April-May 2019 is the scheduled time for the next General Elections of India. But I have a different opinion. The polls shall be pre-poned to 2018, and held during October-November of this year. Why? I have several tangible reasons to believe this.
BJP may bring ahead the General Elections from April-May 2019 advancing by six months, and try to club as many state assembly elections as possible (can go up to 12 at the most without much efforts).
This will deny the much-needed time for opposition unity, will prevent the opposition parties from sinking their historical rivalry and current differences, and also prevent them from raising material resources to fight the mother of all elections in India which they are extremely starved of just now, especially after the demonetization and loss of power in most states.
BJP, in the aftermath of bypoll losses in Rajasthan, MP and UP, back to back, has an uphill task in the states. The anti-incumbency in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, both due for state polls in the next six months, is at its worst and there can be upset wins of the opposition, more so because there is just one major Opposition, Congress, which is interestingly fighting with a united face this time. Hence, clubbing general elections with these state elections will block the anti BJP sentiments from swelling further with a possible debacle in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh assembly polls.
Early polls of several state assemblies is also in the political interest of the ruling party. Telengana, Andhra and Odisha are anyway due for assembly polls in early 2019, which by law can be pre-poned as they are within six months from possible end-2018 elections. In Maharashtra, the ruling allies BJP and Shiv Sena are at loggerheads for quite some time now. A clear favourable mandate will help BJP in governance ahead. The BJP government in Haryana has been faultering on several counts, and that of Jharkhand is on a risky slim majority with ally AJSU Party playing truant there. Also, Jammu & Kashmir government has been broken and Mizoram is also due for polls. Even in Bihar, the state BJP is raring to emerge from its current status of a junior partner. Goa government is also dependent on support of shaky allies. So, with MP, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan included, this makes for as many as 12 states which may go for simultaneous polls with LS polls this year-end, this clubbing of two being a favourite poll position of PM Modi for quite some time now.
A win in LS and around 10 Assemblies will make BJP central to Indian politics for a decade more, and Modi-Shah the core of this positioning. Too much at stakes for BJP just now, and advancing the polls is one major way to take back the narrative. Advancing LS polls, with full readiness of campaign and resources, for the same is the single-most impacting strategy to return to power for PM Modi.
Further, the meteorological department has predicted good to healthy monsoon this time and the current agrarian distress can be ebbed this season. So, combined election after the monsoon session and season makes an immense sense for BJP. The government has just now announced readiness to give Minimum Support Prices at one and half times the cost of production (though there are debates still on how this can be calculated). So, MSP payouts will come six months after the monsoons, roughly the time when India is expected to go for general elections next year. Whatever care you might take, the ruling party is bound to face farmers’ ire and bad press on the MSP payouts then. And, an election with such ire and possible loss in some states before, is too risky a proposition for BJP.
Pre-poning the general elections can also avoid the government from bringing in vote-on-accounts in March next year, and it can rather go for a full-scale first budget of the next government. This will save the government from resorting to a lot of data jugglery and will allow it to focus on big ticket reforms next year.
In a combined general and assembly elections scenario, local discontent tends to tone down and the exercise can be presidentialised by BJP projecting Modi as the visionary strong-man being opposed by a battery of ‘corrupt political dwarfs and regional chieftains’. Local state level anti incumbency then tends to be put under the carpet with a careful mix of messaging, promises and visuals.
With a possible favourable Ramjanmabhoomi verdict by October latest, and an ongoing muscular policy in Kashmir after President’s rule being imposed there, apart from possible surgical strikes on Pak border and arrest of annihilation of Dawood Ibrahim, along with a legislation on triple talaq in Parliament, the BJP could create a narrative overwhelming in its favour by the end of this year than later. These issues may lose their sheen over time, including good monsoon impact.
The biggest reason surely is to deprive the disparate and desperate Opposition parties from clubbing together more coherently at state-level or nationally, raise resources, and develop any semblance of a positive Common Minimum Program and take it to the electorate effectively, going beyond their current politics of anti-Modiism and insecurity. The leadership dividend that BJP has in Modi may best work in a scenario where several opposition leaders are still seen to be squabbling and sulking and not united behind a face, or an idea, or a program.