The two major political parties of india, the INC and the BJP, are still pretending that the fight is between the two of them for 2014 General Elections. It serves both their interests; the fact, as anyone who has looked at the electoral map of India will know, is that about 70% of the country does not vote in a BJP-Congress contest. However, both these parties pretend to run against each other in terms of posturing for two reasons: they need an easy to define opponent and they don’t want to alienate future allies.
The actual election is largely contested in the following tranches.
- In central and western India where there is a direct BJP-INC contest. Here the BJP has a distinct advantage if polling trends are to be taken in account.
- A similar straight contest in smaller pockets of northern India where the INC has a closer to even chance — Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and NCR are examples.
- Large and decisive states like TN, UP, Bihar, WB happen to be contests between two local camps. The national parties are marginal players on the sides and are unlikely to cross 25% of the vote share even when taken together in any of these states.
- In other non-Hindi speaking states the BJP has historically found it difficult to make in-roads. The contest in these states is mostly between the INC and a local party or the Left. Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, Assam and much of the North East are examples of this cluster.
One may agonise about the Polls but expanding the range for prediction makes it relatively easy. The BJP, by itself, is going to achieve getting somewhere between 130 – 180 seats while the INC is likely to achieve between 100 – 150. So the real election is in terms of who else gets how much and lean which way. If we stack up the allies, a likelihood map emerges.
|Party||Mean Expectation||NDA Affiliation||UPA Affiliation||Third/Federal Front Affiliation|
|AIADMK||30||Likely||Higly Unikely||Highly Likely|
|DMK||5||Higly Unikely||Highly Likely||Unlikely|
|Left||35||Higly Unikely||Unlikely||Highly Likely|
|TDP||7||Highly Likely||Highly Unlikely||Likely|
|SS||14||Highly Likely||Highly Unlikely||Unlikely|
|SP||25||Higly Unlikely||Likely||Highly Likely|
|SAD||12||Highly Likely||Highly Unlikely||Unlikely|
NDA’a path: For it to get close to a simple majority in Lok Sabha it needs to get at least two but preferably all three of AIADMK, BSP and TMC. These three ladies — Ms Jayalalitha, Ms Mayawati and Ms Mamata Banerjee — all have personal ambitions. Particularly Ms Mayawati and Ms Jayalalitha see 2014 as their chance to become the Prime Minister and their party cadre have stated so. That means they’d exhaust all possibilities of a third/federal front sweet deal before joining the NDA. And that’s subject to the BJP crossing the 170 mark by itself. Further, if BSP and TMC are to join, their first bargaining chip maybe Mr Modi’s candidature given they both come from states with Muslim populations of 18% and 25% respectively. Whether that’s fair to Mr Modi or not, it’d seem fair in their perceived self interest. An NDA government with Prime Minister Jayalalitha, anyone?
The UPA’s path based on the above map is almost impossible and needs no real mapping.
The real challenge that the NDA faces is the Federal Front or the Third Front. The only real difference between these two formations is the presence of one among the following pairs,
- BSP or SP
- Left or TMC
The BSP will possibly be present in both fronts at the expense of SP if the trend of its consolidation continues in UP. Therefore the only real question is between the TMC and the Left. Given the Left has alliances with many other parties which form the front at the state level, and has a presence in many states which may always be helpful in future elections, it’s likely that most parties may prefer the Left to TMC. The set of all parties that may be open to a Third/Federal Front add up to 216 MPs based on mean expectation. The core parties without existential contradiction — AIADMK, Left, BJD, NCP, JDU, JDS, YSRC*, TRS* and BSP — add up to 150 MPs. To this circus, another 15 MPs from small parties and Independents who are always willing to join any government, can readily be added. That comes close to the BJP’s best possible result. If the INC decides to prop this third front drama just to keep the BJP out, it’s easy to see Ms Jayalalitha or Ms Mayawati or for that matter Mr Nitish Kumar as the next Prime Minister. To a question of why would Ms Jayalalitha agree to Ms Mayawati or Mr Kumar being PM or why Ms Mayawati would to one of the other two being PM: the absence of a national party in the Cabinet means space. With Jayalalitha as PM and BSP Ministers for Defence and External Affairs, we really could have a nightmarish but plausible government.
The one thing to emerge from the above scenarios is this: Ms Jayalalitha has an outside chance of becoming Prime Minister in multiple formations. Ms Mayawati does too. While Mr Modi has all his eggs in one basket and he still needs the express support of those who actually are likely to be his biggest rivals for the coveted chair. The reverse though, sadly for him, isn’t always true.
* – Assumption being: TRS and YSRC are ideologically opposed but don’t have the same geographical interest in terms of seats contested and hence are incompatible only till elections are over.