The Lok Sabha 2014 elections were landmark as the winning party got a simple majority on its own after 30 years (after LS 1984). BJP rode on the gigantic wave of TsuNaMo and won 282 seats, in spite of its limited geographical footprint. The grand old party Congress slumped to it’s worse possible performance with a paltry 44 seats. Had it not been for the Southern states of Karnataka and Kerala, Congress might have dipped below 35 seats as well.
Now as we are past the first phase of the elections of 2019, Congress and its liberal ecosystem are desperate to stop Modi rather than win themselves. Another 5 year tenure for Modi, would mean end of career for many of the Congress stalwarts and established media superstars.
These elements are banking on the BJP winning less than 220 seats and are ready to bear a BJP Prime Minister other than Narendra Modi. Though Congressmen in their bravado are saying that Rahul Gandhi is the next Prime Minister, they know that Congress is not in a position to lead any coalition. The regional satraps are salivating at the prospects of a 1996 redux, where Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral were capitulated to the PM position for a short duration. The elusive third front could be formed in a new avatar and they are banking on the Congress to support from outside (as in 1996).
Given the magnitude of the BJP’s victory where it swept majority of the Northern and Western states, it is always likely that BJP would leak some seats in these states esp in Uttar Pradesh where the SP-BSP combination is giving a tough fight to the BJP. The Congress expects to profit from the situation and try to get a sizeable number of seats to force the regionals to back it for the Delhi throne.
As an armchair observer of politics (since 1996), I did an exercise of calculating the number of seats Congress is likely to win in LS 2019. I have worked out three different tallies for the Congress purely based on the current news, exit polls, my understanding of the Congress’s position in each of the states and relevant past results,
a) Highly Pessimistic Tally
b) Normal Tally
c) Highly Optimistic Tally
As can be seen from the table above, following are my inferences,
- Congress is likely to open its tally in Rajasthan especially in the coming Vidhan Sabha election. Though Modi continues to stay popular in Rajasthan, I have considered 7 seats (out of 25) LS seats for Congress in Rajasthan. That’s a big gain considering they had zero seats in 2014.
- Congress is also likely to gain in Maharashtra in the scenario where the Congress – NCP combine take on the incumbent NDA. Congress had a paltry 2 seats in 2014. However the Congress is not in a position anymore to touch its peak of 17 seats in LS 2009. They are nearly wiped out of Mumbai-Thane-Konkan-Pune belt (15 seats) and hardly in fight in 2-3 seats. Congress had won 8 seats (5 in Mumbai, 1 in Thane, 1 in Pune, 1 in Konkan) in this belt in LS 2009. Also Congress had won the Nagpur seat in 2009, which they are unlikely to win against Nitin Gadkari now. So congress is likely to win 5 seats and in the most optimistic scenario about 7 seats. The seats that Congress is in contention are Nandurbar, Bhiwandi, Nanded and few seats of Vidarbha. In Mumbai, Congress is in fight in Mumbai North Central and Mumbai South purely due to the presence of heavyweight candidates in the form of Priya Dutt and Milind Deora respectively. Though they are unlikely to win any seats in Mumbai.
- Congress is also likely to gain in the state of Kerala at the cost of the communists. They held 8 seats on their own in 2014 and now likely to win a maximum of 12 seats.
- Congress had won 9 seats in Karnataka in 2014 and looks likely to lose 2-3 seats, due to their alliance with the JD(S) where they had to concede some seats like Mandya. Also Modi is getting huge and responsive crowds in Karnataka.
- Congress is in a poor state in Andhra Pradesh with even Chandra Babu Naidu not keen to ally with Congress. They can max win 1 seat in Andhra Pradesh and similarly 1-2 in Telangana. With KCR having swept back the state, LS 2019 would go on same lines. Also BJP is in contention in 1-2 seats of Telangana. This makes the task tougher for Congress.
- In Tamil Nadu, Congress depends on the largesse of DMK to win 3-4 seats. They hardly have any base of their own.
- Completing the Southern states, Congress could win the South Goa seat and thus have the gain of one seat.
- Congress gains in the rest of the country are expected to be negligible. For a normal tally projection I have considered 2 seats in Gujarat, 4 in MP, 8 in Chattisgarh and 5 in Jharkhand.
- Congress will perform below average in West Bengal where I project 3 seats for them. The main fight seems to be between the TMC and the BJP.
- Main reason for Congress decimation is that they aren’t winning seats in UP and Bihar. I am giving them 3 seats apiece in UP and Bihar, mainly due to alliances with like-minded parties.
- Congress will be decimated in Delhi as the much promised alliance with AAP has not happened.
- Congress will lose a sizeable number of seats in the North East. In the normal scenario that I have come up with, Congress isn’t crossing 100 seats. In fact the Congress tally in a highly optimistic scenario is 120, but as I said this is a highly optimistic scenario and unlikely to work out.
In India, there are two types of voters for any political party. The first are the cadre or the committed voters. The second are the undecided or floating voters who move towards the perceived winning party, closer to the elections.
If these undecided or floating voters see that the Congress is not going to cross 100 seats, majority of them would move towards the winning horse viz. BJP.
As the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor is helping Narendra Modi stand heads and shoulders ahead of any contenders, similarly Congress is likely to be handicapped by the perception among the swing voters that the party is unlikely to breach the three digit mark. As voters usually don’t want to waste their votes on the losing horse, the going could get tougher for the Congress. Despite winning Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, Congress is not a serious contender in the eyes of the floating voters. Clearly an uphill and improbable task for the Congress in 2019. Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are doing very few rallies as of now compared to Narendra Modi who is doing 3-4 rallies daily. Seems the Congress is keeping their powder dry for 2024.