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The writing on the wall is clear: Welcome 2019, goodbye, Narendra Modi

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Do the math. The BJP will be the victim of its own 2014 success, writes Shashi Tharoor.

The recent state assembly election defeats for the BJP in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the clear, if close, loss in Madhya Pradesh, and the ruling party’s no-show in Telangana and Mizoram, have energised the opposition, and in particular the Congress Party.

From a period when even critics of the BJP were resignedly arguing the ‘TINA’ factor – conceding that there ‘There Is No Alternative’, or at least not a credible one, to the BJP – there is now a widespread belief that the opposition is poised to win the 2019 elections, with the Congress as its fulcrum. The danger of complacency is now far greater than the risk of defeatism.

Is this merely wishful thinking? Many experts caution that the Congress today is in danger of making the same mistake Atal Bihari Vajpayee did in 2003 – of reading too much into his party’s victories in the same elections that year. His triumph led him to call early elections in 2004, which he then proceeded to lose. Might the victors – 15 years later – be making the same miscalculation?

I believe not. For one thing, there are underlying factors that convince me that for all his remarkable oratorical and political skills, Narendra Modi will not be the Prime Minister of India at the end of May 2019.

Also read: BJP has lost the plot, things are slipping out of Narendra Modi’s hands: Zafar Sareshwala

First and foremost, it is clear to me that the BJP will be the victim of its own success in 2014. It simply did too well then, notching up successes in various states that it cannot possibly replicate. In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, it won 71 seats (not counting the two that went to its ally, Apna Dal). That was at the height of the Modi wave, when people were prepared to believe that the hard-driving CEO of Gujarat Inc would come and transform their fortunes, and unemployed youths from Kanpur to Varanasi believed in the promise of jobs flowing their way. None of those promises has been kept. Disillusionment is rife: no young person who voted for Modi expecting a job is going to vote for the BJP again if he/she still hasn’t found one. Achhe din haven’t come. The Modi wave is over.

And unlike in 2014, the opposition is not going to divide its votes this time.

Mayawati’s BSP won 19.6 per cent of the vote then and did not retain a single seat: her support was too evenly spread throughout the state. She knows she needs to add to that core support base to acquire the clout that comes from seats in Parliament. This is why her alliance with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, which triumphed in the last three UP by-elections, looks so durable. Add the 10 per cent support the Congress brings to such an alliance – if the other parties see the wisdom of linking up with the Grand Old Party – and the mathematics look irresistible. With such a gathbandhan in the fray, the BJP will be lucky to win 10 seats in UP.

The picture gets worse for the BJP if you travel across the Hindi heartland. In 2014, the party swept all 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan, all five in Uttarakhand, all seven in Delhi, and all four seats in Himachal Pradesh; it also won 27 out of 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh, seven out of 10 seats in Haryana, 10 out of 11 in Chhattisgarh and 12 out of 14 in Jharkhand. Even the most diehard BJP supporter would admit these results are impossible to replicate even in normally favourable conditions. But the reality is that these are places where the BJP is actively in trouble, as evident from the recent assembly elections. It is obvious to most neutral observers that the BJP will lose a majority of its seats in all these states, bar perhaps Madhya Pradesh, where it may lose about half. The BJP would be lucky to scrape through with 45 seats of the 105 in these eight states. Most poll experts privately give them less.

Also read: What will Narendra Modi do if he is not PM in 2019?

That doesn’t end the bad news for the BJP. In Bihar it won 22 of the 40 seats in 2014; it cannot hope for more than a dozen this time – that too thanks to its alliance with the JD(U). In Gujarat, it swept all 26 seats; last year’s assembly elections showed that it is likely to lose half of those this time. In Karnataka, it won 17 out of 28 seats last time; it will be lucky to retain even seven in 2019. All these are rough estimates – so-called ‘scientific’ polling does not have a great track record in the complex diversities of the Indian electoral landscape – but if anything, they err on the side of being generous to the BJP. (In Bihar, for instance, where I suggested a dozen seats for the BJP, some are actually predicting a clean sweep for the Congress-RJD alliance, given the widespread dislike for Nitish Kumar’s opportunistic politics.)

So in these 12 crucial states, accounting in 2014 for 233 of the BJP’s 282 seats, Narendra Modi’s ruling party seems likely to lose about 150 seats, as explained above. Where can it compensate for these losses?

Also read: In 2018, Rahul Gandhi set the agenda – and Narendra Modi followed

Party leaders speak brashly of winning seats in West Bengal, Odisha, the northeast and the south. Neither Mamata Banerjee, who won 34 of West Bengal’s 42 seats last time to the BJP’s two, nor Naveen Patnaik, whose BJD won 20 seats in Odisha to the BJP’s solitary one, look particularly vulnerable. The seven states of the northeast account for a grand total of 24 seats; even given the BJP’s new-found popularity in the region, the strength of regional parties suggests they can win at best 14 or 15 seats. In the south, they will lose the seats they won in Andhra Pradesh by piggy-backing on their erstwhile ally, Chandrababu Naidu, who has now abandoned them in a huff, and they are not looking credibly at many gains elsewhere.

Do the math, as the schoolteachers say: once you tot up the pluses and minuses, the BJP isn’t winning more than 145 seats around the country. Every imaginable ally they can muster – the Shiv Sena, the Akali Dal, the JD(U), and if you stretch your imagination, perhaps the YSR Congress, perhaps a Rajinikanth-AIADMK alliance in Tamil Nadu – will not be able to contribute enough seats collectively to make a difference. The writing on the wall is unambiguous: Welcome, 2019; goodbye, Narendra Modi.

Dr Shashi Tharoor is a Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and former MoS for External Affairs and HRD. He served the UN as an administrator and peacekeeper for three decades. He studied History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and International Relations at Tufts University. Tharoor has authored 18 books, both fiction and non-fiction; his most recent book is The Paradoxical Prime Minister. Follow him on Twitter @ShashiTharoor.

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  1. Hey Shashi, go choke a cougar. Doing analysis isn’t your forte especially with all that jazz in Engliss…Come on, leave politics already man!

  2. Modi is responsible for his fate. Even I think bjp will not get more than 120 seats. Country want change. People deserve and hopefully congress will take charge this time.

  3. The day he entered the office he knew he has only 5 years . He wants to become more like Atal and not Nehru.
    It’s much better to execute the reforms and leave rather than continue with Poverterian politics.

  4. Mr Modi is the greatest politician.He knows India and indians like no other. Most of the indians are lazy , impatient and blame the politicians for personal failures.He absolutely knew if Atal ji can loose then anybody can loose.
    The day he entered the office he knew that he has only 5 years. Took the hard decisions and carried out the structural reforms which causes economic slowdown and heavy disruption which in turn causes unemployment and recession. combine that with global turmoil.
    Maybe he just always wanted to become a single full term PM like Atal ji who became a legendary PM even with a single full term.
    If Mr Modi looses 2019 then he will definitely leave the lasting lagacy.

    • The lasting legacy called divided india, taking back india to pre-partion days of divisiveness.

    • Agree. There are many like him in INC and other parties. Much water has flowed under the bridge since this article was written. His party president, unfortunately for the party’s prospects, puts his foot, no, both feet into his mouth whenever he starts speaking and ending up shooting his own legs. And now the SC’s directive to him and the party on the Chowkidar issue. Couldn’t be bad for INC. Or will it be worse, post May 23?

      • Chowkidar issue is a minor issues. You folks still don’t see the bigger problem our Modi has created. God bless India, thats all I can say.

    • The days have come the dalbadloo are ready to jump. The ones who were Congressi by heart will come back to Congress. Janata Dal United that fought with Modi will be back to support Congress. TRS, Of course Akhilesh will come back. Lot will be changed like Goa, Manipur. If UPA 3 is formed then Amit Shah will be shown exit. So its very tight situation. Balkok didn’t worked. Modi ji didn’t had any agenda to fight the election. Look the way campaign took place. Never it happened in entire 70 years. Vajpayee ji was gem but these duo messed up the majority India gave them.

  5. The article is not the actual reflections of the recent assembly election, but of wishful thinking of Mr Taroor.Barring Chatishgarh, where BJP got its worst drubbing, it’s performance in the other two states are almost on par with the votes polled by Congress.Infact, in MP, the margin is very negligible to the extent of .o5%.Anti incumbency is the main reason in all the States where elections were held.People want more from the incumbent Govt.It is possible the wheels of fortune may turn against the Congress, where it is in power now.Let is not be over optimistic about the Congress as of now.Of course, BJP is made to learn its lessons which it might have done so.

  6. Chor BJP will lose. Robbing poor man’s money and giving to ambanis. A impotent who cannot take care of his wife. How will take care of county?
    Communal violence, hatered, un necessary big statue’s, all happening but no development.

  7. Nice fantasy Mr. Tharoor.. you were very quiet on parliament while Arun Jaitley ji was explaining the Rafale deal. Good to see the shame on your eyes that time..

    And the most important thing you should know is that North East comprises of eight states now not seven. We do have 25 seats in total not 24. You don’t even know your country well. Get your calculations correct Mr. Tharoor

  8. Haha! You are not the only smart one in India – stop underestimating the general public ! God ! What happened to your viewpoint about Priya duryodhani suddenly from the kaurav “the great indian family” has become the pandavs ! Got paid out did you ?

  9. Bwahahaha! If you are talking about writing on your wall, you’re right. That’s your dream. Sorry, don’t simply sit at home and write articles thinking you can woo some people. We have seen enough by Congress. You guys are so freaking predictable. Phew!

  10. This is induction effect of RaGa, ya phir jhoota pani pe liya babu. I support any person who is trying to do good for nation. We need Modi for one more term then Rahul or any mental can assume the PM office.

  11. Naturally nothing better can be expected from a congi. All the very best. Who ever comes pappu will not be our PM. That’s what you are telling in your article!!!

  12. There are enough head room for bjp to make up the loses, if any from hindi heartland from north east,w b,odisha, Karnataka,even there could be some surprises from tn and kerala .

  13. Maths could work in favour of bjp too ,there are enough head room to make up the loses if any in up,mp, rajasthan,gujrat,etc from west bengal,odisha, karnataka,north east,even there could be surprises from tn and kerala

  14. Mr Tharoor-Will u please predict seats that your party will win.Let us forget how many Modi will loose.Are you delivering the national Results I can bet with you how many seats Rahul Gandhi will give u.Let us discuss State wise.

  15. “ThePrint” Loud speaker of Congress. Be unbiased as soon as possible, or else get ready to get out of “PRINT”.

  16. After yesterday’s interview with a press person, it’s clear that the narrative of BjP for Loksabha elections is Modi, the lion vs the rest, a pack of dogs. How the opposition is going to change this narrative will be interesting to watch. But the fact remains that Modi is more popular with voters than any other single leader in the opposition. This I think is going to work in favour of BJP.

  17. Tharoor is an intellectual but being a pappu stooge he has lost track. He is known modi thrasher. It will not do any good to Congress cause because their leader ship is mentally bankrupt and corrupt.

    • Possibly 150 seats, give or take. But, with the anti-BJP opposition getting another 150 seats, Government formation by an anti BJP coalition should not be a problem at all.

  18. Rural distress is coalescing with urban angst. No part of India is really shining. Most dollar billionaires have seen their fortunes shrink. So the columnist’s fantasies could well come true.

  19. hahahahahahahahahahahahajahahahhahahahahaja.

    poor un official came to india joined wrong party with high hopes assuming he will be given some big position in party because of the un background. still doesn’t understand how this country works

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