in the house and forming the new government with ease. however, chances of this are extremely slim.

In the second scenario, a pre-poll alliance, nda or upa, may attain majority. However, if any of the factions, nda or upa, falls short of majority, it will be comparatively easier for upa to muster support from those who may play the kingmaker. Last scenario is of the undeclared third front hitting the majority mark with combined seats from all parties in this faction. This can lead to a probable fight over the office of prime minister and key ministerial berths.

having noticed what may happen in the impending elections, let us also look at how 2019 lok sabha polls will serve as a reminder to all political parties in future parliamentary polls.

bjp’s campaign is focused primarily on nationalism and majoritarianism. even the party understands that they haven’t fared well on economic count and hence, the campaign has been diverted towards patriotism and a threat to india from evil foreign forces that the bjp says can only be averted by it. although the recently released manifesto of the party talks of better days for farmers and poor, this has been relegated to the backseat with main emphasis on ram mandir, influx of refugees and j&k focused article 35a.

congress’s campaign is populist and relies on connecting with those who are still marginalized after end of 60-months rule of bjp. the party manifesto isn’t tilted towards majoritarianism and focusses largely on the poor living conditions of  many indian households. the manifesto, however, appears inclusive on its face and this can appeal to minority religions, primarily islam.

now if the bjp emerges after the election as the party with highest number of seats and does form government, one can note that today’s india has moved beyond basic political themes and internal security and nationalism have captured the imagination of voters. this will serve as a testimony to indian voters tilt towards a centralized government with a strong figurehead.

in the second scenario, if the congress emerges as the largest party and does form government by seeking or without seeking support from other winners, this should serve as a reminder to political analysts and other stakeholders that poverty alleviation is still the single most important theme in indian polity. this shall also serve as a reminder that indians place trust in underdogs (first the teaseller,and now someone who has been made a subject of mockery by the bjp) and doesn’t like leaders presented as kings.

this is the only learning that one can and must take from 2019 lok sabha polls outcomes. rest will only be trp-generating content.

indo-pak hysteria will cost bjp 2019 polls

almost every political analyst and even those common men discussing politics at tea stalls and their office spaces in indian cities are arguing that the recent india-pakistan standoff will indeed up bjp’s and modi’s chances in 2019 polls. this seems true when one switches on the television set that is filled with patriotism and praise for the ruling dispensation. this also appears true when we turn to tier-1 and tier-2 cities of india where more or less every whatsapp and facebook user has some work that keeps their household afloat.

but the truth is that these aforementioned facts do not decide electoral outcomes in a country where almost half the population still works in farm sector and the formidable dalit constituency is still aspiring for socio-economic equality, which has been long-promised, however, remains a distant dream to day.

india’s politics does not run on how well we are faring in the global scene or on the strides we make in geopolitics. indians have a range of local issues that they expect the government to resolve and this is what made narendra modi the most favoured man in 2014 lok sabha elections.

today, he is more a cult with modism as the talk of the town. his party members are rallying behind him and are still riding the modi-wave. 5 years gone and the party can only claim limited success. in fact, the ground situation remains more or less the same. a young dalit entrepreneur is still facing hurdles in securing loan for her small-scale venture even as the government is claiming lakhs of crores of rupees lent through the mudra yojana. public offices are still unconcerned with people’s pain and the business in bureaucracy has remained as usual.

in 2014, when people voted decisively in favour of modi, they expected a new india in next 5 years. only a tiny fraction of population, which is earning a regular monthly income, thanks to their domicile in urban parts, expected india to rule the world and have a world leader as its prime minister. for most, expectations were simple- equal opportunity, improvement in standard of living and respect. sadly, the modi-mongers deprived the people of these by intimidating all who criticized modi.

today, modism is a cult. one is either a member or against it, and if the latter holds true for you, you are likely to be silenced by the cult members with impunity.

for modi, however, this is no feat. his poll analysts have forgotten that indians, especially those who have the command to swing the elections, hate strongmen and like underdogs. for them, modi’s preference of a geopolitically stronger india over local expectations is a strong reason to vote the bjp out of power in 2019. the recent quarterly gdp growth rate of 6.6 percent must worry the modi regime since it establishes distress in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

in fact, the rallying of bjp behind the india-pakistan standoff will only cost bjp since the wider electorate is viewing it as sidelining of and compromising with other promises of development, opportunity, equality and better standard of living.

here’s what’s wrong with bjp and modi

more than 4years have passed since the country witnessed a watershed moment where a single party won electoral majority after decades of fractured mandates. narendra modi became country’s prime minister, and let us tell you why almost every second voter was thrilled- they saw the rise of a ‘chai-wallah’ from being a boy with no political patronage to occupying nation’s most powerful office.

modi’s bjp could win the imagination of the electorate because one, the public found the only other alternative, congress, as a party of the powerful and corrupt; and two, modi was projected as the only savior of the poor, middle-class and corporates. another underpinning was the hindu-supremacy narrative that was propagated superbly through social media platforms by depicting the majority faith as reeling under appeasement politics of non-nda parties.

modi has achieved some goals, for example, financial inclusion, increased pace of electrification and paving of new roads, a new indirect tax regime and a seemingly effective law on insolvency. the problem arises when all these works are being projected as being done by a ‘great benevolent ruler’, and that only he and his team could have achieved this. in this narrative, the congress, which has its own set of past achievements and failures, is being presented as a party which only weakened indian society and economy.

but is this narrative true? no. what is actually wrong is that cult of personality has overshadowed the politics of india in past 4 years. almost every bjp leader or woker finds it impossible to end her/ his speech without mentioning the word ‘modi’ and his alleged superpowers, and the worst part is that the prime minister himself mentions his own name ‘modi’ multiple times in his public speeches while attacking the opposition.

the outcome of this is that all accountable and responsible persons, including leaders, ministers, chief ministers, governors, public sector employees and bureaucrats, have accorded all preference to praising the cult leader rather than treading the path of reforms and progress. chest-thumping on every policy action has become a trend with the word ‘historic’ being used to describe every action of government.

although history cannot repeat itself in exactly the same manner, historical events do provide some hints. adolf hitler gained a cult status on the back of chauvinism (exaggerated patriotism), xenophobia and supremacy of one race over the other. in india of today, hindus are being called upon to rise to the fear of a minority faith takeover and all bjp leaders, including its national president, are using this fear as a tool to remain in power.

increased rates of fuel in india, low credit growth, inadequate job growth, corruption are all being sidelined and a false impression of india rising as a superpower under modi is being created. the truth, however, is that corruption and inefficiency in public offices is still widespread, public sector enterprises are only wasting public money on high salaries and low productivity, india isn’t mentioned in power politics of even asia, let alone the world, and the government is busy criticizing congress rather than counting its own achievements even after an almost 5-year term in office.

bjp believes modi and the patriotic narrative will win them 2019; we doubt this since the general public can no longer be tricked by unnecessarily changing names of cities, placing hindu monks as chief ministers and building unwanted statues of public figures. the fall of mayawati in uttar pradesh assembly elections of 2012 holds much cue.

the ‘underdog theory’ for 2019 lok sabha elections

the election of donald trump as the president of the united states in 2017 was an unexpected outcome of a contest that experts believed was totally tilted toward hillary clinton. allegations ranging from vested business interests to inappropriate conduct with women in the past couldn’t stop the americans to vote for the ‘underdog’, who was simply and brutally written off by political analysts and mainstream media.

this is what electoral politics is all about. in 2014 general elections, no one predicted such landslide victory of the modi-led bjp party, it still happened. for the upcoming 2019 lok sabha polls, experts can only predict either a majority for the national democratic alliance (nda) or a fractured mandate with no clear majority to any party. indeed, the indian national congress, in view of most political analysts, stands no chance to come up with maximum number of seats in the parliament.

of course, the bjp has delivered on some aspects. free lpg connections to poor households and mudra loans are a few schemes that have made a difference. but all the rhetoric by the bjp campaign in the run up to the 2014 elections didn’t eventually turn reality. we are still appeasing china; pakistan hasn’t been reined in; the kashmir issue has worsened; rupee has fallen to its lowest level; petrol prices too peaked; and jobs aren’t meeting the demand.

but the issue that can take all the sheen away from the modi-led government is the remorseless oppression of religious minorities and lower-caste hindus. add to this the failure of modi in cleansing indian political landscape that even today is riddled with corruption at all levels (bjp has welcomed goons and corrupts in the party only to seek votes). corruption and lackadaisical attitude of employees in public sector, be it bureaucrats or government bank officials, too has stayed as it is.

and then comes rahul gandhi who has in his fierce trust-vote discussion speech gave the electoral what it needed, a perfect reason to empathise. he accepted the so-called ‘pappu’ name given to him by none other than behind-the-scene bjp cadre (that comes up with various short videos mocking rahul gandhi) and went ahead to hug the prime minister, who did not stand up from his seat (a mark that will be seen as arrogance).

and let’s not forget that the indian electorate loves underdogs- election of pm modi is a perfect example. the underdog of today is rahul gandhi, a man whose speech of ‘love and anti-hate’ can resonate well with voters, especially the ones for whom mob-violence is a concern, not a chest-thumping event. in fact, rahul gandhi has scripted a re-birth of sorts for the ailing congress, and if he can carry the tag of an ‘underdog’ till the voting day, the picture can surprisingly alter.