It might be difficult for the BJP to repeat its 2014 like performance in many parts of the country in 2019 General elections. There are many reasons for that. Firstly, the public anger against the Congress government and the desire for the change is also not as prevalent as it was in 2014. Secondly, unlike 2014 this time opposition parties are looking to stitch-up an alliance in order to stop the BJP. Thirdly, few currently BJP ruled states are facing anti-incumbency.
In crucial BJP ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat, the party will face anti-incumbency of many years. In Uttar Pradesh, SP-BSP coalition is expected to put up a strong fight. Amit Shah has also admitted that SP-BSP alliance would be a challenging one for him. He said, “If the BSP and SP contest in alliance, it would be a challenge to us.” But a lot will depend on electoral arithmetic. Caste and politics are closely knit together in Uttar Pradesh. The caste breakup of 2017, Uttar Pradesh assembly elections was:
OBC – 29%
Muslim – 20%
Dalits – 14%
Yadav – 10%
Brahmins – 10%
Rajput – 8%
Other SC – 7%
Jat – 2%
Currently, among these caste groups, Yadavs, Muslims and Dalits owe their allegiance to the two strong local leaders in UP, Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati. There is a solid organizational presence of these two parties in the state. Other regional leaders like Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal might extend support to this coalition as Ajit Singh also shared dias with Akhilesh and Mayawati at HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in-ceremony. SP-BSP coalition supported RLD candidate Tabassum Hassan in Kairana by-poll. Mahagathbandhan of SP-BSP-RLD defeated BJP’s candidate in Kairana by-poll. Jats are Ajit Singh’s core vote bank. If all goes well then this will provide them more edge over the BJP.
However, in politics 2+2 does not always equal to 4, the best example of which is the 2017 UP assembly elections. The BJP’s core vote banks are voters of Sawarna Caste (Brahmin, Baniya and Kshatriya) and Non-Jatav dalits who voted for the BJP en masse in 2017 UP assembly elections. Non-Yadav OBCs also voted for the BJP in large numbers in the 2017 elections. In 2014, in front of Amit Shah’s astute political maneuvers, all the established caste equations failed. The BJP, with the help of small regional parties like Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party and Apna Dal united non-Yadav OBCs, non-Jatav Dalits and Upper caste Hindus under one umbrella. The BJP also gained success in getting votes of Muslim Women in 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Following this strategy, the BJP got unexpected overwhelming majority in 2017 UP elections.
The traditional rivalry between Yadavs and Dalits will play a huge role too as the latter considers the former as their oppressors. Along with caste there is also a new class of voters emerging throughout the entire country. That class is of women, educated people and first time voters. Voters from this class would be a deciding factor in 2019 General elections and especially in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP in recent times has delivered good performance in Maharashtra and it is strong in Maharashtra like never before, but again, electoral arithmetic would hold the key. In the last Lok Sabha elections, BJP and Shivsena coalition won 42 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra. However, this time all is not well between Shivsena and the BJP, so BJP might register a decline in its tally in the state. Clean sweeps of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh etc are unlikely to happen this time again, although the performance in these states is expected to be more than good. The party might also get good results from the states like Bihar and Jharkhand in 2019 general elections.
It seems that much like the country, the BJP too is dependent on a ‘Look East’ or ‘Act East’ policy. This policy is likely to compensate for the seats they might lose in strongholds in 2019 general elections.
So, what can we expect? The BJP’s one after another sweep in the northeast states has brought the northeast to the forefront of the country’s policymaking. Now, the northeast receives ample media attention. It has become politically and strategically more important. PM Modi’s “Vikas Model” has benefited the North East greatly, which explains why BJP is suddenly becoming popular in the North East. Since coming to power, the NDA government has embarked on a mission to develop the north-east, connect the hitherto unconnected places, provide employment opportunities to the youth and an infrastructure development initiative unprecedented in size and scale in the north east.
Trying sincerely to fulfill his promise of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas”, Narendra Modi has indeed made faithful attempts for the rapid and sure shot development of the North East regions. When the schemes benefit the common mass, they will put their faith in the party that is trying to make their life better. The electoral success of the BJP in recent North-Eastern assembly elections proves that scenario. So, it is not hard to believe that North East will vote en masse for PM Modi. After giving a splendid performance in northeast assembly elections, the BJP’s party workers in the northeast are tirelessly working day and night to deliver even better performance in 2019 general elections.
The BJP is the first and the foremost alternative in West Bengal and Odisha to the ruling dispensations. It would provide the BJP with a large enough vote-share to win some seats in these two states in the 2019 general elections.
Odisha is one of those few states where BJP has never tasted power on its own. It is also a state where the regional party, BJD, has ruled for more than a decade. Recently, Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling regime. He also was quick to say that the ruling BJD govt was ineffective and inefficient. He subtly highlighted that the people of Odisha are ready to embrace a change. These remarks by Pradhan definitely carry a lot of weight and they also symbolize changes at the ground level in Odisha politics.
Fundamentally, there are few reasons why Odisha seems to be waiting in the wings and is vying for a transformation. The climate is conducive for the BJP to step in and grow further in the state to capture power soon.
Anti-Incumbency – Firstly, BJD and Naveen Patnaik are ruling Odisha for years. The anti-incumbency factor in the next set of elections will be tremendous. On the contrary, there was never a viable alternative as Patnaik dominated the scenes without much of a challenge. Congress and BJP were sidelined in this process and they never seemed to hold any sway in the state. Naveen Patnaik has been ruling Odisha in the form of a dynasty and the winds of change in the national polity finally seems to have seeped inside the state politics. Another important aspect is that the first time voters have never seen anything except the BJD. These young voters may identify themselves with the vibrant leadership of PM Modi more and hence vote on those lines in 2019 general elections. With the likes of leaders like Dharmendra Pradhan in the state, Odisha never seemed so ready to explore an alternative and seek a change.
Rising BJP: Secondly, as mentioned above, sweeping changes in Odisha are visible at the grass root levels. The vote share of the BJP in recently held Zilla Parishad polls has increased multifold. It tasted success at many fronts which has left BJD worrying. BJP came second in many seats and were able to upscale their tally by winning 306 out of 853 Zilla Parishad seats. This was a staggering performance compared to 36 seats it had bagged in 2012. BJP’s vote share during 2014 Lok Sabha polls was close to that of the Congress. Looking at the current numbers and trends, BJP for sure has decimated Congress for the main opposition’s position in the state. And now they stand as a major challenge to Patnaik in the subsequent assembly elections. Zilla Parishad polls are usually won comprehensively by the ruling regime. But this trend of BJP emerging as a major player is a significant development which cannot be ignored. The party cadre is enthused, and they have a CM face in the form of the Petroleum minister which will further boost their prospects in the next assembly and 2019 general elections.
In-fighting : Thirdly, BJD is experiencing its worst infighting in its state unit since Patnaik consolidated his hold over the state. The biggest blow to BJD was the expulsion of Jay Panda. Jay Panda has been appreciating NDA’s policy in his articles and this was also one of the reasons behind his expulsion. It is expected that he might join the BJP.
Factionalism is rampant, and this is something which was highlighted by poor performance of BJD in recent ZP elections.
BJD’s Confusion: Fourthly, BJD has opposed some of the good policies of the Modi Govt such as the abolition of Triple Talaq. Politics of vendetta somewhere may hurt the state in its march to progress. A centre state synchronization will help the state prosper and will put an end to the new emerging politics of the third front. BJD increasingly is becoming a subtle form of somebody like Mamata Banarjee and this will damage the state in the long run. As seen with MP or even Bihar, the cordial relation between the centre and the state has certainly been more beneficial. If BJP sweeps to power with a CM face such as Pradhan, the combination of Modi Pradhan at the centre state level will be a boon. Pradhan has been one of the best performers in the Modi cabinet and donning the mantle of Odisha will take the state to newer heights.
Odisha seems to be well on course to be captured and broken from the shackles of an obsolete regional dynasty.
As far as West Bengal in concerned, BJP is making deep inroads in the state. West Bengal has given BJP some cause for hope. Since 2014, BJP has emerged as the main opposition party to Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamool Congress. In the recently concluded Panchayat polls, the party emerged as the second largest party, outstripping Communists & Congress both. Its vote share has also seen a marked improvement. It will need to be seen if this translates into seats in 2019 general elections.
- Trinamool’s performance in West Bengal has been no different from that of the Communists. Didi has failed to live up to people’s expectations. The yearning for ‘Poriborton’ is evident from the fact that the BJP was elected to the gram panchayat in all districts. This, inspite of an officially patronized campaign of intimidation against the BJP by the Trinamool goons. Especially in Purulia and Jhargram, the BJP has almost rivaled Trinamool’s performance.
- Didi’s minorityism seems to be herding the Hindus into a USHV (United spectrum of Hindu voters) in West Bengal, as in other parts of the country. Didi’s blatant pandering to minority sentiments has erupted in riots, virtually unknown in West Bengal in the past. The recent celebrations of Ram Navami point to the increasing support for a Hindu agenda in the state.
- Narendra Modi‘s personal credentials as an incorruptible, development oriented leader are in stark contrast to Didi’s temper tantrums and lack of a cohesive agenda. West Bengal yearns to return to the path of development and progress, denied to it by successive Communist and Trinamool leaders. It does not help that many Trinamool functionaries are under the radar for corruption and personal aggrandizement.
- BJP has shown that it can endear itself to the Bengali voter. Its recent landmark victory in Tripura points to the fact that Bengali voters in the state overwhelmingly picked the saffron party as their choice. This is bound to have ramifications in West Bengal during the 2019 general elections.
However, the BJP will need to empower its state unit to emerge as a viable alternative to Trinamool in the state. Modi magic works best when there is a strong local unit that can take his message to the people. It will also need to counter the violence perpetrated by Trinamool goons to give confidence to its voters and workers. For now, it is sufficient to say that BJP will improve its tally from an abysmal 2/42 seats, it could even cross the psychological 20 seat barrier in the state.
In the upcoming general elections, the BJP expects to register its presence in other southern states in addition to Karnataka. Karnataka is the gateway to south Indian politics and the BJP already has a good presence in the state. The BJP delivered exemplary performance in the recent Karnataka assembly elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the single largest party by winning an impressive 104 seats out of the 222 where the elections were held on 12 May 2018. This was 64 more than what the party had won back in 2013. However, it was still just short of the majority mark of 112. In the week long drama that took place, finally the BJP had to sit in the opposition and an alliance of convenience which was forged between the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) came to form the government and HD Kumaraswamy was sworn in as the Chief Minister on 23 May 2018 in a ceremony which turned out to be a “show of strength” for the opposition parties.
However, before all this, on 19 May 2018, BJP leader and the then Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa recreated the Atal Bihari Vajpayee moment of 1996 in the Vidhana Soudha. In a blistering speech, he tore apart his rival parties, the JDS and the Congress before announcing his resignation on the floor of the house ahead of the trust vote. In his speech, he declared that he will work towards ensuring that the BJP wins all the 28 seats in Karnataka in the 2019 general elections.
Whether the BJP will be able to win all 28 seats in Karnataka in 2019 general elections is debatable but the party will definitely be in shape to better its current tally of 17 and win more than 20 seats. In the recently conducted assembly elections, the people’s mandate was definitely against the Congress with it being reduced to 78 from 122. As many as 17 ministers in the Siddaramaiah led government bit the dust with the Chief Minister himself being embarrassed in his home district Mysuru where he lost by a whopping 36,000 votes to the JDS candidate GT Deve Gowda in Chamundeshwari constituency.
The two dominant communities in Karnataka, namely the Lingayat and the Vokkaliga communities both voted against the Congress party. The Lingayat gamble of the Congress party has failed miserably and the BJP has won majority of the seats in the Lingayat dominated Central Karnataka as well as in the Bombay Karnataka regions and has put up a good show in the Hyderabad Karnataka region. Lingayats are significant in 18 out of the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka. The consolidation of the Vokkaliga votes was the reason why the JDS managed to win 37 seats in the assembly, majority of which came in the Old Mysuru region. It is quite clear that the mood of the people is very much against the Congress and the JDS by allying with the Congress has only made it that much better for the BJP because people will now view this as a betrayal of their mandate in which they had voted against the Congress.
What the Karnataka elections showed is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is immensely popular across the state. It also proved that BS Yeddyurappa is one of the tallest leaders in Karnataka and under his leadership; the BJP can do very well. The combination worked wonderfully well which is how the BJP was able to win 104 seats. BSY was the opening batsman who saw off the dangerous new ball phase and laid the platform for the innings to commence through his parivartana rally which covered the entire state of Karnataka and PM Modi acted like a finisher whose 21 rallies across the state in which he made extensive use of symbolism to win the hearts of Kannadigas helped the party cross 100.
One of the blunders committed by the outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was that he made the election into a Siddaramaiah vs Modi battle which backfired badly on him due to Modi’s immense popularity in Karnataka. Meanwhile, he might have had to resign as CM after just two days in charge, but BSY has always come back stronger and he will be doubly determined to ensure that the BJP gets more than 20 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. By recreating the Vajpayee moment of 1996, he has ensured that people’s sympathies will be with him. BSY’s mass appeal and immense experience, Amit Shah’s strategy, and Modi’s immense popularity can definitely propel the BJP to an impressive tally in the 2019generalelections.
Also, recent history suggests that the BJP is the most popular party in Karnataka as far as Lok Sabha elections are concerned. This has been the trend since 2004. In the 2004 elections, the BJP emerged as the party with the most seats in Karnataka by winning 18 seats out of 28. The BJP has been often referred to as a North Indian party at times but in 2009 elections, when the UPA was at its peak, guess which state provided the BJP with its highest tally out of the 116 seats won by the party? It was Karnataka! The BJP won an impressive 19 out of 28 seats and also got the highest vote share of 41.63% in the state. And in 2014, the BJP did a hat trick by once again emerging as the party with the most seats by winning 17 out of 28. This happened just about a year after the party had been decimated in the 2013 assembly elections. The tally of 17 Lok Sabha seats comprises of 130 assembly constituencies. Although there was a drop of 2 seats when compared to 2009, there was an increase in the vote share which was now 43%, about 2.2% more than that of its nearest rival, the Congress Party.
It can be observed that not only has the BJP emerged as the party with most seats in the Lok Sabha elections as far as Karnataka is concerned, its vote share has also increased in the state with each election from 2004 to 2014. Even if the JDS-Congress alliance is in place in the 2019 general elections, it will not make much of a difference for the BJP. Both the JDS and the Congress have similar strengths and weaknesses. The JDS hardly has a presence in the state except for the Old Mysuru region. After failing to get majority on its own, the BJP would now be more motivated towards establishing its base in Old Mysuru region which is the only region in the state where the party is a bit weak. However, this might change by the time of the 2019 general elections.
When BSY declared in the Vidhana Soudha that he would be working to ensure that the BJP wins 28/28 seats in the 2019 elections, it was not an empty statement. The JDS-Congress alliance must be actually worried because the combined might of BSY-Shah-Modi, the electoral history of Karnataka, and most importantly, the public sentiment can propel the BJP to win more than 20 seats in the 2019 general elections.
The BJP is also upping the ante in Telangana against the appeasement politics of ruling TRS’ and is looking forward to win some seats there as well. One can expect a sweep in Goa as well. How the things will unfold in the other southern states is beyond anyone’s guess. This time southern states may show some surprising electoral results. The tide can turn in anyone’s favour. As far as Kerala is concerned, there seems to be a strong shift of Kerala’s residents in BJP’s favour. Only time will tell whether the support would convert into seats or not.
The overall conclusion is that the northeast, West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka are the states where the BJP’s tally might show some unexpected rise. These states will compensate for BJP’s losses in other states if there are any, and will ensure BJP’s return to power again in 2019 general elections under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi.
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