Sunday, November 11, 2018

Elections 2019 - Who will win?

To understand how 2019 elections will be fought, let's look back at the run-up for 2014 elections. The story starts a little early. In 2009, UPA govt. unexpectedly got the second stint on power and rather a more comfortable majority compared to 2004 and gave them better control in running the government. Gandhi scion Rahul still not sure if politics is his career and he was happier to remain on the side lanes. Sonia was not keeping well. The other leaders of Congress with the second back to back win were complacent. BJP as an opposition was not as sharp apart from making the parliament to not to function. Anyways, people in power also had no big motivation to sit in parliament day in day out. It suited them. 

However, this led to lesser control over bureaucracy and other arms of government including the judiciary. A more activist bureaucracy and judiciary started deliberating on finger pointing to multiple aspects of governance. The corruption in power is always there. The question is who is able to manage it. With no tangible opposition in place, Congress and UPA were least bothered. The things however changed in the run-up of 2011. A section of activists especially around Arvind Kejriwal, Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare shaped up. They have their own motivation for which many theories abound but we will leave it as the reasons best known to them. 

In parallel, there is another story of RTI which was introduced in 2005. RTI gave a weapon in the hand of activists and which helped them in unearthing corruption cases. A strong and focused UPA-1 govt. never let that go out of control. However, a complacent set of people in government in UPA-2 never took care of it and it soon became out of control.

The final blow to the sanity of the government was the Anna aandolan, rumoured to be supported at ground level by RSS and BJP. But that distinctly turned the tide. The political establishment did not allow the Lokpal to come in practice but the incumbent govt was set to doomed. It also results in forming of AAP and the politician Arvind Kejriwal.  

Narendra Modi is another phenomenon who registered his presence especially with 1992 Rath yatra of Advani. He made his way slowly and steadily through the ranks of the party. He was very ambitious but at the same time meticulous also. Slowly and steadily he was registering his mark into Indian politics. He was carefully cultivating an image of a development visionary and waiting for the right time. The defeat of BJP in 2009, a weakened centre was bringing the right opportunity and he started making his move. Being from Gujarat and having proximity with large business houses, funds were no problem. Also, he has the company of Amit Shah. Amit Shah a broker by profession knew how to get this arbitrage in any of the deals. Congress rank and file was at its lowest morale. The other smaller parties in disarray as most of them were struggling with corruption cases. The problem still could be Arvind Kejriwal. BJP did not have to do anything for that. Arvind gave them the opportunity on a platter.

Arvind is a known movie buff and looks like somewhere he got carried by utopia. The win in Delhi made him and AAP overconfident and in fact, bordering on a self-fulfilling prophecy. Delhi looked too small for the grand vision and he looked for a way to wriggle out of it and he did that. BJP is a well oiled electoral machine and with new leadership in helm and unlimited funds they called an all-out war. It was about not only praising their leaders but demeaning others and making a mockery of opposition. The memes stuck and Modi shined.

The resources that were at disposal with BJP made sure that the larger than life image continued to become larger and larger. The promises were unbound. An euphoria gripped the country. Congress and Rahul still not much interested. Arvind being a novice in politics have no idea how to fight this. And BJP came into power.

With great power comes great responsibility or it can quickly turn into extreme arrogance. Modi and Shah duo suddenly popped up in BJP with new found power also were insecure from the other pockets of BJP. This led to hand picking the teams more in terms of loyalty than in terms of capability. In politics, that's also probably the right thing to do. The electoral juggernaut kept rolling and kept them giving wins one after another. 

The first dent in armour came from Arvind again. The defeat in national elections made the man to sit and gave him enough time to ponder. He realised that politics is a slow game, a game of chess and not a duel where a side has to die for the game to finish. And the fight goes on for multiple unending rounds.

BJP meanwhile came to power however on promises which they kept on doling without thinking how those will be fulfilled. However generally the electoral gains apart from a couple of aberrations kept the momentum of BJP high. But with every win, the expectations increased further and so the differences with the delivery.

Congress still rudderless with Rahul or any leader showing no sign of picking the rein. Arvind meanwhile buoyed with the victory in Delhi again did the tangential on the trajectory. A defeat in local municipal elections and Punjab elections needed to bring him back into the trajectory.

Meanwhile, demonetization happened, rumoured to be targeted to UP elections. A strategy to de cash the opposition parties. Any novice student of Indian politics knows the importance of cash in elections. UP was handsomely won by BJP. But Modi realised that demonetization is bringing economic backlashes. It has its own issues of implementations which made things worse. The govt. pushed for GST in hope that it will turn the economy back again in spite of clear gaps in preparedness. However, it was like retraining a dinosaur and not an elephant. 

Another metamorphosis happened. Rahul Gandhi goes for a long vacation and when he comes back it seems a different person has come back. Soon he asserted his grip on the party and firmly got on the driver seat. BJP witnessed that in Gujarat elections where they came a notch in terms of loosing. Karnataka in spite of anti-incumbency and with some smart political manoeuvring Congress remained in power. More than that, Congress started firmly picking its shot.  Not like in Goa, where they gave the government to BJP on a platter. Rahul Gandhi though has an advantage. His position in his party is assured. This is something which Modi and Shah cannot promise to themselves. Their struggle is not only to keep BJP in power but to keep themselves in power in BJP also. The history of BJP has a long record of stepping over, whenever one gets a chance.

Congress also started denting the core of BJP with its soft Hindutva. Finally, for a political party, the relevance of an issue is directly proportional to its capability to win the elections.

Now we are at the cusp of 2019. Modi magic is not of that level as it was in 2014. The five state elections at the end of 2019 will tell how much wind is left in that. But one thing is clear. 2019 elections will be fought on a tactical level. It will be fought at every booth level with local issues and local leaders defining the momentum. Modi and Shah know that and they have already focused on talking to booth workers on their own. Their willingness to share the same level of seats with Nitish Kumar is a big sign of the assertion of the fact. It seems there are issues with BJP internally also.  Looks like there are power centres who were dormant are asserting themselves. Congress is showing a renewed vigour. AAP is getting noticed for its work in health and education, however, they are severely restricted in terms of funds. Not to ignore other small political parties who are showing their strength in various bye-elections.

2019 is split wide open for now.

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