Countdown to 2014 – or 2013?
The UPA government, adrift at the centre, would like to advance the 2014 Lok Sabha election to October-November 2013. That would serve three purposes. One, avoid the electoral blowback of four likely successive state assembly defeats in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi. Two, give the BJP less time to sort out its Narendra Modi-as-PM-candidate dilemma. And three, nip Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Third Front idea in the bud. Time, however, is not on the UPA’s side. While the SP and BSP, enmeshed in corruption, communalism and casteism, can be counted on for rancid, day-to-day support, the Congress too needs time to gain full electoral benefit from its cash transfer scheme and food security bill.
Five big states will announce their verdicts between May and November 2013. Karnataka kicks off the election season in May followed by MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi. The Congress is likely to emerge as the largest single party in Karnataka though it may need Kumaraswamy’s JD(S) to stich together a workable majority in the assembly. The BJP, mired in misgovernance, deserves to lose the state and will. B.S. Yeddyuruppa’s Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) will play spoiler but get few seats.
In MP and Chhattisgarh, good governance should return incumbents Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh to power with comfortable majorities. Rajasthan is likely to reject Ashok Gehlot’s maladministration and Delhi, despite inroads by Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, will probably make it 4-0 for the BJP in the four states voting in or just before November. A simultaneous Lok Sabha election with four important state assembly polls in October-November may prove logistically difficult. By necessity therefore, with summer upon us and the monsoon to follow, and then the four big state assembly polls, the next Lok Sabha election will probably be held anytime between December 2013 and April 2014. The hangover of MP, Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi will be inescapable for the Congress. Now to the math. Extrapolating the trends from 2014: the electoral math-II, here’s how the state-wise break-up looks: 2014 Lok Sabha: Projections
|State||Total Seats||Lok Sabha Projection|
|Jammu & Kashmir||6||2||1|
|Andaman & Nicobar||1||0||1|
|Dadra and Nagar Haveli||1||0||1|
|Daman & Diu||1||0||1|
In states where Cong+BJP projected seats don’t add up to total seats, UPA/NDA allies or unattached regional parties make up the projected balance as follows:
NDA allies projected seat tally: SS 16, SAD 7, AGP 2, Independents/Others 5. Total 30.
UPA allies projected seat tally: NCP 8, NC 2, Independents/Others: 12, Total 22.
Leaning BJP: AIADMK 22, TRS 13, BJD 18, Others 12. Total 65
Leaning Congress: YSR 19, DMK 14, RJD 5, Others 10. Total 48
Unattached Regional: JD(U) 15, TMC 25, TDP 5, BSP 22, SP 26,
Left Front 24. Total 117
BJP (156) + allies (30)= 186 + Leaning BJP (65) = 251
Congress (107) + allies (22) = 129 + Leaning Congress (48) = 177
Unattached Regional = 117
- The BJP will not declare Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate but hint that he will probably lead the NDA if it has the numbers to form the next government.
- Despite the BJP’s ambiguity over Modi, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) will detach itself from the NDA. Nitish knows what such ambiguity implies. He is thus placed in the “unattached” category above.
- Rahul Gandhi too will not be declared the UPA’s Prime Ministerial candidate. He will be the face of the campaign but is clearly averse to leading an unstable UPA 3 coalition.
So how do the cards fall?
From the seat projections above, the BJP (156) + allies (30) + leaning BJP (65) totals 251. That’s 21 seats short of an uncomfortable majority. The ambiguity over Modi-as-PM could cost the BJP possibly 30 seats – and yet lose it the JD(U).
The Congress might fare even worse: 107 seats + allies (22) + leaning Congress (48) totals 177. That makes a Congress-led government a non-starter.
The regional front though could fare the worst: 117 seats for the “unattacheds” with two irreconciliables: TMC (25) and the Left Front (24) in West Bengal; and BSP (22) and SP(26) in Uttar Pradesh. Again, a non-starter.
But a workable government must somehow emerge from all of this. The most likely post-poll scenarios, in order of probability:
Scenario 1. BJP + allies + leaning BJP (251) scoop up independents and at least one more ally. Unlikelier things have happened in Indian politics.
Scenario 2. The unattached regionals (117) steal from the two sets of “leaners” – TRS (13), BJD (18), AIADMK (22) – to get up to around 170 seats and, like Chandra Shekhar in November 1990-May 1991 and Deve Gowda/Gujral in 1996-98, form a rump “third front” government with the Congress + allies (129) supporting it from outside. That arrangement though would run into immediate problems given the deep schisms between the SP/BSP, DMK/AIADMK and TMC/Left Front.
Scenario 3. The Congress + allies + leaning Congress (177) form the government with unattached regionals (JDU, TDP, SP) to get up to around 223 seats. Such a combination too would face instability from the start.
The key problem: between them, the Congress and the BJP have just 263 seats – less than half the Lok Sabha, making any formation unstable.
The prognosis? A quick midterm poll in 2015-16. (India did have three Lok Sabha elections between 1996 and 1999.) The BJP would have learnt some internal lessons by then and may decide to drop its ambiguity over its prime ministerial candidate. The Congress would be forced similarly to jettison its outsourced PM theory (Chidambaram, Antony, et al) and make Rahul stand up and be counted.
Then, in a straight contest, we could have a clear winner and a stable, full-term government. It’s a pity that intra-party politics in both the BJP and the Congress will delay the inevitable.