Ever since 1998, these elections have been the immediate precursor to national elections for the Lok Sabha. And the experience going back to 1998 has been that the party that does well in these states invariably does well in the same states at the Lok Sabha level. There’s definitely some kind of an incumbency honeymoon that is apparent there. That doesn’t mean that it’s certain that the party wins a majority in the national elections because, in 2003-04, we saw the BJP winning in these states and then going on to lose the Lok Sabha elections.
In 1998, the Congress did very well in these three states and did very well in these states in the Lok Sabha elections but lost nationally. So it has been an unreliable bearer of national trend, but considering that the BJP won 62 out of the 65 seats in the Lok Sabha in these three states and that is a little less than a quarter of their total strength in the Lok Sabha.
This is an indicator of more grim struggles ahead for them in the Lok Sabha elections. And add to this, the fact that one other state, Uttar Pradesh, accounts for 70+ seats for them in the Lok Sabha. You have these four states alone accounting for half their total strength in Lok Sabha. And their record in terms of administration in UP, as evidenced by the recent events in Bulandshahr with the lynching of a policeman, has not been distinguished.
Besides, it’s not clear that they will be able to work the social cleavages in a manner that benefits them against a multi-cornered opposition. And the opposition is getting more purposive, more determined to take them on in a united front. I think going forward, they’ll have to prepare themselves for a much harder work.
The BJP leadership, at this time, seems to revel in the campaign mode. They don’t have much time or inclination to attend to the hard work of administration, so how much they’re able to retrieve ground still needs to be seen. Because it’s very clear now that PM Modi’s appeal from the campaign platform is losing that attractiveness that it had at one point.
So all told, we’re going to have a much more competitive election in 2019 and that may be, in a long time perspective, for a good, because it does the country good to have pluralism and a multiplicity of parties governing. In an inherently pluralistic society, it’s always better that we have a pluralistic political dispensation.