High Voltage Political Drama for 2019

March 18, 2018: Next general elections may be one year from now. But battle lines are drawn already. That will get high pitched as days roll by and uncertainties as to who will have the upper hand gets debated and speculated at every nook and corner of the country. Attempting a guess at this time will be premature and risky since churning has just started and political equations may change drastically and perhaps in an earth-shaking manner.

A section of political analysts, whom India Live Today spoke, assert that the present electoral chances are with the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), at least in cobbling a workable alliance with its existing allies and possible ones in future. They heavily discount the chances of BJP alone getting a majority and feel that it might emerge as the single largest party: but may fall short of forming a government of its own. The deficit may range between 25 and 50, depending on the mood of the nation at that time.

In that case, Prime Minister Modi will have a difficult task of knitting together a coalition of the like-minded parties. Preparations for facing such an eventuality should start right now. Prime Minister Modi has to be more tactful and communicative to the allies. Politics is game of convenience, accommodation and more importantly of compromises. The ill-feelings of the allies, particularly that of Shiva Sena, Biju Patnaik’s BJD, TDP and sulking Akkhalis should be assuaged. For this, Modi administration has to emulate what veteran Vajpayee had done for completing his term of office.

Prime Minister should be more accessible, communicative and like Vajpayee more accommodative even to the most vociferous opponents. Can he do that is another issue that has to be debated?

There is another spectrum of opinions, which are getting credence with every passing day. The prospects of a rainbow combination (euphemism for several parties coming together) cannot be ruled out. Dissatisfaction over the one-upmanship of BJP leadership at the Center and taking allies for granted did not go well with them.

The voice of dissent was first expressed by the Shiv Sena and later by Biju Janata Dal and latest staunch attacker of the ruling alliance is Telugu Desam Party (TDP), whose chief canny and wily Chandrababu Naidu has withdrawn his ministers from the Center and started publicly distancing from the NDA and even supported its arch-rival erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh Congress Chief Minister’ s son- Jagan Reddy’s decision to move a no-confidence motion against the NDA government is a case in point.

Even if an alliance is hammered among these mutually warring and hostile groups, one has to see how long and how sustainable such relationship could be.

The trillion dollar question is who will drive the loosely knit alliance which can collapse like a house of cards when there is a slight breeze and heartburn. It could be an assortment of interests who can pull in different directions to suit their interests like what had happened in the UPA-11, which had seen the allies withering away and making provocative stands when their interests were affected. Again, there are classic examples how a divergent herd should be tended and kept together demonstrated by Prime Ministers like Narasimha Rao during the Congress government and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s BJP led group’s time.

Stemming out of that conundrum is who should be the prime minister when the united opposition manages to get the desired seats to make the claim for forming the government. Congress feels that the natural choice will fall on them as the only national party having an all India presence. But that depends on the number of seats they will be mustering. If there is a big difference between Congress and the rest in the number of seats, the next poser for the grand old party will be who will be made the Prime Minister, if Rahul Gandhi sulks as his mother did during UPA 1.

The choice will fall on veterans like Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh or still boyish-looking Jyotiraidtya Scindia, whose oratory, élan and conduct may be best suited for the job. But if the number of seats o9f the Opposition parties falls short of the expectations, then more tactful t, wily and seasoned Captain will be a natural choice, though there are other claimants putting their names in the ring..

The talk of a third front is emerging mainly orchestrated by K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR), chief minister of Telangana. There is an accusation that he is working on behalf of NDA to wedge a distance between Congress and its possible alliance partners. Many discounts the possibility of such coalition emerging since the credibility of KCR is not above board, say political observers. Therefore, not much need to be read about the third front since, Congress hopes to notch up upwards of 120 plus seats in the next elections going by its performance in the written off states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It can hope to improve its performance in Uttrakhand, Haryana, Telangana. Karnataka, and Maharashtra either on its own or with alliances.

The next scenario is the most crucial one: BJP is getting over 170 seats and considerably short of the majority mark. Will a dark horse emerge out from the turmoil to keep the flock together and allies happy?That is the trillion dollar question being asked in political circles.