It is only a matter of time before we start seeing the campaigns for India’s general election in 2019 which will determine whether PM Modi will retain the confidence of the public. Of course, Rahul Gandhi seems confident of a positive result after the moral victory in Gujarat where BJP clinched victory for the 6th time. However, in all seriousness the question remains:
Who is going to be the winner of the 2019 general Indian elections? BJP, Congress or worse – Is India heading back to a coalition government? At least the media seems to strongly bat for the third probability. Haven’t we read a dozen op-eds about a possible coalition government in 2019?
But, the answer to this question is very difficult because the nature of Indian politics is very volatile. Anything can change within the blink of an eye. There are however certain logical factors than can gives us an an idea about what could happen in the Summer of 2019.
The latest opinion-poll conducted by India Today suggests that if election were to be held today, the NDA would win 309 of 543 seats, which would be a downgrade from the current 336. However, the poll also suggested that 53% saw PM Modi as the best person to be the prime minister. This opinion poll predicts that if election were to be held today, BJP would lose a few seats, but the NDA would retain power as the popularity of PM Modi remains unchallenged.
The Times Group on the other hand did a mega online poll which found that 79% of people will vote for PM Modi in 2019 which would most likely produce a bigger majority for the BJP. Furthermore 31% said that they would not vote for BJP if Modi were to be replaced as the PM candidate.
Another opinion poll published in detailed by C-voter in January predicted that if election were to be held today, NDA would retain 251 out of its 256 seats. The last relevant statistic is the approval rating of Modi determined by the Pew Research Centre. The Pew Research Centre found last November that a staggering 88% of Indian approve of Narendra Modi.
All the opinion polls, online polls and ratings indicate that that there is still a strong Modi wave in the country and BJP should win a comfortable majority in 2019.
National Democratic Alliance:
A factor to consider is the strength of the the National Democratic Alliance. The NDA since its inception has grown and shrunk many a times. There are many parties who wish to always side with the winning side. However, this time it seems the NDA has started losing allies in an unprecedented way. The strongest ally of the BJP throughout history has arguably been the Shiv Sena. As we learned a few months ago the Shiv Sena has decided to contest the 2019 election alone which means that they will depart from the NDA for the general elections. Another strong ally of the BJP in the NDA has been the TDP. Of late there have been tensions between the 2 coalition partners. Chandrababu Naidu even threatened to go as far as calling a vote of no confidence against the BJP in the Lok Sabha. If the TDP also pulls the plug, the BJP will be left with just the JDU, Akali Dal and a bunch of smaller parties. PDP cannot be trusted as a trustworthy coalition partner considering their soft stance towards Kashmiri Separatists.
While coalition partners seem to be getting disenchanted with the BJP, BJP itself is getting stronger in many areas where it may not even need any partners soon. For example, BJP does not need any big regional partners for Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. BJP’s vote shares have skyrocketed in Odisha and West Bengal an PM Modi’s is cleverly playing his cards in Tamil Nadu, keeping both the Dravidian Parties on tenterhooks. Perhaps the decline of NDA is the rise of the BJP in terms of power.
Another key factor that will influence the results of the general elections are the state governments. So far, the BJP has done well in elections to form state governments in most Indian states. However, this year is going to be a tough one for the BJP as North Eastern states along with Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh go to elections this year. In order to build the moments, BJP needs to win most of these states.
With little push Karnataka can fall to the BJP. Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh would most likely be retained given the personal auras of the respective Chief Ministers. Rajasthan will be the toughest battle for the BJP. Rajasthan could give Congress their first real victory in a long time (after winning many moral victories).
PM Modi – The Star Campaigner:
There is simply no man like Narendra Modi when it comes to oratory. He is light years ahead of all his contemporaries. PM Modi hasn’t switched to his star-campaigner mode yet but the opposition knows that once the campaigner Modi is back, there is absolutely no stopping him. BJP’s cadre strength has almost doubled in the past 4 years. More state governments have given the party a better organizational strength. BJP has Yogi Adityanath now who has proved to be the biggest crowd puller after PM Modi. All these factors will help PM Modi when he goes out asking for votes. People love PM Modi, the statistics back it up and so do the results. There is a reason Modi won several elections back to back in Gujarat as he ruled for 13 years.
If BJP can win most of the states in 2018, NDA might get reduced to just BJP plus smaller regional parties (JDU and SAD being the sole exceptions). In that case, BJP will, in all probabilities, win the Lok Sabha elections all by itself. But, if BJP loses some of the states in 2018, they will need to reconsider their stance and reassess the worth of TDP and Shiv Sena to ensure their support for the 2019 election. In this scenario a Modi led NDA government will be installed at the center, but the coalition partners will have more teeth.
The last scenario in which Congress wins most of the states in 2018 seems both impossible and absurd, but if that happens a Congress led coalition in 2019 will be a certainty. Rahul Gandhi will readily be supported by Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, DMK, Naveen Patnaik (who fears the rise of BJP in Odisha), SP, BSP, RJD and other regional satraps making it a formidable force. But even in that scenario, it will be very tough for UPA3 to beat PM Modi. I would give a 70-25-5 chance to the three scenarios respectively.