Amidst an anxious national political scenario, the domestic political situation of India is not quite placid. With the Lok Sabha polls approaching, various strategies are being implemented by opposition parties to give a tough fight to the present ruling party. The tense national political scenario reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the BJP-led government, crucially providing certain insights regarding the upcoming polls.
Shiv Sena’s Alliance With BJP:
Nearly 13 months after Shiv Sena announced their resolution of contesting all future polls by itself, the party changed its mind and decided to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and assembly polls in alliance with the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). The parties have come to a mutual agreement that out of 48 Lok Sabha seats, Shiv Sena will contest for 23 and the larger share of 25 will be contested by the BJP. The decision was announced at a press conference in the month of February, jointly addressed by BJP national president Amit Shah, Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister of Maharastra Devendra Fadnavis. Fadnavis in the meeting, explained why the parties decided to contest the upcoming polls together, he said, “Both the parties are ideologically committed to Hindutva and that is the reason we have come together”. “Because some parties are coming together to cause confusion and challenge the nationalist thought, it is necessary that nationalist parties come together”. He further said, “After allotting requisite seats to other allies, both the parties will fight an equal number of seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections,” as reported by the Indian Express. Most election experts are of the opinion that in spite of their previous differences, deciding to contest the polls together is perhaps the best and only way for them to make a strong impact in the elections considering the fact that Congress and the NCP are their fellow competitors. However, Ramdas Athawale, leader of Republican Party of India, was clearly upset with the alliance as he was not included and was not given a single seat in Mumbai South Central as demanded by him. He told PTI, “I took efforts for the BJP-Sena patch-up and worked for the alliance. But they left us in the lurch by not giving any seat to the RPI,” as reported by NDTV. Fadnavis also confirmed the equal sharing of responsibilities by the two parties after the polls which he feels will certainly be won by the BJP-Sena alliance.
SP-BSP Sharing Seats for Upcoming Polls:
Not only has the ruling party formed a strong alliance with an aspiration to win the upcoming April-May Lok Sabha Polls, the other contesting parties too allied in order to give a tough competition. Akhilesh Yadav, chief of the Samajwadi Party confirmed the party’s alliance with BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) and the RLD (Rashtriya Lok Dal) while making it clear that the alliance is final and that they would not like to come to any understanding with the Congress. Pertaining to the recent alliance, the national president of the Samajwadi party told PTI, “Our alliance with the BSP, the RLD and smaller parties like the Nishad Party is final and seat-sharing will not be a problem. It will be worked out soon. We have emerged as a strong force in the state, which has changed the tone and tenor of the BJP, whose leaders have started using foul language against us,” as reported by TOI. Yadav strongly believes that Uttar Pradesh “has always acted as a catalyst of change” and feels that the people of this state are going to change the Prime Minister through the 2019 polls. However, he denied commenting on the Party’s former association with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Congress Party members chose to remain silent regarding this alliance. While some experts are of the opinion that the main aim of defeating the BJP can be met with the formation of such alliance even though Congress has to contest alone, others strongly feel that such tie-ups prove to be a major failure of the Congress party’s efforts to bring together all the parties of the opposition. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said, “Insofar as alliances are concerned, we have always believed that state-specific alliances, which further the progressive and pluralistic ideals, which further consolidate the liberalised idea of India, are the way forward and I think there is space for that,” as reported by the Economic Times. The SP-BSP alliance is not just restricted to UP, rather they are jointly fighting the election in Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand also. Although MP and Uttarakhand are traditionally known to be inclined to the BJP, it is difficult to foresee whether the recent alliances will bring about surprising changes or not, considering 2014 Lok Sabha polls and 2017 Assembly elections. Maintaining traditions, the SP-BSP are not contesting any seats in Amethi and Rae Bareli.
Seat Divisions of SP, BSP and RLD in UP, MP and Uttarakhand for 2019 Lok Sabha Election:
Congress’s Position as an Opposition:
In response to the recent alliances, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the “world’s largest video conference” on February 28th addressed 10 crore BJP workers and said that the ‘Mahagatbandhan’ of the opposition parties would send the country to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and dismissed these alliances as ‘Mahamilavat’, as reported by the Economic Times. Mr. Narendra Modi also said that 2014 was for “fulfilling people’s necessities” whereas the 2019 election “will be about fulfilling people’s aspirations”.
On one hand, election strategist and Janata-Dal United vice-president Prashant Kishor is of the opinion that “The fight is between the BJP and the ‘Mahagathbandhan’. The Congress party is still not that a strong opposition.” However, he feels hopeful about the party’s future due to the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi in early 2019 as Congress General Secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, as reported by India Today. On the other hand, many are of the opinion that it is not going to be an easy fight for the BJP as Congress is in the process of “regaining its confidence”. In some major states, the BJP is in a direct fight with the Congress- Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and MP. In many other states, Congress has a strong support of its alliances which include Tamil Nadu (with DMK), Jharkhand (with JMM), Karnataka (with JDS) and Andhra Pradesh (with TDP). Whereas, it is already known that the BJP does not share strong bonds with its co-contesting party the Shiv Sena, making it all the more difficult to foresee the election results.
The Impact of the Pulwama Attack on General Elections-
Adding the cherry on the top to the already tense domestic political situation of India, is the recent Pulwama Attack and the government’s decision to retaliate. The opinion stands divided when the question arises how much will these incidents impact on Narendra Modi’s chances of winning the 2019 elections. Times Now reported that the public believes that only Narendra Modi is capable of ordering another surgical strike if a situation arises. However, many Modi critics believe there was a lack of intelligence on the government’s part pertaining to this incident and that Modi could even order a war with Pakistan if that could increase his chance of winning. Prem Shankar Jha in his report published by the Wire said, “The shock it (Pulwama attack) has given to the country is understandable. What is not understandable, nor forgivable, is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s refusal to ask the country to stay calm, to ask state governments to prevent revenge attacks on Kashmiris, and to warn the cohorts of his own party against avoid inflaming communal passion. Instead, he has immediately accused, Pakistan of masterminding the attack, launched an international campaign to isolate it, and virtually committed the Indian security forces to a retaliatory attack on Pakistan at a time and place of their choosing.” He further states how the decision of retaliation did no good for the Kashmiris where violence is a daily affair and is in turn giving birth to potential terrorists, which of course doesn’t mean accepting and maintaining silence on the loss of 40 CRPF jawan’s lives. Though surgical strikes reveal the brave face of the BJP-led government, it is definitely not a response to wipe away terrorism altogether. Alongside Modi critics, many opposition parties including the BSP, AAP and Congress have strongly criticised the BJP’s ongoing political campaign for the upcoming elections “Mera Booth, sabse Mazboot” even when the India-Pak border tension was escalating and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of IAF was kept captive within the Pakistan territories. The opposition party tweeted, “It is shameful that while India awaits the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan, our Prime Time PM cannot stop campaigning even for a few minutes. We stand with our soldiers & will continue to question the Modi Govt on their apathy.”
Sources- NDTV, Hindu, TOI, Indian Express, Economic Times, Business Today, Money Control, DNA, TimesNow, The Wire.
Image Credits- India.in, Scroll.in, Newslaundry, India Unbound