The Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh election results were declared on 18th December 2017. In about two months of that day, the elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland are scheduled to be conducted. After the elections to these states, the Karnataka polls will be conducted. India remains in perpetual election mode. And with perpetual election mode comes Model code of conduct, which is a severe blow to the effective functioning of a state. Not to forget the constantly-at-war population who root for their favorite parties all year long.
As evident from various statements made by PM Modi and by the President, it seems that Modi government is determined to make simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Legislatures a reality. The Election Commission claimed last year that it can conduct simultaneous polls by September 2018 (Refer to my detailed take on this topic). As far as Sources are concerned, the general elections to be held in early 2019 may be preponed by more than 100 days!
What remains unclear is whether the BJP stands to gain or lose from this implementation, let’s discuss the Pros and Cons:
What BJP Stands to Gain From Early Elections:
1.) The Current Momentum:
If simultaneous polls were to be implemented before the 2019 General Elections, BJP will have a huge advantage over other political parties. The Modi wave is still very much alive. The winning streak of the BJP is unstoppable in almost every state which goes to polls. BJP registered a mammoth victory in states like Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh etc. BJP also managed to wrest power in states like Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Even in states like West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala where BJP has very little organizational presence, The Party’s vote share has shown a triple digit percentage growth. It is very safe to assume that BJP will make the best of the current momentum.
2.) No Replacement for PM Modi:
PM Modi is unanimously considered the best contender for the prime minister. Rahul Gandhi despite his spirited campaigns remains ignored and undermined. Arvind Kejriwal squandered all his goodwill away by engaging in confrontational and disruptive politics. Other regional stalwarts like Mamata Banerjee or Sharad Pawar do not have a pan India acceptance. PM Modi’s sheer dominance will earn him a major advantage in state elections too which can help him win major state like Karnataka and retain big states like MP, CG and Rajasthan.
3.) The Surprise Quotient:
It is up to the central government to decide the election date and that puts it at an unfair advantage. A sudden announcement for early elections will take the opposition by surprise who may not be able to come up with an effective strategy to overcome the Modi Juggernaut. They may not be able to stitch an anti-BJP alliance that they have been trying to stitch since 2014. This will ultimately lead to division of votes and a thumping majority for the BJP.
4.) PM Modi’s Campaign:
Early elections will save a lot of precious time of the Prime Minister Modi who remains India’s most popular leader and BJP’s biggest vote-turner till date. According to the theories that did rounds of the internet, it was PM Modi who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Gujarat. Early and simultaneous elections will cut down PM Modi’s campaign time considerably. He will be able to discuss the state and national issues in fewer rallies as against visiting all possible constituencies in a state for State Elections.
5.) Voter wants consistency:
It remains a fact that a voter wants to see his state in sync with the central leadership. Bihar will be an excellent example of what happens to a state when it remains constantly opposed to Central Government. While in a federal structure, all state governments are (or should be) treated equally but the belief that same party government both at state and center gives the state an advantage over other states is quite strong thereby giving a BJP a bigger advantage over other parties. This will be especially helpful in states like West Bengal, Kerala, Delhi, Odisha, Telangana and Tamil Nadu which have Non-BJP/NDA Governments.
6.) Economic Relief:
Like any other political party, BJP too will save huge amounts of money if the elections are held early and simultaneously. As of now all parties must spend large chunks of money in campaigning and other election related activities. Spending that money once in five years, even if the amount were to be a bit more, would please the BJP.
What BJP Stands to Lose from Early Elections:
1.) Lack of stability:
GST has started showing the signs of stabilizing, but it is far from perfect. A large chunk of trader and business class is unhappy with the Modi Government because of their disruptive economic decisions. BJP will need to give it some more time for its economic reforms to stabilize and reach the end customers. Early election may make the trader class hostile to BJP.
2.) Middle Class Distress:
Middle Class is unhappy with the budget especially because of zero income tax rebates and taxes on long term capital gains. At a time of Middle Class distress, It won’t be a wise idea to call for early elections in a country where over 300 Million people belong to the Middle class.
3.) Agrarian Distress:
2017 saw nationwide protests by farmers, this is probably what kicked the huge agrarian reforms in the Union Budget 2018. But the budget has just been announced and it will take a long time for the benefits to reach the farmers. BJP wouldn’t want to go to elections with an upset farmer class.
4.) Pakistan Ceasefire Violations:
One of the biggest reasons why PM Modi was voted to power was because of his unyielding attitude towards Pakistan. He showed it that he meant business by overseeing Indian Army’s record firing in October of 2015 and the now-legendary Surgical Strikes. But Pakistan is back to its old ways and a large number of nationalist supporters are waiting for a proportionate retaliation from the BJP Government. Without it, PM Modi’s anti-Pakistan jibes in election campaigns will seem pointless and hollow.
So, we see BJP stands to gain a lot from early elections but also stands to lose some. If BJP can announce some non-budgetary-short-term-sops for the middle class and ensure that the benefits of agrarian reforms reach the farmers quickly, early elections won’t be a bad call to make.
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