A study in January predicted that the BJP's tally in the Lok Sabha after the 2019 general election will drop to 252 — 20 seats short of an absolute majority and 30 short of its current strength in the Lower House. The Times Now-VMR poll predicted that the Congress-led UPA will bag 146 seats, the Samajwadi Party-BSP alliance 51 seats, Trinamool Congress 32 and Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party, 23 seats.
Months later in May, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav went against the party narrative to admit that this year it will fall short of winning an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and will have to turn to allies to form the government if voted to power.
"If we get 271 seats on our own, we will be very happy," Madhav said in an interview to Bloomberg. "With NDA, we will have a comfortable majority... As politicians, we must remember that what we achieved last time, we may not repeat because of anti-incumbency."
As Firstpost observed earlier, the Opposition was likely to perceive his statement as an acknowledgement that the BJP was staring at defeat to some extent and get a boost from it. And boost it did.
Reports say that Opposition parties have stepped up efforts to stitch an anti-BJP alliance together to form the government as a massive coalition after the Lok Sabha election results are declared on 23 May. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is believed to have met Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday and discussed plans to hold a meeting of Opposition leaders on 21 May, two days before India finds out who will be the next to lead the country. Rahul and Naidu also discussed post-poll strategy, which will be key to deciding whether all anti-BJP can set aside their differences to come together at the Centre.
Furthermore, Opposition parties also plan to meet President of India Ram Nath Kovind to urge him not to invite the single-largest party to form the government in case the Lok Sabha election throws up a split verdict. NDTV quoted sources as saying that as many as 21 parties that oppose the BJP plan to sign a letter saying that once the results of the election are announced, they will be ready to show the president their letters of support for an alternative government. These sources were quoted as having said that the parties intend to take this step to ensure that the single-largest party does not get an opportunity to attempt and break regional alliances.
While this step may make it evident that the parties agree defeating the BJP would be a tough feat, it also indicates their confidence that together, they have the numbers to dethrone the BJP from the Centre.
Here, it must be noted that in the past, the BJP has rushed to form governments in states by allying with smaller, regional parties even when it did not win enough votes to emerge the single-largest party. However, the saffron unit did not take well to losing Karnataka to the Congress-JD(S) despite being the single-largest party. It had even taken the matter to the Supreme Court, but its petition was rejected.
Naidu — one of the faces at the centre of Opposition efforts to form an anti-BJP front — told The Hindu that after the last phase of the Lok Sabha election on 19 May, "all of us will sit together and exchange ideas". "Pre-election, the parties that were comfortable with each other formed an alliance. But post-election, even parties that contested against each other may join out of democratic and secular compulsions," the Andhra Pradesh chief minister said.
With only two phases of the Lok Sabha election left, it appears that the Opposition is hoping to come together if the BJP does fall short of numbers. Parties that largely fought the election independently are now trying to find common ground, though it may seem too little, too late for observers.
Moreover, throughout the election season, the BJP has been far ahead in the alliance game, tying up with parties in critical states, while the Congress fared exactly the opposite — losing the Left in West Bengal, SP-BSP in Uttar Pradesh and AAP in Delhi. Now, the Grand Old Party seems to be upping its efforts, trying to prioritise what Rahul Gandhi has reiterated since the polls began — defeating BJP is the goal, not the prime minister's throne.
Anti-incumbency, farmers' distress, lack of jobs and the divisive and vitriolic rhetoric of BJP leaders have been the primary poll planks of Opposition parties, though, if media coverage is anything to go by, they have been largely overshadowed by the BJP's appeal to people's sentiment of its idea "nationalism" with the Balakot air strikes and the timing of China finally lifting its block and letting the UN designate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.
Late or not to the game, only numbers can speak, and on 23 May, it can go either way.
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Updated Date: May 09, 2019 20:17:45 IST