“2019 elections may have no precedent in terms of past elections”

Bengaluru | Updated on February 10, 2019

Yogendra Yadav Politician , Rahul Verma Fello at CPRand D r Manisha Priyam Semior Academic and Researcher conversation with Editor The Hindu Mukund Padmanabhan during THE HINDU Huddle 2019 in Bengaluru on Sunday

Will the road to victory in the 2019 General Elections go via the Hindi belt, will it be one national election or one that would go state by state as alliances between national and regional parties get stitched up and will economic issues prevail over identity and others, these were just some of the questions that got thrashed out in the session dealing with “2019: Which way will the elections go?” moderated by The Hindu’s editor, Mukund Padmanabhan.

While the panellists- political activist Yogendra Yadav, and political scientists Manisha Priyam and Rahul Verma agreed more or less that the Hindi belt and the BJP’s showing in these polls will determine who gets to rule Delhi, there were differences in degrees and nuances. Yadav saw the BJP losing at least 100 seats out of the 226 seats up for grabs in the Hindi belt states (with 40 seats being accounted for from Uttar Pradesh alone), and considered it the most significant factor in deciding the election. “The situation in the 226 seats of the Hindi belt will the most change, in the remaining 325 seats other than this belt, the changes will cancel each other out as far as the BJP is concerned,” he said.

“Historically, the evidence shows that apart from an exception in 1999 in Rajasthan, the party that wins the Assembly polls (that happen right before General Elections) in the three states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh go on to win the larger number of Lok Sabha seats in the General Elections. We must not take it for granted though as in Rajasthan we see a bounce back for the BJP, not so much in Madhya Pradesh in Chattisgarh,” he said.

Verma flagged high polling and its effect on vote share to seat conversion as an important factor to see when assessing what might happen. “We don’t have a good understanding of the 2014 elections. When we look at just high voter turn outs we find that in seats where the voter turn out rose by 15% or more, the BJP’s seat conversions to vote share was 96 per cent and where the turn out was the same as last time, the vote share to seat conversion was 34 per cent,” he said. He added that the turn out factor explained what subsequently happened with the bye polls in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana, where turn outs were low but BJP managed to maintain vote share. “I maintain that we are in a BJP dominated party system and therefore the election will be shaped by how BJP plays the game. The 2019 elections may have no precedent in terms of past elections,” he said.

The question of whether this would be a personality centric poll or go state by state also elicited interesting answers. Priyam maintained that even in 2014, the election was state by state. “The elections of 2014 was also about many Indias and the many local compacts that (Prime Minister) Modi made via his over 500 rallies across the country. It was always a campaign with the PM face at the but then in the larger narrative to pitch local issues and colour,” she said. Yadav said that the BJP would prefer it to be one national election. “(Prime Minister) Modi as any astute political player, knows that success depends on a national narrative. In the larger narrative, he knows where to pitch and what kind of regional colour is required,” he said.

On the issues that will affect the elections, economic factors, rural distress and jobs were flagged as the most important, although Yadav felt that the government deserved to be voted out on its effect on India’s institutions and secularism. Priyam had an interesting take on how job losses were being internalised and may impact polls. “The jobs crisis is resulting in breaking of pathways of social mobility, with young people especially in small towns unable to move further up with their lives. With demonetisation too, while in the beginning it engendered enthusiasm, it has resulted in economic distress. What’s being offered in return for all this is the politics of the dominant, through the granting of 10% reservations for economically weaker sections (EWS),” she said.

Published on February 10, 2019

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