Tough political battles this year to set tone for 2019
The bruising electoral battles of last year are set to intensify in 2018 – with the next 12 months being a warm up to the big battle of the general election of 2019.The surprising results of the Gujarat assembly poll, the laboratory of Modi’s brand of Hindutva politics has made the skirmishes of this year worth watching and waiting for.
Suddenly, the next general elections seem wide open. The conventional wisdom, till the Gujarat results trickled in, was that brand Modi was unchallenged and the giant election machinery of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) guided by the larger Sangh Parivaar would have a cakewalk in the 2019 polls. The close fight in Gujarat has provided the bruised and battered Congress a hope that it can mount a serious challenge to the BJP’s grip over the centre.
The announcement by Tamil cinema superstar Rajnikant to enter the arena has the ability to disrupt the traditional equations of Dravidian politics and could throw up surprises in the next general elections. With both the traditional parties— Dravida Munnetram Kazhagam and All India Dravida Munnetram Kazhagam—facing dissension and lack of charismatic leadership, BJP may gain from the emergence of Rajnikant in a post election situation.
Modi still remains the most popular leader across India, but there are some visible chinks in the armour. The adverse impact of demonetisation and the botched introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) have begun to impact the political fortunes of the ruling party. The way Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel expressed resentment over the allocation of portfolios and the party’s subsequent acceptance of his demand was unimaginable a few months ago.
This year will see the Election Commission announce the schedule for regional elections to Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland, wherestate assemblies have to be reconstituted by early March. The three border states have, as a thumb rule, governments that are well disposed to the centre. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has been in office for the past over two decades and is expected to come back to power. Ideological differences apart, the incumbent government has never ruffled the centre. The regional alliances in Meghalaya and Nagaland would align with the centred,regardless to the ideology of the party in office at the centre.
The real test for both the BJP and the Congress party will be in Karnataka, where elections could be held in April. A victory in Karnataka for the BJP would smoothen the road to 2019, while the grand old party’s ability to retain the state would make it an attractive proposition for an anti-BJP alliance. Though BS Yeddyurappa remains the most popular face of the BJP in the state, he faces dissension and sabotage from a slew of national and local leaders ranging from Ananth Kumar to his one-time protégé Anant Hegde.
The Congress led government of chief minister Siddaramaiah has in a series of shrewd move tried to upstage the BJP. By referring to the state minorities’ commission the Lingayat community demand for minority status, the Congress leader has taken the wind out of the BJP’s sails.
The outcome of the Karnataka Assembly elections will set the tempo for Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram due towards the end of the year. The winner of Karnataka will have the psychological advantage for the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.