The 2019 Indian General Election are scheduled to be held in seven phases from 11 April to 19 May 2019. The counting of votes will be conducted on 23 May- and the results are expected to be released the same day as well. These elections will establish the 17th Lok Sabha (lower house of the Parliament) – which has 545 seats. India follows first past the post system, in which each constituency will surface a winner. From these seats, two are reserved for the Anglo-Indian community –that are filled by presidential nomination. Whereas, voters in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim will also be electing their state legislatures separately.
It is believed that since Uttar Pradesh is the most populous province of India, any party that is successful in Uttar Pradesh also tends to win the elections nationwide- as 80 MP’s stem from Uttar Pradesh alone. Other states that are crucial to winning the election include: Maharashtra, which accounts for 48 Lok Sabha seats, West Bengal which has 42 seats, Bihar which has 40 seats and Tamil Nadu which has 39 seats.
The Indian elections 2019 are generating an assortment of speculations. The three main contenders this time around include- Modi’s BJP, Congress and a conglomerate of regional parties.
In the 2014 elections the BJP bagged 31% votes- which granted it a victory against the other parties. However, this vote count was said to be based on one of the lowest voter turnouts in Indian elections.
This time around, there is a view that BJP and its partners in the National Democratic Alliance may experience a further dilution of their vote bank. The BJP will have to now face a re-emerging Congress and a budding coalition of smaller regional parties. The BJP witnesses an array of challenges due to its inability to implement some of the key 2014 election promises. Major complaints against BJP revolve around rise in unemployment- which is said to be at an all- time high, agrarian distress, GST issues, national security issues, human right abuses of the Kashmiris and tilting Indian political narrative from center to extreme right- the Modi years witnessed strangulation of free speech, increase in oppression of minorities, violence against women, religious violence- to name a few.
Due to the doubts being raised regarding BJP’s rule, Congress has managed to make some comeback. Congress witnessed victories in three key state elections in December 2018. The Congress’ ‘NYAY’ promise is said to be a well drafted national vision. However, the timing of its release makes it difficult for the party to spread the message to the masses. Two major criticisms regarding Congress’s electioneering tactics are that it struggles to forge alliances with smaller parties, and it is over relying on criticizing Modi as a personality as opposed to projecting its own plans for governance.
This election is also expected to see an enhanced political presence of the smaller regional parties. Recently, two rival political parties in Uttar Pradesh formed an alliance which will likely cut into the BJP’s vote share. This development is not confined to Uttar Pradesh- reportedly, smaller parties across India are exploring options to join forces.
Prominent speculations foresee a BJP led minority government- which may lead to a shaky political landscape till BJP regains its footing. BJP’s vote bank is likely to be cut in by Congress’s resurgence and the shaky alliances being forged by smaller regional parties. BJP’s greatest strength is said to revolve around its personality campaigning tactics- which have managed to create a cult-like following for Modi. It is said that Congress and the smaller regional parties lack such a dominant face for their parties. Another advantage that BJP has, stems from the oppositions inability to form a coherent united platform. The Congress is said to struggle with forging alliances with smaller parties and the prospect of the grand opposition alliance “Mahagathbandhan”- which was meant to provide an umbrella to an array of smaller parties- did not materialize as planned either.
It is believed that BJP’s standing could be threatened if Congress improves its electioneering strategy and manages to forge alliances with strong regional leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, K Chandrasekhar Rao, Naveen Patnaik, Chandrababu Naidu, MK Stalin and Arvind Kejriwal. In an alternate scenario the array of regional opposition parties could also make their independent mark if they were to join forces under one umbrella.