General Elections 2019 – Battle Lines Still Amorphous

BJP’s Invincibility Challenged
Sectarian Agenda to the Fore
A Welcome Ruling

Contours for the electoral battlefield for the 2019 Lok Sabha election are not yet distinct, though the polls are due in three months. Despite the current incumbents having lost lot of their sheen and claim for power a second time, the Opposition is still an amorphous lot. There is enough realization that the BJP (and the NDA) would need a formidable rival. Yet the opposition camp still seems to be a picture of disarray.
It is abundantly clear that Congress, with its weak party machine, is no match to the BJP which besides its own cadres, has the backing of the VHP, the RSS, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini and several other outfits that lend their mite to the ruling party. Add to this, the allies such as JDU and LJP in Bihar, Akali Dal in Punjab, and a bevy of small outfits in the North-east. The Biju Janata Dal in Odisha is being actively wooed by the BJP. As of now, the Congress can only bank upon the DMK in Tamil Nadu, RJD in Bihar, the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh and smaller parties in the north-eastern states. And of course, the United Democratic Front would be there confronting the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala. There are hints of others like the Janata Dal Secular (JDS) in Karnataka and a few minor parties in the Hindi heartland joining the Rahul-led bandwagon if offered a respectable share in the seat-sharing arrangement. But for this to happen, the Congress would need to demonstrate flexibility. Superciliousness would not clinch the deal.
The victory for the Congress in the three Hindi states was neither emphatic nor convincing. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it could just manage a few more seats than the rival BJP. Its alliance with the TDP in Telangana turned out to be a complete fiasco. Chhattisgarh was the lone grand success story. A minor adjustment with either SP or BSP would have yielded handsome dividends in Rajasthan as well as Madhya Pradesh. But Congress is still smarting under its monopolistic mind set rather than perceiving the precarious situation it is in. Just the gesture of including the lone SP member in the Madhya Pradesh (who is after all supporting the Congress in the Legislative Assembly) could have gone a long way in SP-BSP combine taking the party into the grand alliance which the two have stitched in Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress may have sprung a surprise by pitch-forking Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra in eastern Uttar Pradesh, but it will be too premature to surmise the gains. She is debonair, suave and reminds one of her grandmother Indira Gandhi. There is also the likelihood of three-way split of the anti-BJP votes in the largest state of India if the Priyanka factor makes a sizeable dent. What one hopes is that the gambit should trigger a rethink on the contours of seat-sharing and alliance in the state with the SP and BSP veering round to the idea of adjustments with the Congress. The sooner it is attempted, the better for the prospects of United Progressive Alliance and others on its side.
Notwithstanding all its failings on the economic front, one should not fail to admit that the BJP is still a strong pole for the National Democratic Alliance. Howsoever negative ideology it may profess and pursue, the NDA can count upon the durability, strength of men, material and party machine. A frank appraisal of the situation is the need of the hour for its rivals to pull up their socks.