There is a cliché saying in the political arena that the path to prime minister’s office in India goes through Uttar Pradesh. While this may not entirely be correct as there are instances in the recent pasts where parties not doing good in UP were able to form governments at centre, this would certainly hold good for BJP.
As BJP stands today where it is yet to make inroads in states like Tamil Nadu, Kerela, Andhra, Telengana and WB (WB may throw some surprises) and has few political parties which would support it in a post poll alliance, hence giving it pretty less margin of error in UP and Northern belt.
Coming to UP where BJP swept the state in 2014 and again in the subsequent state elections, SP and BSP faced existential crisis and have thus recently announced an alliance to fight the elections together. In order to understand the affects of this coalition lets visit the below graph, the graph has randomly selected Lok Sabha constituencies of UP covering all areas like Western, Eastern, Central UP, Bundelkhand and Rohilkhand. The graph plots the vote shares of BJP, SP+BSP (algebraic sum) and the delta (difference between one and two). In around 13 seats of the 30 seats BJP has the edge while in the remaining 17 SP+BSP has the lead. Let’s put these numbers in perspective:
• The figures clearly show that BJP would face a dent in its seats post the SP BSP combine but the picture may not be dismal as stated by some channels giving BJP a sub 20 number.
• In 2017 state elections BJP was able to keep the vote share around 40% a dip of around 2% from its vote share in 2014.
• While SP-BSP combine tasted success in by-polls but the story would be different in general elections where factors like leadership and stable government will play an important role.
• The coalition still has to answer who would be its prime ministerial candidate and the recent rally in Kolkata showed that confusion over leadership.
• In the recently concluded assembly elections BJP was able to contain its vote shares even after facing long anti-incumbency.
• While the leaderships of SP-BSP have decided to join hands , will the vote transfer take place so smoothly is a big question, the two parties have fought each other for past 25 years and have very dissimilar vote bases. While consolidation of minority vote banks will happen, whether SP will be able to transfer its Yadav vote base to BSP and BSP its backward class vote base to SP will be a question, BJP being already dented the BSP’s vote base in previous elections. Thus even a 8%-10% leakage of the votes in favor of BJP can make a huge impact to the results.
• Thus even if BJP loses some of its voters of 2014, substantial amount of leakage may happen from either parties giving it a respectable score in the state.
In the 2014 elections Modi wave was so strong, typically anybody would have fought and won election in UP, but the coming elections will be a real test for the party as it decides the candidates keeping in mind the various calculations on combating the vote transfer between SP and BSP.
How the government is running in Karnataka with the CM regularly conveying his inability to take decisions and the previous experiences of third front government have established the importance of leadership and stability. How well BJP communicates this would also play an important role on how people vote.
There have been sporadic talks that BJP would settle for a non-Modi leader in case NDA is unable to get the majority on its own and wants to seek the support of other parties, but that looks highly improbable with the current style of BJP leadership .Thus in case the NDA does not get to power , we may see a Khichdi government at center and subsequent polls as the khichdi government may not long last.
One of the biggest vagaries of a khichdi government and absence of strong leadership is the inability to take strong decisions, for instance would GST be implemented in case of a khichdi government is a question.
While BJP has started to take decisions like 10% reservation for general category and populist measures are expected in 2019 budget, execution of its health insurance scheme, political manoeuvring etc would decide to what extent it will be able to contain its losses in UP and regain the government at centre.