Ghosespot | What if BJP performs poorly in state polls and loses Uttar Pradesh
Here is what we can expect the Narendra Modi government to do if the Assembly elections do not go according to its plans
They say there is power in collective prayer. All Opposition parties, large sections of the media and, of course, all those who dislike the BJP are hoping for the party’s defeat in the Assembly elections. If nothing else, they fervently wish Yogi Adityanath’s government should not return to power. They believe if the BJP loses UP, its fortunes will get into reverse gear in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and put them back in the game. The election results are just a few days away and the Exit Polls will start coming as soon as polling ends on Monday, the 7th. This is no time for speculation or punting. But we can always indulge in some innocuous crystal ball gazing in the interim.
Let us start with the most optimistic scenario from an Opposition point of view. The BJP was never a serious contender in Punjab. At least for forming a government by itself and its allies. In all the other four states it was a front-runner. Now, it is entirely conceivable that it can lose all four at the worst — albeit with narrow margins at some places. That is why pollsters, journalists and commentators are hedging their bets till the last minute. Having learnt from past mistakes they are all wary of making a call. Exit Polls are expected this evening. Again, experience shows that with the percentage of “silent voters” increasing even these can be wide off the mark. So, to keep it at bay, it may be a good idea to construct some hypotheses while being perched at the edge of our seats.
One does not have to be an astrologer to predict that with the Ukraine war raging and Russia being pushed to a corner by international sanctions, the economy is up for a rough ride. With oil prices having breached $130 as EU and US allies threaten ban on Russian crude, it is safe to assume a sharp rise in fuel prices post elections. Rahul Gandhi has already advised people to fill up the gas tanks on their vehicles. This prediction has a high probability of coming true. Notwithstanding the impact this would have on general inflation, the government has limited options of absorbing the shock. Reduction of excise duty on petrol and fuel will cause a huge hit to the exchequer that will send Budget Estimates (that factored an average international oil price of $70) for a toss.
Therefore, the question is no longer whether India will be able to meet the growth projections of 9.5 percent but how much lower it would be. That India will continue to grow faster than major economies in the world, will be of little consolation to the “Aam Aadmi”. All protestations by the government that the crisis could not have been anticipated and affects all countries will not cut with the people, who are already feeling the pinch of inflation made worse by distortions in the job market post the pandemic. Politics is ruthless. And, the public has no time for excuses. So, despite knowing very well that no other party or leader could have fared better under the circumstances, daggers will be out. To be fair, the BJP would have acted in an identical fashion if it was out of power. So, it has to grin and bear it.
Now let us throw another spanner in the works. How will the international situation pan out? If the standoff between Russia and NATO countries aggravates further and China decides to join the party, it might become difficult for India to tread the middle path as it has done so far. Pakistan is reeling under its own internal pressures. With Russia, China distracted and the United States taking its eye off the ball it might decide to escalate tensions on the LoC. With summer approaching and ice in the Himalayan heights thawing, China may have some plans up its sleeves having already done a massive build-up of troops both in the Western and Eastern Sectors. So, Narendra Modi government will have its task cut out both at home and abroad.
There is some chatter in the gossip circles about some Opposition leaders being booked for international vacations post 10 March. But, cancelling tickets does not take much time. The cost, if any, will look like small change if political fortunes change. Thus, one can visualise regional leaders descending in Delhi to plan their next moves before proceeding on a whistle stop tour around the country attending swearing in ceremonies of the new state governments. Prashant Kishore would go studio hopping and organising tea parties.
Before the euphoria settles, preparations will start for the presidential elections. Sharad Pawar may be the natural choice but cannot rule out others throwing their hats into the ring. There will be a chorus demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation. The rejuvenated Opposition may even consider moving a “no-confidence motion” against the government in the second half of the Budget Session. Agitations — such as the farmers’ protest that had been shelved — could get a new life and some new causes may be invented. Anyway, country-wide agitation for rising prices can be a given irrespective of the electoral outcome.
What can we expect the Modi government to do if the elections do not go according to its plans? Or, even if it fares well in other states and faces a setback in Uttar Pradesh. Knowing Narendra Modi one can predict with reasonable certainty that he will not be flustered. Expect him to put his head down and shoulder to the wheels in order to steer the country through another turbulent period just as he had done during Covid-19 second phase — ignoring all criticism.
I am not making any predictions. It is equally possible that the results come out overwhelmingly in favour of BJP dashing hopes of the Opposition. Even then the challenges will remain the same. And, Modi will have to navigate equally deftly to take the country out of the woods. There is no rest for a leader.
The author is a current affairs commentator, marketer, blogger and leadership coach, who tweets at @SandipGhose. Views expressed are personal.
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