As we step into 2019, perhaps the biggest challenge that India faces is who will be the next Prime Minister? Will Narendra Modi manage to retain majority vote or is the stage set for a change? Interestingly this is a question to which there are no clear black and white answer. It is a huge grey area and replete with several possibilities. It goes without saying that the recent victories in state elections has no doubt kindled hopes for the Congress Party. Rahul Gandhi and his party no doubt start the year on a way stronger note than what you would have envisaged at the beginning of 2018.
But as they say, in politics, there is nothing certain. Even a week is sufficient to change the swing from one side to another. Modi is no longer the unbeatable force that he emerged after the May 2014 elections. But the question is what decides the mandate for the Indian voters going forward? That will surely be a crucial element to look into as we head towards one of the most important elections in the history of Indian democracy.
Congress under the aegis of Rahul Gandhi has surely emerged as a strong contender and its recent performance in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and the north eastern states needs attention. But that said, the time is still not ripe to complete write off BJP. As some experts pointed out that in states like Madhya Pradesh the voters still prefer Narendra Modi over their state BJP leaders. That will surely play a definitive role in the 2019 general elections. The question in that context will be how effective can the Modi factor be? Is he strong enough to turn the tide in BJP’s favour despite its dismal performance in the Assembly elections in December, 2018? Unite amongst the opposition parties is also slowly emerging as a crucial concern for the BJP.
On the other hand it will be intriguing to see how regional parties work out the poll equations. Especially in states like Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP did not fare that well in 2014 might offer some insight into what can be expected going forward. That fact that some of the regional parties in this state chose to stay away from a tie-up with Congress further deepens the intrigue and kindles the prospect of multiple potentials.
That said I do believe it is still too early to conclude that India will have a new Prime Minister in 2019. The Modi charisma may have lost its 2014 sheen but you cannot write it off totally. Moreover, operations like Ujjwala, Indradhanush, Jandhan, Rural Electrification – the various parts of the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan or the Rural Empowerment Drive needs to be carefully calibrated.
Also the perception of India on the global platform is also crucial. The Fund Inflows, the investment sentiment and the market conditions are also key indicators. The need of the hour is to adopt a balanced perspective taking into consideration all the relevant factors. It however goes without saying that 2019 elections will be anything but interesting.