Lok Sabha elections 2019: Pygmies seek pedestals with kingmaker complex

It looks like India may get a hung mandate. And random regional leaders are daydreaming
about donning the royal robes in May

Published: 08th May 2019 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th May 2019 10:09 AM   |  A+A-

Power is the ultimate karma of politics. The fantasy of every leader with national ambitions—both pygmies and giants—is to grab the glittering throne of Indraprastha. With just two weeks left for the election results, numerous leaders have positioned themselves as kingmakers. E-2019 is not a joust between ideas and ideologies. The choice for voters in all the 542 constituencies is bizarrely binary—it is either Prime Minister Modi or a provincial paladin.

For example, the PM and his party leaders repeatedly remind citizens that by pressing the lotus button, their votes would go straight into Modi’s account. The Opposition’s mandate mavens are Mamata, Akhilesh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Mayawati et al. Though none of them has initiated deal-making moves, their names are being floated as future residents of 7, Lok Kalyan Marg. Polling in 435 seats is over. Experienced political forecasters are studying their windsocks. Going by the body language and mood of workers, India may get a hung mandate.

A last-minute Modi campaign tsunami in the remaining 107 seats could change the final outcome, but marginally. Barring hardcore exceptions, the tone and tenor of the Indian media including TV channels have acquired surprising sobriety and even a semblance of neutrality. Are the exit polls in the conclude d five phases responsible? However, random regionalists are daydreaming about donning the royal robes in May.

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A quaint example is Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, the self-appointed architect of a non-Congress and non-BJP alliance. His state has only 17 Lok Sabha MPs. But he believes his spectacular triumph in the December 2018 Assembly elections has raised his stature at par with other regional Rasputins and Opposition leaders. His preelection Gathbandhan Yatra has begun. His choice of launch engine is Kerala’s Marxist Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Irony just died—KCR, with a perceived pro-BJP image, confabulating with sworn enemies of the Prime Minister and the BJP.

After corralling Vijayan, his next target is DMK President M K Stalin whose election partner is the Congress. No doubt, he is an undisputed leader of his own state. So far, KCR has kept his cards close to his chest. But political pundits are convinced that he would back the BJP if it falls short of a majority, raising a plethora of possibilities. KCR’s effectiveness as a power broker would depend on the number of LS seats he wins in his own state in spite of the courteous welcome he receives from his counterparts and Opposition parties. Alliance building has never been his forte, being a loner with a penchant for moving in and out of Central governments.

His credibility is suspect because his was the only Southern party, which escaped excessive coercive pressures from agencies like Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate and CBI. His excessive enthusiasm in exploring the formation of the next Union government also raises political questions. His well-known antipathy towards the Congress will lead him to exclude it from any future Opposition alliance.

Since he is talking to anti-BJP parties, perhaps he has concluded that saffron would not be the next colour of South Block. Since the BJP is unlikely to win more than 20 seats out 131 in the five Southern states, a collective 110 MP power bloc comprising the DMK, TDP, Left, JD(S), TRS, YSRC and the Congress would play a decisive role in a Trishanku Parliament. The Congress believes it may garner more seats than the BJP in four of the five Southern states, barring Karnataka where Modi power has some traction. Hence KCR has frenetically take to his political pocket calculator.

According to TRS insiders, his number crunching doesn’t give the BJP and its allies an absolute majority. His informed guess is that a vaguely defined Third Front would get more seats than non-BJP and non-Congress parties on their own. This calculation is based on the science of probability. In 2014, the BJP rode a massive anti-UPA wave and Modi Mania to storm 282 of the 400-odd Lok Sabha constituencies it contested, grabbing 225 from 11 states alone. Over half of these were snatched from the Congress.

The BJP’s strike rate was almost 100 per cent in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, HP and Gujarat. It grabbed a record 71 seats out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh. Since then it has conquered two-thirds of the states with its allies. The BJP’s detractors claim that the party cannot repeat its run rate because of anti-incumbency in saffron states and against the Centre. Empirically, voters deny over 60 per cent of sitting lawmakers a second term return ticket to Delhi. The BJP’s 300-seat projection could be hype, and not validated by psephology or history since it would have to not only retain its existing numbers, but will have to exceed its decimal count in West Bengal, Odisha and South India—a tall order. The law of probability seems to favour Congress.

All its 44 seats came from just 14 states. It didn’t get a double-digit score in any of them. This integer can only go vertical. Its main opponent is the Lotus in all the states. And the BJP’s loss is Congress’s gain. Yet, barring the faces, the economic and sociological profile of both parties are mirror images of one another. However, Rahul Gandhi is not Sonia Gandhi. While his communication skills may have vastly improved, he is yet to emerge as a leviathan with the acceptability and credibility to forge alliances with leaders from entirely different social, economic and educational backgrounds.

He hardly attends meetings of Opposition leaders. Regional nabobs like KCR are taking advantage of his political infirmities. Other territorial titans such as Sharad Pawar and Chandrababu Naidu are also working together to prevent a Modi comeback. Modi’s success depends on his charisma to cast a spell on voters to forget the BJP and remember only him and his deeds while casting their vote.

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