How many of these political permutations and combinations will work will decide the result of 2019 general elections?
Indian politics slowly resembles a simulated war game. As the elections to the next general elections draw closer, newer permutations and combinations are being worked out. Many of the alliances would have been hard to comprehend a year ago when the re-election of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was a foregone conclusion.
Politics often makes strange bedfellows and the current turbulence is throwing infinite possibilities for both pre and post-poll alliances. The fast-paced events, however, are not bringing any major gains to the principal opposition party, the Congress.
Most of the regional parties and their leadership have spent several decades in anti-Congress agitation politics and find it difficult to accept the new reality. Both the Congress and the regional parties will wilt under the organisational and political onslaught unleashed by Narendra Modi and his trusted aide BJP president Amit Shah.
Political survival instincts pushed Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati to bury the hatchet with Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh. The two parties had been daggers drawn ever since the 1994 guest house assault on Mayawati by SP leadership. The move paid rich dividends as BJP suffered defeat in three parliamentary by-elections from Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana at the hands of the combined opposition candidate.
The Congress’ attempts at building a similar alliance in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh with BSP has so far not materialised. Mayawati continues to drive a hard bargain with the grand old party, which feels an anti-incumbency of 15 years in office could give a much-needed boost. Rajasthan is the only State where the Congress remains confident of romping home as public hostility to incumbent Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje remains high.
Bihar is in a deep state of influx as new alignments seem to be giving jailed Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Laloo Prasad Yadav an edge as people believe that he had been unfairly treated. There are enough indications that NDA partner Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) leader Upendra Khushwaha may also ally with RJD as his relations with Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar have been far from cordial.
Upendra Khushawaha is currently minister of state for human resources development in Modi government. RLSP has three members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha. BJP sees the emergence of new alignments as a setback in its plans to wrest 2019 general elections but currently has to ally with JD (U).
BJP bid to form the government in Karnataka was upstaged by JD(S) leader Deve Gowda’s decision to align with the Congress. Though the two parties have an uneasy relationship as Congress leader Siddharamiah has not reconciled to Deve Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy becoming the Chief Minister, the alliance has sealed the fate of BJP stalwart BS Yeddyurappa. Both BJP and the Congress is in a flux as their state leaders are getting marginalised and new leadership is nowhere in sight.
Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) leader and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekar Rao’s gamble in calling for State elections eight months ahead of schedule has pushed the Congress to reach out for an alliance with Telugu Desam Party (TDP) led by N. Chandrababu Naidu and the Communist Party of India. It is a prospect that was unimaginable as TDP was a product of anti-Congressism and assertion of regional identity against dominating the Central government of the 1980s. The formidable alliance may force TRS to join hands with BJP in some manner and boost NDA’s prospects as the ruling party leadership in the State is ageing.
Tamil Nadu continues to be open to new alignments as the stalwarts—Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi—have passed in the last 18 months. The State may be open to new political alignments, but BJP has no significant presence. The most visible BJP leaders—Subramanian Swamy and S. Gurumurthy—often operate in cross purposes.
Maharashtra is seeing turmoil as BJP’s oldest ally Shiv Sena is keen on breaking away from the NDA and go it alone next year. At the same Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar is reaching out to the Congress and other groups to upset BJP applecart.
How many of these political permutations and combinations will finally work will decide the result of 2019 general elections?