A lot of political pundits were comparing Indira Gandhi led era during emergency to the Modi led popular wave in the nation today. The similarities may be true in terms of hegemonic onslaught and unprecedented occupancy BJP is embarking upon, but it doesn’t really match when it comes to the opposition.
The unanimity between the opposition blocks that time was based on a common principle of dislodging the corruption tainted Indira Govt. Even ideological differences had mended to channelize into a common ground to fight the draconian authoritarianism. Situation in the current scenario is much different. The seemingly Modi wave is riding high on popularity with effective anti-corruption policies like demonetisation in the offing. As a fallout, opposition is fragmented. The only means to channelize all their polity together falls under a mere convenience to fight the BJP for political survival.
With a bipolar scheme of things getting decimated over a Congress waterloo everywhere, the rising unipolar prominence of the BJP is unprecedented. The only calculative opportunity or rather opportunism to face the BJP would be all opposition players especially in the regional arena coming together and mounting a challenge. However, there are glaring gaps and loopholes in their togetherness. And now these UP elections swaying towards Modi as a prelude to 2019 is further going to widen the distance.
Exit polls are overwhelmingly predicting a BJP win in four states barring Punjab where anti-incumbency over the Badals looms on a larger scale. If an eventual BJP win is ensured especially the one in UP, how will it affect political scene at a national level with respect to some of the major opposition parties?
The road to the Parliament passes through UP and it was evident after BJP bagged over 70 seats to clinch power on its own in 2014. A win in assembly now will surely consolidate their position for a 2019 windfall gain and primarily rue regional spoilers such as BSP and SP. The Rajya Sabha numbers that are important in the realm of amendment or passage of bills will be taken care to ensure smoothening of government policies. Legislations and reforms agenda that was mired by the opposition tirades owing to BJP minority in the upper house will be neutralized. Elections for the President will get a boost in terms of electoral numbers and the likely opposition to a candidate will be effectively blunted.
More than strengthening the BJP, its resurgence will further invigorate more cracks in the opposition on the backdrop of a receding Congress significance in the country as a national party. The immediate epicentre of a BJP tectonic surge in UP will be SP. Akhilesh Yadav already feeling the shockwaves has even offered to join hands with Mayawati. But that may be a hypothetical eventuality if the BJP just emerges as a single largest party. A two thirds or a simple majority will end Mayawati and her influence as a regional entity and accelerate civil war within SP. Warring uncles will ask for Akhilesh’s head and the ensuing intra party churn will ravage CM’s attempts to project SP as a development party. The experiment to tie up with Congress based on garnering minority votes will be touted as a failure and criticised. Eventually MSY may take over the party as a fallout of the feud.
A UP win coupled with romping home in three other states will have a far-reaching effect on the national polity. BJP can unite the most acrimonious of the foes may it be Mamata talking about working with the left or now BSP and the SP. Bihar elections had created a grand coalition of sorts uniting Laloo and Nitish which became successful in displacing the BJP at Patna. Nitish Kumar in an alliance with RJD is increasingly getting wary of Laloo Yadav and has been sending feelers to the BJP covertly and even in public. Nevertheless, a formal break up and coming back to BJP never materialized and was a tactic by Kumar to keep treacherous RJD at bay. A big win in Lucknow just may give that acceleration and push Kumar out of the alliance and join NDA. This will again bring BJP back to power and greatly weaken hopes of a united opposition as Kumar seemingly was a major detractor of PM Modi.
A win in UP may tame and blunt Mamata (seemed to be a fierce Modi critic) who already has been in a conspicuous silence for the past few days. After March 11, the cascading effect of the poll results will also be on TMC chief as a complete domination by the BJP in the north will make it look seriously at states like Bengal. A rising cadre and vote share on the ground level of the BJP will make Mamata focus herself back on the state rather than central politics and may marginalize ambitions and confine her to Kolkata.
The same attribute is expected to be replicated in Odisha. The rise of BJP there in municipal polls and their impressive performance now may bolster its chances to lay a strong foundation there. BJD had left the NDA to carve its own niche and now it may have to attenuate its ambitions in the wake of riding saffron wave in Odisha.
Deve Gowda, the erstwhile PM from the JD(S) has spoken about BJP been unstoppable in the South in case it translates the exit poll forecasts. The fledgling vote share increase in Kerala and Tamil Nadu mired by RSS-communists war in former and the vacuum created after the passing away of Jayalalitha in latter will get a boost following the victory. The party will be able to focus its strategies and resources better unilaterally and the corruption tainted Congress Govt in Karnataka will again be a gateway to form a saffron govt next elections.
Even in the NDA fold, the results will give an upper hand to the BJP in dealing with Sena in Maharashtra better. After just being short of registering an upset in BMC polls but sweeping the whole of Maharashtra in lieu with other corporations, BJP will maim the Sena with rumours of CM Fadvanis calling for a reelection in the assembly may even materializing.
There are two aspects to a BJP victory in these polls. Firstly, plans for a united opposition emanating from a prelude of a third front backed by a Congress will get a major jolt. Congress will be in power in a couple of states, regional powers like Nitish and Sena will be silenced and ferocious opponents like Mamata will be left in a corner with friend turned adversaries like BJD reconciling. The other proponents to make a united opposition like the sagging Left parties and a marginal gain for AAP in Punjab are too insignificant to mount a galvanizing build up for a 2019 confrontation. Secondly, there is no leader who can match the tall figure of PM Modi in the country now. These respective local fiefdoms will be too de moralized to cement a front and put up a face when squabbling will be natural in the absence of a cohesive leadership. The results in UP will further stamp the towering authority of the PM.
Finally, UP election results will reiterate a Congress free nation. But more profoundly, regionalism which has hindered governance in the centre now will further become a disintegrated union with opportunistic leaders fighting for survival.
If UP elections are semi-finals, 2019 finals may look like the BJP vs the rest, where the rest will be akin to a bunch of non-test playing nation like Kenya or Afghanistan.