I remember watching UP election results in the morning when trends were pouring in on a popular channel. It was too early and the anchor mathematically added BSP and SP to say they can pose a challenge to the BJP. Little did they realise by the end of the day; the same channel would post the emphatic victory of the BJP as some sort of a tsunami rather than a wave.
There were too many anticipations of how BJP would perform even if exit polls had given them a head up. It was a mixture of many factors. UP is a mincemeat of too many issues on plate. The admixture of caste and demographic variability with religious polarization had made some political pundits think an upset cannot be ruled out. And the polls impacting 2019 general elections were projected as a make or break facet for PM Modi and a referendum for some of his policies like demonetization.
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As the results cemented itself into its final numbers from the stage of trending fluidity, BJP had captured a historic mandate in UP. It also gobbled up Uttarakhand not before ensuring it did form govts in Goa and Manipur to just lose Punjab. The immediate fallout of the poll results were the continuation of a shrinking Congress along with decimation of regional players.
The first tweet from the opposition to push the results into the 2019 bandwagon was by Omar Abdullah. The theme and opinion of his retort became the narrative of the days to come. The former Jammu and Kashmir CM believes 2019 will be a cake walk for PM Modi and the opposition together should think in terms of 2024 to upstage him.
Views presented by Omar Abdullah became the foundations of a more detailed purview about Modi easily crossing 2019 and a think tank of US experts have recently reiterated the same.
However, the experts overall have preferred to use the word ‘favorite’ to describe PM Modi’s 2019 chances whereas Omar’s tweet demonstrated it as a perceived inevitability.
The opinions expressed by the US experts vary in tune of the extent of his purported win but nevertheless they all predict him to lead post 2019.
Adam Ziegfeld, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International affairs at the George Washington University called it a big win and emphasized 2014 elections were not an aberration. There has been a lot of flak for BJP and team Amit Shah after losses in Delhi and Bihar which had raised the issue about 2014 standing out as a solitary achievement with the seemingly Modi wave waning with time. Even if Shah and company did bounce back with states like Assam where they made inroads into the north east and Maharashtra where they swept eight out of ten corporations, UP was a different ball game altogether. The state not only replicated the pattern for BJP of 2014 but also gave a significant push to its 2019 prospects as it sends highest number of members to the Parliament.
Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute believes PM Modi is the favorite and a clear winner in 2019. He said, ‘’Demonetization is extremely popular. Indian people who have suffered themselves in the wake of the policy, it won their heart and mind. Here is this man of sincerity who struck a principled blow to the corrupt and the rich’’ Perhaps even PM Modi in his speech post-election celebrations spoke about govt harboring good intentions even if there may be mistakes which may have sort of resonated with the masses. Opposition has been demonizing demonetization policy and this has indeed polarized voters not just in lieu with UP but also other states and municipal polls.
However, Irfan Nooruddin, a professor at the Georgetown University has predicted a Modi Govt in 2019 but with a coalition. He believes anti incumbency will then kick in and getting a simple majority will be a tedious task and BJP is beatable in an eventuality of all opposition unity. Perhaps his views may not really reflect the ground realty about the numbers since the Hindi heartland is completely dominated by the BJP. North east is already forayed and the quest for south looks good with a weak and corrupt Congress in Karnataka waiting with a platter. There are good reasons why Mr Irfan may not be entirely correct since Indian politics at the moment is uni polar with a national party like Congress in disarray and a hypothetical third front too imbecile to take on a popular Modi. Along with an absence of a united third front, there is no leader of a national stature who can take on Modi now in any political party. Attempts to project AAP nationally has backfired after Goa and Punjab and Congress is still stuck with Rahul Gandhi which is not giving it any rich dividends. Nitish Kumar is blunted and Mamata Banarjee is cornered with other regional players too insignificant to challenge him for Prime Ministership. This certainly makes it look a simple majority is easily possible.
After a resounding win in these elections, Amit shah will also trade focus on those states where BJP has no or low seat numbers but emerging vote share. This will further add to the tally and this can in fact help BJP target much more than a simple majority.
The other aspects which some experts may or may not agree is the advancement of critical reforms that will be fulfilled with new vigour. The en cashing of better Rajya Sabha numbers owing to victories in these elections will set the stage to pass important bills and propel land and labour reforms. GST will kick in and political will be emboldened to take more actions like the demonetization. William Foster, Vice President of the Moody’s Investors Service too has expressed confidence that a win in UP with better Rajya Sabha members will push reforms agenda and in the long-term purview create a positive climate. These factors in the long run will further enhance Modi administration’s image and contribute in ensuring an easy 2019.
As the stage is set for the run up to 2019, new alliances may be formed or a new face to fight PM Modi will be propped up. Nevertheless, even the harshest critics of his policies and persona will agree only a miraculous feat from the opposition can stop the Modi juggernaut in the next general elections. The opposition seems to have already given up, his foes in the media domestically have seemed to accept his long term viability and in the global scheme of things perhaps there is a perception too about PM Modi that he indisputably will be in office for a very long haul.