The latest mood of the nation survey by CSDS-Lokniti confirms what we have always suspected — the united Opposition’s ability to dislodge the NDA from power in 2019. The survey shows the NDA would win 274 seats if elections were held today and the Opposition, in spite of its various alliances, would be nowhere close to forming the government.
The reason behind the NDA’s dominance is clear. Except for Uttar Pradesh, a united opposition is not making any impact on the outcome. In all other states, a united opposition is either not working on the ground or the BJP’s own electoral partners are stronger than the opponents. Clearly, a united Opposition is more an idea than a practical, workable war machine that can beat Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The survey and its findings throw up an interesting hypothesis: The BJP can’t be dislodged unless the Congress regains lost ground. The regional parties just don’t have the required ballast unless the Congress adds enough heft to the final tally.
How much can the Opposition really add more to the 2019 tally? In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s party has very little to gain. In 2014, it won 34 seats, leaving just eight for the others —including four for the Congress. Here, the BJP with its current tally of two seats is the only one that stands to gain. And, even if all the parties come together, it has very little to lose. Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — the state was bifurcated after the 2014 polls — the BJP won just three seats. How much can it lose even if the TDP and TRS become part of the proposed grand alliance, especially if the YSR Congress joins hands with the BJP?
The point is: There is very little the regional parties can do if the Congress fails to regain ground. This is evident from two findings. One, the BJP’s dominance of eastern India, where the Congress was once the dominant force but has now been reduced to a bit player. The Congress' slide in its former catchment area means the BJP can easily make up for losses in states where the Opposition unity is making an impact.
Even where the Congress is showing signs of recovery, to its misfortune, it is locked in a direct fight with the BJP. And in these states, like Gujarat, the gap between the Congress and BJP is so big that the Congress is set to lose big in spite of gaining more votes.
Also, the BJP has been gaining new territory since 2014. As this report in The Indian Express points out, it has over 11.5 percent votes across 22 state assemblies that went to polls after the last Lok Sabha elections. These gains have come at the cost of parties that are not seen to be in the race for power.
So, does this mean the BJP is invincible? The good news for the Opposition is that elections are still a year away and there is clear anti-incumbency against the BJP. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, just a year after wiping out the Opposition, the BJP’s vote share is falling. Similarly, in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP is sliding. Together, these three states elect 134 MPs — 80 in UP, 25 in Rajasthan and 29 in Madhya Pradesh. In 2014, the NDA won 125 of these seats. If the BJP continues to slide and the Opposition stands united, a large chunk of the BJP’s seats can disappear.
Another factor that can help the Opposition is the possibility of new alliances — the JD(S)-Congress in Karnataka, Congress and AIDUF in Assam. These tactical alliances can chip away seats from the BJP’s current tally and bring the NDA below the majority mark in Parliament. Also, if the BJP loses Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, a BJP vs Shiv Sena vs Cong-NCP battle can lead to major losses for it. The survey predicts a 48 percent share for the NDA and 40 for UPA but only if the BJP and Shiv Sena remain united.
Politics is all about ifs and buts. So, here is something to think about. How would the BJP have fared in 2019 if it had not made Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar give up his prime ministerial ambitions and dump the RJD and the Congress? In all likelihood, the RJD-Congress-JD(U) alliance would have swept the 40 Lok Sabha seats, tilting the game in favour of the Opposition and bringing the NDA down to around 240 seats.
Updated Date: May 25, 2018 16:08 PM