The stage is set for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Key players are making their moves with great caution but the picture is becoming clearer as the opposition closes in to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi for another term in office.
Bypoll results in Gorakhpur and Phulpur have made a dent in the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor. And with elections just twelve months away, the Modi factor is being pulled from all sides by regional satraps.
After the Congress’ strong showing in Gujarat, the BJP has been forced into a tooth-and-nail fight in poll-bound Karnataka
The Prime Minister is still, electorally, the top gun and is ably supported by his man Friday, BJP chief Amit Shah. But much water has flown down the Ganga and Yamuna since Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the last full budget of this government on February 1
Rahul Gandhi’s audacity in predicting a tough election for PM Modi, even from his own constituency of Varanasi in 2019, shows a growing confidence within the Congress party. In the fast-changing paradigm, yesterday’s rivals are becoming tomorrow’s allies.
Modi is the sole vote-catcher for BJP. He single-handedly brought the party to power and made pulp of Congress in 2014.
The ruling dispensation has now been caught in its own web and looking increasingly confused, vulnerable. The way it handled the Unnao rape case and Dalit outrage are recent cases in point.
The politics of confrontation practised by the BJP is now coming back with equal ferocity. Detractors are retaliating with a new found aggression and raids on opposition leaders or ‘fake news’ orders have only galvanised the amorphous opposition to take a concrete shape.
PM Modi may have gone on a fast over disruptions in the Budget session of Parliament when it is the government which has the responsibility of ensuring the smooth running of both houses, it doesn’t change the fact that it was the ruling party’s own doing.
Interestingly, the Congress is gaining confidence on the premise that BJP’s success in elections may not have translated into good governance. Besides, it feels that Modi’s aggressive march to become a pan-India party would antagonise regional players, who will strive to check the party in their respective state.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has become aggressive, hitting the Prime Minister almost on a daily basis through social media. Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee, TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu and the Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, too, have been training their guns on the Prime Minister.
While opposition leaders Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav are mobilising forces to form a large social coalition in the Hindi Heartland. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, LJP chief and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, despite being BJP allies, are not finding any role in the fight between Modi and the opposition.
The moot question now is whether the Rahul Gandhi-led party is strong enough to defeat BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam and Delhi. These states together send about 150 members to the Lok Sabha.
Congress managers are hopeful anti-incumbency, caste combinations, pre- and post-poll alliances would bring their party back to power.
The TINA factor, Congress believes, will work in its favour this time around. The party might be getting its voice across but will it translate into votes without credible leadership and a well-oiled organisational network?