Political pundits, specially of the saffron variety, mocked Congress president Rahul Gandhi when he predicted early this year that Narendra Modi is not likely to be the next Prime Minister of India, post 2019 general elections. Speaking soon after the Gujarat assembly elections where the BJP barely scraped through with much reduced numbers thanks to a valiant fight put up by the Congress party under Rahul’s leadership he also claimed that the Congress would do much better in the assembly elections scheduled later this year, including Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
It was during the first half of the Budget session in the Central Hall of Parliament that the Congress president made the forecast to a group of journalists who chatted him up there. Explaining his prognosis, he calculated that the BJP tally may come down “well below 250” as against 282 Lok Sabha seats that the party won in the 2014 general elections. He pointed out that even the Congress’ worst critics say the party’s tally is set to make a minimum increase of 60 to 70 seats in the Lok Sabha election.”
Elaborating on this thesis, he opined that “it would either be a Congress-led government at the centre or an NDA government headed by someone other than Modi” and pointed out that, “given Narendra Modi’s poor relations with the BJP’s allies in the NDA, in the scenario where BJP falls well below 250 seats, there would be greater dependence on allies to form the next government—and it looks highly unlikely that Narendra Modi will be acceptable to the allies as the next prime minister.”
But after the BJP’s decisive defeat in its impenetrable fortresses for a decade and a half, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and its loss in traditional stronghold, Rajasthan, one can safely risk making some predictions beyond this. Converting the assembly defeats into Lok Sabha if these were Lok Sabha elections today, the BJP would have lost 40 seats. The three states account for 65 Lok Sabha seats of which BJP won 62, winning all 25 in Rajasthan, leaving only two seats, one for Kamal Nath and the other for Scindia Maharaja Jyotiraditya. Similarly in Chhatisgarh the Congress won only one seat. Obviously that scenario cannot be repeated. It could be worse.
Modi also swept his home state Gujarat. But 2019 is not 2014 and after BJP defeat in these three states, the traders of Surat may no more be cowed down by the fear of Modi returning to power and harassing them through false income tax and GST cases, which threat, according to sources was quietly issued to them in the runup to the last year’s Gujarat assembly elections. So no way he can get 26 out of 26. Instead it could mean a loss of a minimum of 10-12 seats in Gujarat as well.
Between now and the run up to the next general elections, we may hear many more dissenting voices. This round of Assembly elections indicate that Rahul Gandhi is proving himself to be soothsayer as far as Modi’s future is concerned.
Then we have UP, Bihar and Jharkhand too where again there was a BJP sweep. In UP it left just two seats for the Congress, Rae Bareli for Sonia and Amethi for Rahul. They were also charitable to SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family leaving five for his immediate family members.
Going by the recent by elections where even sitting chief minister Yogi Adityanath lost his fortress Gorakhpur, which he had been consistently winning for over two decades and other stalwarts including Deputy Chief ‘s Phulpur, in all these citadels BJP bit the dust, it is anybody’s guess that repeating the record of 73 is next to impossible. The alliance between Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Ajit Singh is already stitched up and thus might easily bring down BJP tally by around 50 seats in UP. But if the fourth player, the Congress also succeeds in entering this alliance without any rancour among the allies and a joint campaign conducted, the BJP may not touch double digit in UP.
In Bihar, Mahagathbandhan of Congress, Lalu Prasad, Sharad Yadav and Jitan Ram Manjhi exists, adding to that Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP and the BJP may again find it difficult to touch double figure here too and ally Nitish Kumar may not be able to open an account of the JD-U. As for Ram Vilas Paswan he has already fled the field seeking a Rajya Sabha nomination from the BJP. Same is the case in Jharkhand where JMM, JVM, RJD and Congress have a credible alliance already in place leaving little space for the BJP which did very well in 2014.
It got all seven seats in Delhi and swept Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and even Jammu. Those numbers are not going to be repeated, not even in Uttarakhand where again it won all five seats.
That leaves out Maharashtra where again it is common knowledge that even if Shiv Sena and BJP hang together they cannot repeat 2014. But there is a big if about the continuation of this alliance itself. Same stands good for Karnataka. In the rest of South it does not exist. So one can easily predict today that the BJP’s losses could be 130 plus. That is why BJP stalwarts like Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharti have announced in the midst of this election that they don’t intend contesting in 2019 from their respective constituencies. Sushma also said she is not retiring from politics.
Obviously it means that Modi is not acceptable to Sushma in 2019. Between now and the run up to the next general elections, we may hear many more dissenting voices. This round of Assembly elections indicate that Rahul Gandhi is proving himself to be soothsayer as far as Modi’s future is concerned.