Regional parties will guard their turf assiduously by not yielding their space to either of the two national parties.

The victory of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh has added a spring in its step. But the Congress revival in Lok Sabha looks like a distant dream. Whoever wears the crown – the BJP or the Congress – the regional parties could emerge as the kingmakers in 2019.

The immediate question haunting the BJP is the electoral arithmetic in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. With 272 seats and several big states under its command till last week, the BJP was only concerned about consolidating its position further and going to the voters with 300+ seats slogan (ab ki baar teensau paar).

Post 2018 assembly elections, the BJP should be worried more about retaining the numbers it got in 2014 and avoiding a reversal. For the Congress, it is three steps forward and two steps backward, if you take the loss in Mizoram and Telangana into account.

With both the BJP and the Congress likely to struggle to cross the magic figure of halfway mark in Lok Sabha in 2019, the regional parties are the ones who seem to be sharpening their swords before the kill.


Also read: Why BJP is staring at a loss of nearly 100 seats from 2014 tally


The electoral math

A quick look at the spread of numbers would suggest a different view of the 2019 Lok Sabha. Out of the 543 seats (412 General, 84 SC and 47 ST seats) in 29 states and seven Union Territories (UTs), the BJP and its allies are ruling in 17 states, which account for 254 seats.

The Congress is in command in four states, which together have 78 Lok Sabha seats. It is sharing power with JD(S) in Karnataka, a state that accounts for 28 Lok Sabha seats. The non-Congress, non-BJP parties are in power in six states, which have 164 Lok Sabha seats. Jammu and Kashmir is under Governor’s rule.

In the changed circumstances after the recent assembly election results, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party made a U-turn and decided to support the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. But closer to 2019, the BSP and the Samajwadi Party would strategise differently. The two of them came together in early 2018 to deal a humiliating blow to the BJP candidate in Gorakhpur, a seat vacated by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

Politics of coalition

Coalition politics is now a reality. In 1967, the Congress won majority in Lok Sabha but lost in many states. Soon after that, the infamous split took place in 1969. Subsequently, the party had to change its policy and accept the reality of having to depend on regional parties. The Vajpayee government reinforced this aspect of Indian politics and completed a successful term with nearly two dozen parties as alliance partners in the NDA government.

The UPA, a coalition led by the Congress, followed the same pattern from 2004 to 2014. The trend was broken in 2014 when Narendra Modi and BJP registered an impressive victory with 282 seats and did not require any alliance partners to run the government. Nevertheless, the NDA remained as one unit but all does not seem to be well with the alliance partners of the BJP.


Also read: Can the Shiv Sena be in the opposition and government at the same time?


The Shiv Sena has more than once expressed its resolve to jettison the BJP in 2019, while the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab is stronger than the BJP. The AIADMK is now a close ally of the BJP but some of its leaders doubt the advantage the BJP could deliver in Tamil Nadu where the party has no support base.

The BJP won 22 seats in Bihar, reducing the Janata Dal (United) to a mere two seats in 2014. The two are partners now, but it is doubtful if they can successfully transfer their votes to each other for a landslide victory. Besides, the non-Congress coalition too is gaining momentum in Bihar, adding strength to the possibility of a mini-mahagathbandhan.

The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh would prefer to mop up maximum seats between them and may not oblige the Congress. The same could be the situation in West Bengal where Mamata Banerjee’s TMC would prefer to go it alone resulting in a four-cornered contest with the Congress, the Left and the BJP.


Also read: Why political parties are scared of Lalu Prasad Yadav


Guarding regional turf

In all, the regional parties will guard their turf assiduously by not yielding their space to either of the two national parties in these 164 Lok Sabha seats. The strike rate of the BJP and the Congress in these states is abysmally poor. There are nearly 122 Lok Sabha constituencies which the BJP has never won since its formation. Most of these seats fall under this grouping of 164 seats.

In the event of the BJP falling short of the magic number, it will have to depend on the allies. An aggressive posture has not helped the BJP in keeping its friends any closer. The party will have to be more accommodative in the coming months to win friends and influence voters. The Congress can gloat over its sudden victory but will have to shine in reflected glory post 2019 elections because on its own, it stands no chance to reach the three digit mark in Lok Sabha.

Regional parties may turn out to be the kingmakers.

The author is former editor of ‘Organiser’.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Plan A is 300. After these recent reverses, Plan B should be 150. That will transform the relationship between the dominant partner and its coalition allies.

  2. The author of the article must remove his bias against the Congress which is natural being the former editor of Organiser. How can he be objective in his writing with that bias and the arrogance of being in power..

  3. Yes, indeed. Rightly said. For, that is the reason Congress was shunned by other parties; and, is even now finding it difficult to shed its smug, arrogant look and the “Big Brother” attitude, resulting in Mamata, Akhilesh and Maya openly scoffing at Raga’s “Leadership” qualities. Naidu (and Congress) paid the price in Telangana. BJP does need to turn back the pages and read the Vajpayee manual of ” How to win allies and keep them”. It will never be easier than now, when there is no leader with even half of Modi’s stature and integrity.

  4. 1. After unsatisfactory performance in Assembly election in three Hindi speaking states, BJP has to do some critical self-examination. In fact BJP’s top leadership must review party’s performance during last one year. It has done well in Tripura and it could retain power in Gujarat. In Karnataka, it failed to foresee possibilities of Congress & JD(S) alliance and failed to wrest power from the Congress. 2. My view is that in 2019 Lok Sabha election real strength of BJP as a national party will be tested in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and of course in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra. 3. Seniors in BJP are mature enough to know that reasons for setback in the Assembly elections should be carefully analysed. 4. I feel that there are different probabilities after the Lok Sabha election, and two probabilities are: (a) BJP/NDA would not get a clear majority but Congress too does not get more 150 seats. (b) Regional parties in UP, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal and Telangana together win about 200 seats and the Congress wins 100 seats.
    5. It is obvious that the Congress party will do everything to defeat BJP and with that objective in mind, make pre-poll alliances wherever possible. BJP, as a counter strategy, should come out with a document which may be called “White Paper” (WP). The WP would have to be a comprehensive document that must deal with (a) problems like lack of job opportunities in rural and urban areas both in organised & unorganised sectors, & consequent unemployment, (b) farmers’ problems arising out of climate changes & government policies, (c) farmers’ suicides and how the Congress party has dealt with this problem earlier and how it will with it after getting back in power, (d) inflation, and in particular difficulties of senior citizens who are not govt. pensioners, (e) existing deficiencies in GST and how to rectify them, etc. It is necessary that the WP gives full details as to how BJP would deal with all these issues. I believe the WP will a very useful document through which citizens in urban areas can be convinced of BJP’s sincere efforts to retain power in the Centre in 2019. I think WP should released, at the earliest, well before next year’s Lok Sabha election so that citizens can study its content and then respond suitably.

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