May 19 witnessed how Mamata Banerjee led TMC thumped to victory and silenced a lot of her critics and the propaganda machinery of the opposition. The Left Front-Congress alliance also called “Jote” did have something to cheer about before the elections, especially given the fact that at least numerically their combined vote share was very close to that of TMC. Further, they also anticipated a part of the BJP votes could shift to them due to the presence of a more credible opposition. Unfortunately the “Jote” turned out be “Jawt” meaning tangle. There are many issues why this alliance failed to counter Mamata. But our focus is on evaluating what is the road ahead for these parties/alliances in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections? We will try to answer the questions as whether Mamata will be able to hold on to the same mandate in 2019 or whether there will be a dent in her vote share vis-à-vis loss in seats due to the effect of national level elections? Whether Congress can challenge the might of TMC either alone or will it emerge as the senior partner in their alliance with Left in case if they want to continue with the same? Could the Left be able to win back the support of people of Bengal and emerge as a major challenger to TMC or will it completely disintegrate before the elections? Could the BJP emerge as a player to reckon with and occupy the opposition vacuum created after the so called collapse of “Jote”?
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Trinamool Congress (TMC)
With Congress losing ground faster than the movement of T20 scorecard, nationally there is vacuum emerging in the opposition space. This provides the regional leaders like Mamata, Nitish, Jaya, Maya, Mulayam & Naveen an opportunity to occupy the space. However, there presence outside their own states is negligible and hence this could provide an opportunity to the National parties to eat away a sizeable amount of votes from them during National elections. Coming to TMC’s likely performance in 2019, with the Left weakening, the credibility of opposition will be lacking, even though BJP in some pockets could emerge as a serious challenge to the might of TMC and in the process, TMC could lose a few seats to BJP in 2019. Again the effect of 8 years of anti-incumbency cannot be ruled out. But still, it would emerge as the single largest party with close to 30 seats.
After facing the recent poll debacle in Bengal, that also saw them being relegated even behind their one time rival Congress, Left Front could face some existential challenges. Whether they are going to continue with the same alliance with Congress or in case of continuation, whether they will be ready to play the role of a minor partner, these questions require serious level of scrutiny from their politburo. Their chances of revival in 2019 look bleak and there is every possible chance that they could draw a blank in the coming LS polls.
The less it is said, the better for the party. Congress is currently facing leadership bankruptcy. Since 2013 December, it has been losing state after state (only successes being Mizoram & Puducherry and Bihar as a part of alliance) and the party is living in a state of denial. Not only that, it is happily accepting the role of being minor partner in the alliances (Bihar, TN & WB) thereby allowing the other regional parties (remember CPM could lose its National Party status) to occupy the political space. Bengal is not different even though it emerged as the senior partner in terms of outcome as Congress has pockets of influence in the districts of Murshidabad, North Dinajpur and Malda and could easily hold onto at least 4 of the six seats in these regions even if there is no tie up with the Left. However, in case if an alliance is formed, it could see two seats (Murshidabad & Raiganj) emerging as the bone of contention between these two parties/alliances. Elsewhere in the state, Congress is a dud.
BJP along with other constituents of NDA sailed through during 2014 Lok Sabha elections due to Modi wave. Those elections saw BJP’s vote share jumped to 16.8%. Before the assembly elections it was almost certain that BJP will not be able to hold onto the same mandate either due to weakening of Modi wave or due to the dominance of local factors in assembly elections or due to the absence of a credible face to take BJP through. The only questions remained how much will be the erosion of BJP votes and to which direction they will be moving. Pollsters were expecting a major chunk of these votes could to shift to the “Jote”. Unsurprisingly, BJP did lose close to 6% votes. But on the contrary, there was not much shift of BJP towards Jote, rather it shifted towards TMC. Should we form an opinion that some BJP workers at the ground level were instrumental in shifting these votes to hurt the Jote? But that would a digression as our focus is the potential outcome of BJP in 2019 LS elections. BJP is expected to do better as compared to these assembly elections and even could surpass its vote share of 2014 elections. With people’s faith in Left Front dwindling, BJP has a good chance to emerge as the main opposition to TMC in the coming Lok Sabha elections. By the time we reach 2019, a lot of social security schemes started by the current NDA government will reach people and this could brighten the prospects as well. BJP is likely to hold on to the seats it won in 2014, while adding 3-4 more seats to its kitty including Alipurduar.