New Delhi: In a response to the growing moves for opposition unity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a rally in Cuttack on Saturday that “the BJP is in power in 20 states of the country which shows that people have endorsed NDA’s performance in the last four years.”
While the figure is impressive, a study of assembly election results and alliances indicates that the BJP “is in power” in these states largely as a result of smart electoral alliances (both pre-poll and post-poll) with regional parties. In fact, minus its allies, the BJP is in a clear majority only in 10 of the 29 states of India.
To give it credit, the saffron party pulled comprehensive victories in some of the biggest and electorally crucial states in India. Uttar Pradesh (312/403), Haryana (47/90), Madhya Pradesh (165/230), Chhattisgarh (49/90), Rajasthan (163/200), Gujarat (99/182), Uttarakhand (56/70) and Himachal Pradesh (44/68), where the BJP has a clear majority, comprise most of north India. The consolidation of north India in the last few years has clearly helped the BJP to peddle its political narrative of dominance with aplomb.
Tripura is one north-eastern state where it won on its own. It got 35 out of 60 seats but, more importantly, the Hindu nationalist party projected its victory as an ideological win over the communists, who had held the state for more than three decades. This tactic helped it occupy national attention.
Arunachal Pradesh, where it is now in majority, is a different story. Although it had finished with only 11 seats in 2014 assembly polls, losing to the Congress which got 42 seats in the 60-member assembly, it subsequently engineered multiple defections in the opposition ranks to form its own government.
What about other states?
Now, look at its performance in other states. In Maharashtra (122/288), Assam (60/126), Bihar (53/243), Jharkhand (35/81), Goa (13/40), Jammu and Kashmir (25/89), Manipur (21/60), Meghalaya (2/60) and Nagaland (12/60), it is entirely reliant on its regional allies to remain in power. While in Assam, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir, it had pre-electoral alliances with state-level parties, it could become a part of the ruling coalition only through clever post-poll alliances but remains a smaller player in comparison to their allies.
The saffron party remained a non-starter in the remaining states. The following are its figures – one out of 140 in Kerala, three of the 117 seats in Punjab, only three in the 295-member West Bengal assembly, 5 of the 119 members in the Telangana, four out of 175 in Andhra Pradesh, 3 of the 70 in Delhi, and only 10 in the 147-member house in Odisha.
In Karnataka, the only south Indian state where it has a presence, it won 104 out of 222 seats (elections in two remaining seats were postponed) that went to polls recently but could not form the government. In Tamil Nadu, Sikkim and Puducherry, it could not even open its account.
An overall analysis shows that the out of 4,139 MLAs, the BJP has only 1516 legislators. Of this, 950 of its come from only six states – Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat.
The data goes on to indicate that the saffron party cannot afford to miff the regional parties in its pursuit of power. And that an united opposition, which is in the process of maturing and which comprise regional parties of all hues, could prove to be one of the biggest challenges in 2019 general elections.
The Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh has already pulled out of the union government. Allies like Asom Gana Parishad, Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) have been showing signs of protests against the saffron party’s alleged unilateral decision-making. The party has been on a losing spree in the last few by-polls. Many election surveys show that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-led party isn’t in a very good shape in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which are going to polls later this year.
If the BJP does not get the National Democratic Alliance in order soon, more trouble can be in store for it ahead of 2019 parliamentary polls.