We are just about a month away from the General Elections being announced in what will be the largest election in the history of the world happening in India. Close to a billion people will have been registered to vote (the number was over 911 million in 2019), the various permutations and combinations usually mean that the campaigns would have been started, candidates finalized, and a contest would have begun. Yet only one side seems to be in the running.
I have followed Indian Elections for over two decades now, and this is the first election where the result seems to be a foregone conclusion, the only thing that is being debated is the enormity of the win. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led NDA which bagged over 350 seats last time (BJP had 303) is all set to get a comprehensive victory this time if the trends hold. The magic number for the alliance is 272 and it is likely to get that number comfortably.
This is not to say that the BJP would get complacent and take the Indian National Congress (INC)’s loss as a foregone conclusion. The trends, however, seem to be pointing in that direction. The Congress formed the I.N.D.I.A formation with a variety of parties ranging from the Shiv Sena (UBT), NCP, RJD, JD(U), DMK, TMC to name a few.
A few weeks later, the JD(U) has already split from the formation, the UBT Shiv Sena – or whatever is left of it with the UPA is barely existent (a majority of the erstwhile Shiv Sena with CM Eknath Shinde) is with NDA, and similarly, NCP has had a vertical split as well between the BJP and Congress-led alliances. This leaves Congress in a precarious position. And their leadership crisis with no prime ministerial face in mind; the alternate power centre in Rahul Gandhi who keeps oscillating between one social media idea to the other is making it worse for them.
This Election is not NDA vs the Congress-led alliance – that split is more likely to mirror the 2019 numbers where a few seats would be swapped. BJP would likely lose some seats from its haul in West Bengal but is poised to gain a few in Tamil Nadu, and maybe even Odisha. Even if the BJP loses 10 from the South East haul – it will not be big enough to cause it issues. A renewed NDA in Bihar with Nitish, LJP and RLSP will result in NDA getting at least 32+ out of 40 in Bihar.
To make this even a contest, the NDA would have to be in danger of losing close to 80 seats. Based on the trends, opinion polls and data it is not even close. The real contest will happen on the North Western side where there are more than 200 seats where there is a direct contest between BJP and Congress. In Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu (BJP Congress does not fight directly in Kashmir), Goa, Maharashtra (direct alliance fight), Karnataka- Congress won a total of FOUR seats. Yes FOUR. In Maharashtra, NCP won the same number of seats and Sena as a BJP Ally won 18. In Uttar Pradesh (Congress and SP are in alliance), Congress won one. (They have been allotted 11 seats to fight this time).
When the Northwest India Congress’s strike rate is not even 5% (around 2-3%), how can they be taken as serious contenders? Except for Karnataka, and a few seats in Maharashtra that situation is not going to improve for the Congress. Rajasthan, MP and Gujarat look as lost as they were in 2019. If the Congress does not cross 75, there is no chance for the opposition block to come to power. Less than 50 days to go, they do not have a face. They do not have a leader of the alliance.
Rahul Gandhi, who does not want to lead yet keeps getting nominated is doing another yatra. This yatra seems to have angered his allies more than his opponents. Mamata Banerjee is not happy at his coming into West Bengal and every time he makes a gaffe – the BJP makes bigger gains. With a counterintuitive strategy, the opposition does not look like causing a dent in the BJP’s vote share.
The Prime Minister announced his plan to get 370 for the BJP and 400+ for the NDA. Given the regional and political contradictions that number might be tough to get but they have a goal, they have an objective and momentum to make a serious run for it. The other side has no underlying message except we are not the BJP, vote for us.
This is not to suggest that there are issues that the BJP doesn’t need to work on. They themselves will tell you what is on the agenda for the next five years and what better can they do in various fields. The difference is acknowledging that problem, taking it to the people and the workers communicating what will be done to fix it. Many schemes and policies have worked more on the ground because of implementation which has resulted in big gains for the BJP. The Congress seems to have lost touch with their workers and the base.
When the country is talking about Ram Mandir, the flip-flop of the Congress harmed its own cause. It is one thing to be ignorant of the issue and the other to pretend to ignore it. They are harming their own legacy by continuing to flip-flop and losing their narrative.
Indian Elections always have a last-minute twist, something that will be a driving force or change the campaign. Neither is the Congress finalizing candidates or thinking of a cogent message. BJP on the other hand has laid out its plan in the last few days, has a leader and has started the campaign. So far it is a one-horse race for 2024 and seems the other horse does not even know that the race has begun.
Image source: Deccan Herald
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