Is the Government planning to call for a general election this year by May ? The speculation has been fuelled by a Television channel (Republic TV) airing a survey showing that the BJP would win handsomely if elections are held now and also by the Prime Minister’s much publicised trip to Davos and his back-to-back interviews granted to two more TV channels, Zee News and Times Now, both perceived to be favourably disposed to the current dispensation.
Why would a survey be conducted now when the general election is not due before April-May, 2019? But the survey by C-Voter projecting 335 seats for the BJP, say observers, is a nudge for an early election.
The rising profile of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, judging by the intensity of the attacks on him and also by his growing profile on social media, and the realisation that the Government next year might find it even more difficult to defend its track record, are the other factors being cited for the probability of an early election.
Contrary to such speculation is the argument that the Government cannot really defend such a decision. There is no threat to the Government, which enjoys a comfortable majority in the Lok sabha. Nor is there any internal or external threat that can possibly prompt the decision for an early decision. Also, with the opposition seemingly divided and the Government placed comfortably, there appears to be little reason for the Government to seek early election and miss a whole year of its tenure. The general election is due in April-May next year.
But observers who insist that there is a high probability of an early election say that the Government is worried of the growing unrest among Dalits, farmers and the unemployed. It would not like to give much time to the opposition to cash in on the unrest triggered like bush fire in several parts of the country, they maintain.
With first Demonetisation and thereafter GST having dealt serious blows to the economy, attacks on minorities pushing them into a corner etc. are other worrying factors that may trigger the decision, say these sources.
Barring the so-called ‘North Korean’ media in the country, there is consensus that the NDA Government has been found wanting on all fronts, economic, social and political management. Reports on Amit Shah’s son’s company reaping a sudden, one-off increase of 16000 times in its turnover before shutting down has also embarrassed the ruling party. The rift in the highest judiciary, the controversy over judge B H Loya’s death and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s son’s business links have also made it uncomfortable for the Government.
The narrow victory of the BJP in Gujarat Assembly election, where the Prime Minister had to launch a no-holds-barred campaign personally, would also have worried to the worries of the BJP despite the brave face put up by its senior leaders.
Such speculation has gathered steam following an interview given by Rajesh Jain, a tech entrepreneur who was a prominent figure in Narendra Modi’s bid to become PM in 2014. In an interview to the website Nayee Disha, Jain maintained that there is a high likelihood of the general election being called in March-April this year.
If Jain is to be believed, an elaborate strategy has been prepared to ensure that the Prime Minister gets saturation coverage in the media over the next few weeks. The feel-good interviews of the PM to the TV channels, he says, are also part of the same strategy to overcome the negative vibes.
The interviews followed by his high-profile visit to Davos and then the Republic Day celebrations when an unprecedented number of ASEAN leaders have been invited as guests, will also allow the PM to hog the limelight and sidestep all other issues, he says.
While the Republic Day is when the President takes the salute, greets heads of state and addresses the nation besides conferring state awards, the NDA Government has converted it into the Prime Minister’s show.
This will be followed by the presentation of the union budget and Jain expects it to be full of sops and announcement of populist projects.
Another reason why the Government and the BJP want an early election is because it knows that it would be tough to repeat its performance of 2014. And in case it receives a setback in some of the state elections slated to be held later this year, it would have an adverse effect on its prospects in the general election.
An early general election in the next 100 days will catch the opposition by surprise and it will be advantage BJP. It has the resources, preparedness and organisation in addition to being in office. Why would it like to give the opposition one more year to rally , Jain asked.
It is significant, says Jain, that the PM has been talking of simultaneous elections. And the Government may well push for the general election to be held with the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.