As the next round of great political battle – general election 2019 – is drawing closer, the ambitious politicians outside of the whatever is left or is likely to be left of the Narendra Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are getting desperate. They know that since their parties are relevant only in their respective pockets of influence, their ambitions can be fulfilled only when the NDA, to be more precise the BJP, is defeated in 2019 and their common enemy, Narendra Modi, becomes history. They must unite to destabilise India to share the booty.
Such a scenario is possible only if opposition parties unite and anti-BJP votes are not split, as happened in 2014. They have started preparing strategies to unite anti-BJP votes. Sonia Gandhi invited leaders of 19 political parties (20 including the Congress) to dinner in the hope that most, if not all, of her guests would not forget that they had eaten her ‘salt’. The guests included arch-rivals like leaders of CPM and Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (Secular) which is Congress’ rival in the forthcoming Karnataka Assembly election and CPM which is (so far) against any alliance with Congress. Leaders of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) that was formed by ex-Congressmen as protest against Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, Lalu’s two children and representatives of several smaller parties felt honoured to dine with Sonia and Rahul.
Mamata Banerjee has been sending feelers to regional party leaders K. Chandrashekar Rao for the formation of a federal front. The NDA candidates’ defeat in the recent three by-elections in UP and Bihar have boosted the morale of these politicians. Akhilesh Yadav is sending his emissary to meet Lalu Yadav in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Jail and his son Tejashwi Yadav at his Patna residence. Lalu’s party, RJD, continues to be a force in Bihar. Akhilesh badly needs Lalu’s support.
Whether these efforts would result in two, three, or more fronts will be known only in course of time.
However, one thing is certain. If the major regional parties and some smaller outfits unite, NDA loses more partners and the chemistry and arithmetic seen in recent by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in UP really work in the Hindi heartland, there would be little chance of BJP or even NDA coming back to power, though BJP may remain the single largest party and NDA the single largest coalition. Those who have done constituency-wise analysis of 2014 general election results predict that BJP may lose 50 in UP alone.
On the other hand, quite a few political analysts do not expect that chemistry to the effective in 2019. Politicians are known for taking about-turn. Gilles Verniers, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ashoka University (Sonepat, Haryana) who has been analysing election results, has, in an article published in the Indian Express on March 15, 2018 (Gorakhpur in perspective), cautioned the opposition parties against reading too much in the by-election results. He writes, “Among the 35 by-elections that have taken place between 1962 and 2014 in UP, only 11 results matched the party that won the following general election…. An analysis of 153 Vidhan Sabha by-elections in UP confirms their poor predictive value. By-election results have matched the result of the subsequent election in only 31% of the cases.”
Anything is possible in politics. Who had expected that in Tripura BJP that had secured only 1.5% of votes in 2012 assembly election, would trounce the CPM government led by a popular Chief Minister in 2017?
The million-dollar question is what if the BJP loses and a disillusioned Narendra Modi withdraws from politics?
Recall what had happened in 1977. At the initiative of Jai Prakash Narayan (JP, for short, who wanted to be seen as independent India’s Gandhi), some rebels of Congress and nine political parties (including the then Bharatiya Jana Sangh) which were Ideologically poles apart, formed the Janata Party with the sole aim of removing Indira Gandhi. The unity collapsed in two years because of personal ambitions, though ideological differences were also cited as the reason.
The newly formed party had three strong prime ministerial candidates, namely Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram who were not expected to work together for a long. Instead of letting the party select its leader, JP used his influence to make Morarji Desai Prime Minister.
Prima facie, the so-called ideological differences surfaced when some leaders of the constituent units, raised their voice against the erstwhile Bharatiya Jan Sangh on the ground of dual membership (Janata Party as well as RSS), as if this fact was not known in 1977. In mid-1979, Raj Narain and Charan Singh pulled out of the party. Morarji Desai had to resign and Charan Singh who had the support of some constituents of the party and ‘promise’ of Congress for support from outside became Prime Minister. He openly admitted that his life’s desire was fulfilled. However, just before he was scheduled to prove his majority in the Lok Sabha, Congress backed out. He had the satisfaction of being called ex-prime minister for the rest of his life without facing the Parliament even for a day.
In January 1980, Indira Gandhi returned to power with bang and after the sudden death of Sanjay Gandhi, the heir apparent, on June 23, 1980, she groomed her hitherto apolitical Indian Airlines pilot son, Rajiv Gandhi, to succeed her that he eventually did and in the next general election, Congress got unprecedented mandate because of sympathy wave for Indira. Unfortunately, Rajiv did not take much time to prove that he was unfit for the post.
The defeat of Congress in 1989 general election not only led to another era of political instability but also ended the era of one-party rule. V. P Singh (1989-90) was succeeded by Chandrashekhar (1990-91) who had to go because the Congress did to him what it had done to Charan Singh, withdrawal of support after promise. P. V. Narasimha Rao (1991-96) managed coalition by all means, fair or foul. His government was followed by three, rather four Prime Ministers in quick succession: Atal Behari Vajpayee (for only 13 days in May 1996), H. D. Deve Gowda (1996-97), I. K. Gujral (1997-98) and Atal Behari Vajpayee again (1998-99). Thereafter, Vajpayee led a coalition government for five years, followed by Manmohan Singh for 10 years. After nearly 25 years of political instability and coalition governments, in 2014 one single party, Bharatiya Janata Party, got clear majority, though BJP honoured its commitment to pre-election allies to form a coalition government.
Thus, between 1977 and 2014, political instability gave opportunity to six persons (excluding Vajpayee) to occupy the post of Prime Minister. Political stability could not have given them that opportunity. The coalition governments also gave opportunity to several politicians to become ministers that was not possible in a single party rule.
If BJP loses in 2019 and Modi decides to lead a retired life, the period of short-lived coalition governments could be longer because of the large number of participating parties and large number of claimants to the post of Prime Minister. Some of the probable prime ministers are as follows.
- Sonia Gandhi who is more acceptable than her son.
- Rahul Gandhi (if Sonia is not available) who has a large number of sycophants to keep on telling him that he is the best prime ministerial candidate. (Remember, before 2014 general election, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had publicly said that Rahul Gandhi had all the qualities to become Prime Minister.)
- Jyotiraje Scindia who, I understand, is quietly preparing the ground to present himself as alternative to Rahul Gandhi.
- Akhilesjh Yadav.
- (‘Bua and Babua’ i.e. ‘aunt and young boy’, would have no problem in parting ways at the appropriate time.)
- Rabri Devi (please do not laugh or ridicule; even from prison, Lalu is capable of manipulating Indian politics.)
- Tejaswai Yadav.
- Mamata Banerjee.
- Chandrababu Naidu.
- Sharad Pawar
Dark horses like in I. K. Gujral may lead some coalitions.
I can also imagine who would be ministers. Some of the names that occur to me are mentioned below. The list excludes Sonia and Rahul because they would not accept anything less than the top post.
- Akhilesjh Yadav
- Asaduddin Owaisi
- Jyotiraje Scindia
- Mamata Banerjee
- Misa Bharati
- Rabri Devi
- Tejaswai Yadav
- Kapil Sibal
- Salman Khurshid
- Chidambaram (or Kartik Chidambaram)
- Sandeep Dixit (former Delhi CM Sheila Dixit’s son who few months back had in famously declared the army chief as ‘sadak ka goonda’).
- Jeetan Ram Manjhi
- Raja of CPI
- Azam Khan
- Gulam Nabi Azad
- Omar Abdullah
- Mani Shankar Aiyar
- Priyanka/Robert Vadra
- Mallikarjun Kharge
- Ahmed Patel
The actual list will be much bigger. Not all the aspirants may be together in one Ministry. Chances are that there will be frequent realignments and no Prime Minister Will remain in office for more than a year or two. Those who will not be accommodated in one Ministry, will get chance in the other. In course of time, the country will have large number of ex-Prime Ministers and ex-Ministers.
Such governments will be fully ‘secular’ and ‘democratic’. Those who are attacking the present government for suppressing their voice, whether it is for breaking the country or for giving citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, will have no complaint. Most of the reforms initiated by Modi will be scrapped. The Constitution will be amended once again to scrap the GST. Pakistan will be declared a friendly country, a partner in ‘war against terrorism’. On one pretext or the other, most, if not all, of the BJP governments or coalition governments with the BJP as partner in the states will be dismissed.
The possibilities are unlimited
The ‘intellectuals’ who hate to see Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, will be very pleased. It does not matter if the governance suffers, economic-development takes backseat, India’s image as a fast developing country takes a nosedive and India becomes a laughing stock in the world. These are small prices to be paid for ‘democracy’, ‘secularism’ and ‘freedom of speech and expression’.
Meanwhile, please keep an eye on the weathercock. After remaining static for more than four years, it has started shaking and forewarning. If it turns 180° before the next general election, that will not be a good sign for BJP. It will be more predictive than adverse results in Karnataka Assembly election.
March 17, 2018
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