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Kumar Ketkar

What next for PM Modi post elections?

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Exactly 36 days from now, on May 23, the fate and fortune of the country will be decided. It is going to be the truly historic verdict. Never before in the electoral history of India since 1952, such high-voltage anxiety and apprehension were there. The question is: Why is this fear psychosis?

It is not as if the BJP is in power for the first time. There was BJP-NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee, but there was no fear, though there were some anxiety and concern. But since 2014, the socio-political fabric is injected by apprehension, even invisible terror. The experience of the last five years has reinforced that collective freight. Why has May 23 become like an apprehensive night of long knives?Indeed, are we, particularly the opposition parties, psychologically and organisationally prepared for that D-Day, which can bring about shocks and surprises? What are the likely scenarios? The main question will be what will Narendra Modi do if he does not get at least a simple majority.

Amit Shah’s bravado is the BJP will win 350 seats. But even the “favourable opinion polls” do not give the entire NDA more than 280 seats. This means the BJP will be much lower. To repeat the question, therefore, what will Narendra Modi do, if he does not win for the BJP, the majority. Will he simply resign from the Prime Ministership, or as leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party, by accepting moral responsibility of the defeat.

Further, if he wins less than even 180 or 160 seats, what will he do? Would he sit on the opposition benches and watch coalitions getting formed? Would the BJP demand change in leadership? Lal Krishna Advani was sidelined by the party, on instructions from the RSS. In fact that created space for Narendra Modi.

Vajpayee quietly quit in 1996, just after 13 days of being PM, when he saw, there was no Loksabha majority. He resigned again in 1999, just after one year after forming the government, when he lost majority only by one vote.

He will not resign. He will do just anything, but not give up the power and chair. But not quit! Let us see what other scenarios are possible?

Scenario One:

Narendra Modi-led BJP will lose a hundred or even more seats than in 2014. This means 170 to 190 seats to the BJP alone. The number was 282 in 2014 and 31 per cent votes. (Just for reference it should be remembered that Mrs Indira Gandhi had won 283 seats but had 41 per cent votes).

As the single largest party and its leader, he would be invited to form the government. Modi can be sworn in as Prime Minister. He is a man whose DNA is autocratic, manipulative and ruthless. He will use all his power, money, muscle, machine and media to bulldoze his way through. He has the support of some diabolical international organisation, including some in the Gulf.

In that situation, of the BJP or Narendra Modi getting single largest party status, he will need nearly 100 plus seats from pre-poll or post-poll alliances. His pre-poll alliances are Shiv Sena, Jana Dal (U), AIADMK, Akali Dal. But these allies can bring in a maximum of 25 seats. (Shiv Sena 10, Janata Dal (U) 10, AIADMK 3 and Kali Dal 2). So the NDA cannot bring the tally beyond 205.

The post-poll alliance of the BJP-NDA can be with TRS, as K Chandrashekhar Rao has already indicated his support to Modi. He can add about 10 seats. Jagan Mohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh (YSR Congress) too can bring over a dozen seats to the NDA. Similarly, Biju Janata Dal of Odisha can add nearly 10 seats. About 10 seats can come from regional parties in the Northeast. There can be 10 independents across the country who could be included in the fold. That can bring the number to 260 seats (pre-poll 205 plus 55 from the post-poll alliances)

If they all agree to Narendra Modi’s leadership, then he will be Prime Minister, notwithstanding the fact of 10 or 20 seats short of statistical Majority of 273 in Loksabha. Of course, if all these figures shoot up slightly, then the NDA will have close to 280 seats, and if the consensus is Modi to lead the NDA, then he would be the PM.

Scenario Two:

If the BJP wins, on the other hand, 150 to 170 seats, then it would be extremely difficult to remobilise support of other regional parties to take the figure to anywhere near 273.  In that situation, Modi can try and break the alliance of SP-BSP and bring in his fold the BSP. Modi and Amit Shah can promise Mayavati, for instance, the Deputy PM’s Post and assure withdrawal of all cases under investigation of Enforcement Directorate, CBI or Income Tax. That can add about 30 seats to NDA tally. So if he has managed about 240 seats, post-poll, the BSP will New NDA to power. In that situation, however, there can be demand from the NDA partners to change the leadership of Narendra Modi.

Scenario Three:

Who then will be the new NDA leader? The names making rounds in the grapevine are Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Nitish Kumar or Navin Patnaik. The first two from the BJP and the other two are from the partners in the NDA. However, Modi’s hatred of Gadkari is well known in the BJP.circles. Indeed, it was at the behest of Modi that Gadkari was denied his pre-sanctioned party presidentship in 2014. The deal with Rajnath Singh was that he would facilitate Modi’s Prime Ministerial candidature. However, everyone in the party knows that the intensity of their hostility towards each other. So if Gadkari or Rajnath Singh are chosen as NDA leaders, Modi will have to eat a humble pie.

The less likely would be the choice of BJD leader Navin Patnaik or Nitish Kumar, because other NDA partners may not endorse them. But then the hypothesis is that there can be support from the non-NDA parties since they are united on their objective of removing Modi first. But in this scenario, even the BJP can take a dubious position of supporting these called “neutral” candidate from other (regional) parties. That is because quite a few of the BJP leaders are not in favour of Modi-Shah. Some are even stridently opposed but are not vocal.

Scenario Four:

Most opposition parties could come together to isolate BJP and Modi to form another front—Fourth Front or Federal Front or Secular Front! They can choose an altogether different leader to lead the new front. Then the choice is from many others, aspirants or non-aspirants. Just as the choice in 1996 was Jyoti Basu, who committed “Himalayan Blunder” by refusing the Prime Ministership under the dictates of the party and Deve Gowda became PM. That role of Deve Gowda can be performed by Sharad Pawar or Mamata Banerjee or someone in that league.

This will not be easy, because there are too many egos involved, too many contradictions, too many jealousies and hatreds. There is no ideology, only statistics. There is no programme, only connectivity with various leaders. There is no national vision, only petty interests.

What role then Congress will have? It depends on the numbers. The estimated number for the Congress is anywhere between, 90 to 135. That is as wide and as wild as it can be. If indeed Congress gets 135, then it would lead or participate majorly in forming the government. However, Rahul can put the Karnataka formula in action. Sacrifice the PM’s post to someone else, like he gave Chief Minister’s post to H D Kumaraswamy. But that is in the realm of possibilities!

In 2004, the Congress had 145 seats and yet the party could lead a coalition under Dr Manmohan Singh’s leadership and Sonia Gandhi’s direction. That coalition proved stable and could return to power in 2009, by winning even more number of seats. But the UPA -2 began to falter and fluctuate. From 206 it was down to 44 in 2014. Will the party rise again, at least to the level of 2004? Nobody should rule out that either. Nobody had thought in 2004, that the “towering leader” like Vajpayee would lose power, despite the “shining India” hyperbole. Nobody had thought in 1980, that Indira Gandhi would storm into power, just three years after a disastrous defeat in 1977.

The views expressed by the author are his personal. HW News does not necessarily subscribe/endorse the opinions expressed in it. 

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