That's the question uppermost in everybody’s mind – both who want to see him win a second term and those who want him to go. Even a year ago, neither side doubted that the 2019 Lok Sabha election had already been decided – in his favour. But since then, much has changed. New political equations have emerged. Modi himself has lost the sheen, the BJP its confidence and three key elections in the Hindi heartland. As Modi himself admitted to his party workers, he can no longer be expected to change the party’s fortunes single-handedly.
The nation’s mood has changed. DH correspondents across the country make an assessment of that mood. This assessment is not based on any large-scale opinion poll or survey and does not claim to be making accurate predictions that will hold three months down the line. And to be sure, Modi still has tricks up his sleeve as recent announcements and political moves have shown, and a vast and deep party organisation to bank on. This is an assessment – AS ON TODAY - based on reporters’ instincts, anecdotal evidence and off-the-record conversations with key political figures and analysts across the country. Read on…
SP-BSP pact a big challenge for BJP
The BJP, which swept the 2014 Lok Sabha polls by winning 71 of the 80 seats, may find the going tough in the 2019 elections after the alliance between two arch rivals the SP and the BSP.
The challenge ahead for the BJP could be gauged from the fact that even in 2014, when the saffron party was riding a Modi wave, the combined vote share of the SP and BSP was more than the former in 41 seats. The BJP had secured 42% votes in 2014 while SP and BSP, togother, secured a little more than 41% votes.
In the 2017 Assembly polls also, which was again swept by the BJP (it won 325 of 403 seats), the SP and BSP had together polled more votes than the saffron party in 47 LS seats.
What may further add to the BJP’s woes is the decision of some smaller, caste-based outfits like RLD, Peace Party and Nishad Party to join the alliance. BJP has pinned its hopes on reservation for economically weaker sections of the upper castes and division of ‘secular votes’ after Congress’ exclusion from the SP-BSP alliance.
Grand alliance spells trouble for NDA
The NDA had performed exceedingly well in Bihar in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, winning 31 of the state’s 40 seats. There were two prime reasons for this: One, the Modi wave; two, the BJP benefited from the triangular contest. The BJP-led NDA was pitted against the JD(U)-Left and RJD-Congress combine. But 2019 polls will be different.
Political equations have changed, and it will be a straight contest between BJP-led NDA and the RJD-led Mahagatbandhan (Grand Alliance).
If the Mahagatbandhan manages to stitch a formidable alliance and finalise seat-sharing in time, then the NDA will find it tough to win more than 15 seats in Bihar. The scenario will be the reverse if the Mahagatbandhan crumbles before polls.
Despite ‘resort politics’, coalition still in control
A formidable challenge awaits the BJP as the Congress and the JD(S) will contest as allies this time for the 28 seats that are at stake.
The BJP had won 17, Congress 9 and JD(S) two in 2014. As against this, the Congress-JD(S) combine is likely to bag 18-20 seats, reducing the BJP to 8-10.
In the May 2018 Assembly polls, the Congress-JD(S) combine had established a lead over the BJP in six of the 17 seats that the latter had won in 2014. This, notwithstanding the current turmoil with “resort politics” taking the sheen off the ruling coalition.
The Congress is upbeat with its impressive performance in the Assembly polls in the Hindi heartland states and believes that its strength, along with that of the JD(S), besides the Karnataka government’s flagship farm loan waiver programme that will cost Rs 43,000 crore, will ensure a rich electoral harvest.
TRS’ playing field
With the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) holds sway, there seems to be little space for any other party, including the Congress. As for the BJP, Hyderabad is unlikely to prove to be its ‘Bhagyanagar’.
In 2014, even at the height of the Modi wave, the BJP could win only one out of the 17 seats in the state. In the recent Assembly elections, the saffron party contested in 118 seats out of 119, and lost deposits in 103. It won only one seat. In the absence of the Modi wave and any other emotive issue that could sway voters in Telangana, it is difficult to see the BJP doing any better.
The TRS is likely to win 12-15 seats, AIMIM 1, and the BJP could retain its tally of 1. TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao is banking on this likely tally as he continues his efforts to lead the formation of a non-BJP, non-Congress federal front, which could then bargain with either national party for a bigger say at the Centre. If the federal front does not take shape, it is widely expected that Rao will ally with the BJP post-election and add his might to the BJP’s kitty.
Captain’s knock expected
The Congress has a distinct advantage over its adversaries, the SAD-BJP combine and the AAP. Even at the height of the Modi wave in 2014, the Congress won three seats and AAP four while the BJP won six. Congress gained one more in the Gurdaspur LS by-poll in 2017.
The same year, the Congress won the Assembly polls and returned to power in the state, increasing its vote share and lead comfortably in several parliamentary segments. In fact, until December 2018 when the party won the Hindi heartland polls, Punjab was one of the two major states the Congress was in power. The party also won the recent panchayat polls with a thumping majority.
While AAP is in melt-down in the state, Shiromani Akali Dal, too, is losing its senior leaders. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has increased the party’s footprint sizeably both in rural and the ‘Panthak’ vote bank. Moreover, the farm loan waiver and the war on drugs are set to benefit the Congress. It is on track to win at least 8-9 of Punjab’s 13 LS seats.
Still on top
This is one state where the BJP has more or less maintained its sheen from 2014 when it won all four LS seats. Since then, it has also wrested power from the Congress in 2017. The BJP has some advantages. The Congress continues to pay for its internal squabbling.
It is bogged down by differences between former CM Virbhadra Singh and the state Congress chief (until recently) Sukhwinder Sukhu. The BJP is far better placed. The BJP’s good showing over the last one year has placed the party comfortably ahead. The Congress could still wrest one or two seats if it can set its house in order.
It's all in BJP’s hands
The BJP had won all seven LS seats in Delhi in 2014 with a 46.63% vote share, but with no Modi wave around this time, can it repeat the performance? The BJP itself is not sure, but it hopes that it will not do too badly.
An internal survey had shown that four of its sitting MPs are not so popular anymore. The talked-about AAP-Congress tie-up hasn’t happened. While the top leaders of the two parties know they can decimate the BJP if they joined hands, their local leaders are not keen. Both parties are now reconciled to fighting the BJP separately. Arvind Kejriwal has said votes for Congress would only help BJP as anti-Modi votes split.
The AAP, which had polled 33.08% of the votes in 2014, hopes to win at least five seats, but for Congress (15.22% votes in 2014), with the veteran Sheila Dikshit back in the saddle, it is a battle for survival.
It's advantage Cong
The BJP won 7 seats in 2014 (Congress 1, INLD 2) and months later swept the Assembly polls for the first time on its own. The graph and performance of the party have since been on a downhill journey and now faces immense anti-incumbency. The ministers and MPs are vocal against the first time MLA, and a non-Jat to boot, Manohar Lal Khattar, whom Modi chose for chief ministership.
The resentment of the dominant Jat community against the BJP is palpable and the government’s failure to act against the perpetrators of the bloody 2016 Jat agitation has left the non-Jat communities unhappy. The state has witnessed a complete breakdown of law and order on several occasions.The party is likely to lose seats but the Opposition is not in great shape either.
The Chautala-led Opposition party, INLD, has split, leading to a division in Jat votes. The Congress is grappling with infighting, but the BJP’s self-goals, lack of governance are expected to consolidate votes in its favour. The Congress is expected to win 4-6 seats in the state.
Cong’s big chance
The Congress may have won the Rajasthan Assembly polls in December - it barely did so - winning 99 of the 199 seats, falling one short of simple majority. Still, it was a great comeback for the party under the leadership of Sachin Pilot after having sunk to just 21 seats in 2013. The BJP, on the other hand, fell from 163 seats to 73. It must remember that the Rajasthan voters’ anger was directed at then CM Vasundhara Raje and not Modi.
In the absence of the Modi wave of 2014, that farmers’ anger could be enough to dent the BJP’s tally. In 2014, the BJP had won 23 of the state’s 25 seats, and the Congress two.
But now, the Congress has a real chance to close that gap, provided it does a few things: stop the infighting and get the ticket distribution right; fulfil the poll promises of loan waiver and stipend to the unemployed quickly and on a scale that inspires trust in the party. If it does, it could well look at wresting half the seats from the BJP.
Contest wide open
In 2014, the BJP and Shiv Sena fought together as a saffron alliance and won 40 seats (22 BJP, 18 SS). The Congress-NCP combine won seven.
However, both coalitions broke ahead of the Assembly polls the same year. Now, the Congress and NCP have teamed together again, but the Shiv Sena is playing tough with the BJP. By all accounts, the Sena is likely to go it alone this time. For the BJP, though it has swept most local bodies elections in the hinterland in the last four years.
Issues like drought, resentment among farmers, spiralling prices and lack of jobs mean that it is going to face a double anti-incumbency – due to both Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Modi. The Ram temple issue is unlikely to work here. The new 10% quota could help the BJP win over the Maratha community.
It's neck and neck
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, which had opposed the division of the state and had allied with the Narendra Modi-led BJP, had topped with 16 seats and K Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS, which was the spearhead of the Telangana movement won 11; Jagan Reddy’s YSRCP had bagged 9; Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, Congress and the BJP had won 1, 2 and 3 seats, respectively.
In 2019, the divided Andhra Pradesh has 25 LS seats and Telangana 17; the TDP has walked out of the BJP-led NDA over the issue of Special Category status, and its main rival is the YSRCP.
Apart from facing anti-incumbency in the state, Naidu’s ‘Mahakutami’ with Congress and CPI for Assembly elections in Telangana also bombed. After that experience, TDP is unlikely to have an alliance with Congress in AP. The other player is Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena, which is expected to rake in votes in areas dominated by the Kapu community.
While the TDP is still expected to lead the pack with 10-12 seats, the YSRCP, with gains in the coastal region, is likely to at least slightly improve its tally, perhaps match the TDP’s. It remains to be seen how YSRCP’s ties with the TRS shapes up and affects it.
The honeymoon continues
Cashing in on the Modi wave, the BJP won 27 of the 29 seats in 2014 and polled a staggering 54% of votes compared to the 34.9% of the Congress which won the remaining two seats.
In the Assembly elections held in December 2018, Congress –which won the polls - established lead in 18, leaving the rest to the BJP.
Voters’ political honeymoon with the Congress-led Kamal Nath government is unlikely to be over till the coming Lok Sabha polls. The Congress may win between 18 and 22 seats and the BJP may have to remain satisfied at 7-11 seats.
Still BJD’s fortress
As many as 21 Lok Sabha seats are up for grabs in Odisha where the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal has an iron grip on power.
Along with the Lok Sabha election, Patnaik will also seek a fifth term as chief minister as Assembly polls are held simultaneously. Over the past 19 years, Patnaik has managed to keep his personal image intact despite several BJD leaders’ involvement in corruption cases.
The Congress and BJP have been relegated to the fringes of the political spectrum. In 2014, the BJD won 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats defying the Modi wave that had engulfed the country. The BJP won the lone seat while the Congress drew a blank. In the Assembly polls, BJD won 114 out of the 147 seats.
However, Patnaik may not be able to repeat the same performance in 2019 but would continue to be the undisputed leader of the state with some reduced strength.
The buzz about Prime Minister Narendra Modi contesting from Puri Lok Sabha seat is also expected to have a limited impact. The BJD has been equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress but may align with the former if the need arises.
No more a clean sweep
After the Congress gave the BJP a tough fight in the 2017 Assembly elections, improving its tally to 77 seats and restricting the BJP to 99 seats, the BJP is going all out to maintain its 2014 Lok Sabha position in Modi’s home state – 26 out of 26. The ruling party’s election in-charge and senior BJP leader Om Prakash Mathur has assured party men that it would indeed sweep all 26 seats this time, too.
Interestingly, caste polarisation cost the BJP many seats in the 2017 Assembly polls, when the Patidars and Dalits turned away from the party. The 10% quota for upper castes, of which Gujarat has already announced implementation, could help the party regain Patidar support. To ensure the continued support of the core Hindutva vote base, BJP chief Amit Shah recently met sadhus and the RSS chief in Rajkot to discuss the Ram temple issue and is said to have assured them that the temple would be built in Ayodhya.
Swinging DMK’s way
In Tamil Nadu, with 39 LS seats, and Puducherry with 1 seat, the alliances are still unclear. But as things stand today, the DMK-Congress-Left combine seems to have a headway due to anti-incumbency factor against both the AIADMK government in the state and the BJP government at the Centre, specifically an anti-Modi sentiment.
The DMK-Congress-Left combine is arithmetically strong and has a clear edge over both AIADMK and also if it allies with BJP, which has hardly any base in the state. The AIADMK is vertically split, its government is hugely unpopular and does not have the charisma of J Jayalalithaa to garner votes. On the other side, the DMK has a strong leader in MK Stalin and the party has projected Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial nominee.
In 2014, the AIADMK had won 37 seats, BJP 1 and PMK 1. In 2019, the DMK combine could win 35-39 seats, leaving AIADMK with 0-4. In neighbouring Puducherry, too, the Congress-DMK combine has an edge. The BJP has no base here, and that of its ally NR Congress, which won the lone seat in 2014, is eroding.
The BJP is trying its best (or worst) to raise the Hindutva temperature in Bengal, but the state is unlikely to see much change in terms of seats. This is because Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s popularity continues as it was. The Trinamool Congress is expected to bag 30-38 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state (34 in 2014). The BJP is expected to come a close second in many of the 42 LS seats, and win in 2-3. The CPM, which ruled Bengal for 34 years, is unlikely to see any gains in the LS polls as is evident from its poor performance in the recent bypolls, where the BJP pushed it to third place. The CPM may still win 2-3 seats; Congress’ tally is likely to come down to two (from four in 2014), with the party confined to Murshidabad and Malda.
BJP will consolidate position
Barring Mizoram, the BJP either leads the coalition governments or is part of them in all other Northeastern states. The party’s surge since 2014 in Christian majority regions has been surprising. The strong protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, however, points to the BJP losing some of the gains.
Still, with 14 seats in Assam, the BJP, which won 7 in 2014, believes the Bill will actually help it get the maximum of the nearly 20% Bengali Hindu vote and consolidate its grip over the state’s Hindutva voters. Also, the lack of strong leadership in Congress and possible division of the nearly 30% Muslim votes amongst the Congress, AGP and Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF could help the BJP. Its tally might increase to 10 in Assam, eating into the Congress and AIUDF.
In Tripura and Manipur, the BJP’s chances are better as the state governments are just a year old and anti-incumbency is yet to build up. It could win the four seats between them, and also the two seats in Arunachal Pradesh. In Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, its regional allies will do the job, bringing three of the four seats between them while the Congress struggles due to leadership issues.
JAMMU AND KASHMIR
PDP’s loss is NC’s gain
In the 2014 polls, the PDP won all three seats in the Valley while the BJP won two seats in Jammu and the lone Ladakh seat. However, 2019 may prove entirely different for both the parties.
The PDP-BJP coalition ruled the state, the government was unpopular and because of this, both the parties may not perform well in the LS polls.
The Congress and National Conference would gain from this. There is all likelihood that the PDP may lose all three seats to its arch-rival NC while the Congress may wrest back Ladakh and one of the two Jammu seats from the BJP.
The saffron party’s chances of winning have shrunk and may win the Jammu seat only.
No Sabarimala effect
Except in a couple of seats, the LS polls may not see much changes in the political equation in Kerala, despite the storm over the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala shrine.
The Congress-led UDF won 12 seats as against eight of the CPM-led LDF, now ruling coalition of the state.
There was not much difference in vote share – 42% of UDF to 41 of LDF. The BJP, which drew a blank in 2014, may hope to win Thiruvananthapuram if at all the temple issue has any impact on the electorate. If the rehabilitation issue after the deadly floods has any impact, then LDF may lose one or two seats.
It’s grand alliance again
Jharkhand has always been considered a BJP stronghold – be it in undivided Bihar or after bifurcation of the state in 2000, but not this time.
In 2014, the BJP won 12 of the 14 seats. The regional JMM won the other two. Besides Modi’s appeal, BJP won largely because the Opposition votes were split in a multi-cornered contest.
The scenario is the opposite in 2019, with JMM, RJD, Congress and JVM joining hands to form a Mahagatbandhan. In a straight contest, the saffron camp should be satisfied if it retains even three seats.
Cong will turn tables
After a resounding win in the Assembly elections in December last year, the Congress is sitting pretty. The party, which won only one out of 11 (rest 10 went to BJP) in 2014 will, in all probability, turn the tables on the BJP and may get at least 6-7 seats.
In the Assembly polls, it had established a lead in seven LS seats. The party is poised to do well in the Maoist-hit Bastar area as it has taken up pro-tribal programmes.
It is likely to do well in urban areas, too, taking off from the Assembly wins in these areas.
BJP sitting pretty
With the Congress still in disarray following large scale defections two years ago, the BJP appears to be sitting pretty.
The BJP had won all five seats in 2014 and again swept the 2017 Assembly polls by winning 57 of 70 seats. The BJP maintained its winning streak in the mayoral polls early last year by grabbing five of the seven seats. The Congress won only two. Almost the entire the top leadership of the state Congress, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, had defected to BJP before the Assembly polls.
Barring the Hardwar LS seat, where the Congress, in alliance with SP may give a fight, the saffron party seems to enjoy an edge over its rivals.
GOA AND DAMAN AND DIU
BJP’s domination to continue
Goa’s two LS seats are currently held by the BJP. Going by the trend, it appears it will retain both seats. In South Goa, BJP’s vote share was 48%, in North Goa 58%. The BJP’s stalwart in Goa is Chief Minister Manohar Parikkar. His failing health is a major concern for the party. The BJP has also held Daman and Diu Union territory Lok Sabha seat since 2009. Its MP, Lalubhai Patel, has a strong base and is likely to retain the seat.
On the backfoot
The Union Territory of Chandigarh is predominantly an urban seat, now represented by the BJP’s actor-politician Kiron Kher. The Congress also enjoys sizeable support. Civic issues remain dominant in deciding voter preferences. The BJP is ridden with factionalism that may cost the party dear. The voters aren’t too pleased with the BJP’s performance. Being an urban seat, GST and demonetisation will impact votes.
Chamling is supreme
Sikkim with its lone Lok Sabha seat is unlikely to see any major changes and the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) is going to retain the seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The SDF supremo and the longest serving Chief Minister in the country Pawan Chamling has ensured that the BJP does not get any foothold in the state.