Politics

An anti-BJP front in 2019 is more likely to function at the state-level rather than as a pan-India alliance under the leadership of the Congress

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) defeated the Congress in the elections for Rajya Sabha’s Deputy Chairman’s post. The NDA managed this feat despite not having a majority in the house.

Three major non-NDA non-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) parties – the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) – voted for the NDA candidate. Abstentions from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the YSR Congress further lowered the Congress candidate’s tally.

While this is another important political victory for the BJP, it will be premature to dismiss the prospects of a larger anti-BJP coalition in the 2019 election on the basis of these results. Here’s why.

An anti-BJP front in 2019 is more likely to function at the state-level rather than as a pan-India alliance under the leadership of the Congress. In an interview to Hindustan Times, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar attributed this to the Congress losing its erstwhile dominance in India’s polity. Such a process is bound to face two kinds of contradictions.

A coming together of one set of regional parties with the Congress will also create a counter-polarisation behind the BJP. Let us take Tamil Nadu for example. The Congress is likely to have an alliance with the DMK, while the AIADMK appears to be heading towards a pre-poll alliance with the BJP.

Similarly, while the Shiv Sena has been indulging in anti-Modi rhetoric for some time, it also realises that parting ways with the BJP will significantly diminish its electoral prospects in case the Congress and the NCP restore their pre-poll alliance in the state. This probably explains why the Shiv Sena voted for the NDA candidate in the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman election even though it abstained in the voting on the no-confidence motion.

In some states local antagonism among parties is bound to prevent a grand alliance against the BJP despite broad ideological congruence. The case of the AAP and the Congress in Delhi, the Left and the Congress in Kerala and the Left and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal are some such examples. The resistance by local units of these parties against an all-in-unity pre-poll alliance against the BJP is not very difficult to explain. Any such alliance is likely to do long-term damage to the prospects of the junior partner in the alliance.

For example if the Congress cedes leadership of the anti-BJP alliance in Delhi to the AAP, it’ll be a clear admission that it sees itself as the distant third player in Delhi’s politics. Such forces will probably be more comfortable doing business with an anti-BJP front in a post-poll scenario. To be sure, the Opposition is not only one facing such contradictions. In some states, the BJP might be planning to enter into new alliances as a junior partner. The behaviour of the TRS and the BJD – they did not vote during the no-confidence motion and voted for the NDA in the Deputy Chairman’s election – in Telangana and Odisha fits into this category. In case such alliances happen, there is bound to discontent within the BJP ranks in such states, because the electoral ambitions of local leaders will now have to be sacrificed.

The following table shows how different political parties voted in the Deputy Chairman’s election. It also shows the likely attitude of a party in its state of influence vis-à-vis the Congress and the BJP in the 2019 elections. All parties which voted for either the Congress or the BJP have been considered as potential allies. (Table 1 here: party-wise voting).

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) defeated the Congress in the elections for Rajya Sabha’s Deputy Chairman’s post. The NDA managed this feat despite not having a majority in the house.

Three major non-NDA non-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) parties – the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) – voted for the NDA candidate. Abstentions from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the YSR Congress further lowered the Congress candidate’s tally.

While this is another important political victory for the BJP, it will be premature to dismiss the prospects of a larger anti-BJP coalition in the 2019 election on the basis of these results. Here’s why.

An anti-BJP front in 2019 is more likely to function at the state-level rather than as a pan-India alliance under the leadership of the Congress. In an interview to Hindustan Times, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar attributed this to the Congress losing its erstwhile dominance in India’s polity. Such a process is bound to face two kinds of contradictions.

A coming together of one set of regional parties with the Congress will also create a counter-polarisation behind the BJP. Let us take Tamil Nadu for example. The Congress is likely to have an alliance with the DMK, while the AIADMK appears to be heading towards a pre-poll alliance with the BJP.

Similarly, while the Shiv Sena has been indulging in anti-Modi rhetoric for some time, it also realises that parting ways with the BJP will significantly diminish its electoral prospects in case the Congress and the NCP restore their pre-poll alliance in the state. This probably explains why the Shiv Sena voted for the NDA candidate in the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman election even though it abstained in the voting on the no-confidence motion.

In some states local antagonism among parties is bound to prevent a grand alliance against the BJP despite broad ideological congruence. The case of the AAP and the Congress in Delhi, the Left and the Congress in Kerala and the Left and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal are some such examples. The resistance by local units of these parties against an all-in-unity pre-poll alliance against the BJP is not very difficult to explain. Any such alliance is likely to do long-term damage to the prospects of the junior partner in the alliance.

For example if the Congress cedes leadership of the anti-BJP alliance in Delhi to the AAP, it’ll be a clear admission that it sees itself as the distant third player in Delhi’s politics. Such forces will probably be more comfortable doing business with an anti-BJP front in a post-poll scenario. To be sure, the Opposition is not only one facing such contradictions. In some states, the BJP might be planning to enter into new alliances as a junior partner. The behaviour of the TRS and the BJD – they did not vote during the no-confidence motion and voted for the NDA in the Deputy Chairman’s election – in Telangana and Odisha fits into this category. In case such alliances happen, there is bound to discontent within the BJP ranks in such states, because the electoral ambitions of local leaders will now have to be sacrificed.

The following table shows how different political parties voted in the Deputy Chairman’s election. It also shows the likely attitude of a party in its state of influence vis-à-vis the Congress and the BJP in the 2019 elections. All parties which voted for either the Congress or the BJP have been considered as potential allies. (Table 1 here: party-wise voting).

 

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