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.

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.