Sample this – A snap election is about to be held in a country with economic and military significance. There is a conservative candidate X, who is psephologists’ favourite. Opinion polls show X in good light. X is strong and promises to take the country out of any economic trouble or otherwise, and has elaborate plans for the same. Then, elections happen. Exit polls are not as rosy. Results are declared. X’s party is still the largest but has lost majority, gaining which was the first reason for holding the polls. The government will have to take external support, and it will not be as strong; not as steely as the last one.
No prizes for guessing X is Theresa May; and what almost usurped her turf was the occurrence or existence of the highly improbable – here by Jeremy Corbyn. To make things clearer, the results came as a shocker to political pundits for a variety of reasons.
Did her stance on Brexit play a role? Definitely not, as both were proponents of ‘remain’; Corbyn was just bigger. So, what were the causes which got Corbyn almost 10% more votes than last time? Why did May saw a dip in popular votes, contrary to the pre – poll perception. As we dissect the causes later in this piece, it is also important to answer a couple of questions; one, if we can find the root cause of this, and two If anything like this can be done in India!
As the 2019 General Elections come closer; we ask ourselves – what now! Modi – BJP – NDA won 2014 hands down, and 36 months have passed since, and with each passing month, we saw most of the opposition crumble – brick by brick.
Congress is at its nadir, with the help of Rahul ‘Young’ Gandhi. Smaller parties are withering fast and the possibility of either their bouncing back, or fading into oblivion remains to be seen. State after state, regional political parties gave way and BJP advanced. The might BJP enjoys right now is not normal for any political party in India’s recent history. List of states having BJP rule is long and it is possible to add Karnataka and Himachal as well. Unfortunate demise of Jayalalitha has left AIADMK closer to BJP. Chandrababu Naidu is already close to BJP. BJP’s performance is improving in what was left bastions, and North East. Barring a few exceptions like what happened in Bihar, BJP’s prospects in future look bright.
It does not take a genius to predict BJP will be the biggest party in 2019, something that even (current) adversaries like Omar Abdullah were open to admit. Or, Will it?
While concerns remain on the future performance of largest political party of India in 2019; it is important not to be certain of getting a comfortable majority. While parallels are being drawn with the confidence exuded in 2004 resulting in a debacle of Vajpayee government; this BJP appears to be wary of the possibilities and is taking each step with caution; not giving rooms for any error.
It is important to view the unfolding of the incidents as it happened, by first asking if it can be explained. If yes, what are the reasons he came so strong, unanticipated. But it may be possible that an explanation does not exist and we are trying to forcefully ascribe reasons.
The political landscape of UK and India are entirely different. While May’s refusal to engage in debate with Corbyn was a reason of her bad performance; we do not have any such tradition. Corbyn was the ultimate gainer of May’s so called Dementia Tax. This might have pulled her down which was a part of her efforts of reducing burden on state. Comparing this to populist measures enunciated by Corbyn, being the ‘democratic socialist’ that he is, the masses might have likened him. Corbyn vowed to scrap tuition fee, hence the young came out in larger numbers. May reduced the police numbers when she was Home Secretary and she paid the price for this lax attitude towards terror. There are a myriad other reasons which when combined together, might have caused the shocking shift in popular votes.
Source – Mirror
It is pertinent not to ponder over each of the issues separately; but to reflect and acknowledge that what happened was rare and unusual; and a number of small mistakes can assemble and create a mighty figurine which will be difficult to deal with when Election Day approaches.
Modi government appears to be taking every step with caution. Budgets are poor friendly but the smaller middle class is miffed with taxes. There have been no scams but youth are staring at the shrinking numbers of government jobs. This is causing dissent because people overlook the jobs created in unorganised sector by centre’s polices and focus only on government jobs.
Hindu sentiments relating to cow slaughter are being taken care of, but cow vigilantes and their mob violence is bringing bad name to respective state governments. Regarding OROP, Modi government did in two years what Congress government did not in decades, but a lingering anxiety fuelled by anti BJP media remains. For farmers, what Modi government did was praised by the likes of M Swaminathan, but still the farmers are protesting for freebies and media portrayal of the government is not perfect.
States have been empowered in budgets but with states not performing, Centre will be blamed in Health and Education.
The list can go on. To reiterate, this government has just been perfect in almost all its decisions and actions but there is a ghost attached loosely with every action; which is dormant now. In case, anything ‘unusual and rare’ happens in the next 24 months and Modi government struggles to build a narrative around the good work it has done, and the mood goes against it; these dormant ghosts will join themselves like eukaryotic amoebae and function as a multi-objective narrative. These individualistic small issues have the potential to form a mold and act like an organism if the conditions are in its favour. This is akin to the ‘avalanche effect’ which gives a formidable ‘output’ albeit with small and ignorable ‘inputs’.
Though ‘extreme impact’ in the rise of Corbyn is missing, otherwise coupled with ‘rarity’ and ‘retrospective (not prospective) predictability’ makes what we know as the black swan. For 2019, it is difficult to predict who can be the Corbyn of India. He may be anyone from Congress, or a populist from any regional party if they are projected as PM candidate. But even if in the extreme case of them doing well in the election – the results which will be analysed ex post facto – will not be true in the sense that none of it could be predicted before the event (election). In the highly unlikely (rare) event of BJP missing the majority, we will sit back and pull out all the reasons – and they will be the statements after ‘buts’ in the above paragraph – to portray what went wrong. We would be attributing demonetisation as a ‘big blow to Modi’ adding various hitherto non issues.
*Idea of black swan borrowed from works of ‘Taleb’* Here, Source – nytimes
Here it is important to note that even though the cancer has been removed, small lumps remain; which are mostly unnoticed to the naked eye. They might add, mathematically, under circumstances which are often difficult to explain prospectively; but when they do, they add on to become monstrous enough to give a setback to anyone who took them lightly. Probably BJP from this point are right in not being over-confident like Vajpayee government once was; but it would be devastating for them if despite doing everything calculated and correct; they encounter something ugly on D-Day in 2019 – if the black swan happens which they would hate to see. So, there of course is a non-zero possibility of the emergence of someone like Corbyn in Indian politics, who will snatch an enviable share of popular votes from BJP, no one can be fairly sure about the occurrence or non-occurrence of it. The worst part for BJP is that they can do nothing about it and hope that such a rarity does not happen in 2019.
To summarise, after I tried to analyse the analysis of May’s ‘loss’, none of the ‘reasons’ were apparent before the results. Only after results came, that people started ascribing reasons to the ‘loss’. This is the beauty of a ‘rare’ event; it cannot be anticipated; all we can do is ascribe some reasons without knowing if they were actual reasons.
We cannot see any reason why BJP would get lesser seats than it holds now in 2019, but no one can rule out such an event. It will be a rarity and then, the small, non issues would have piled on to haunt the BJP.