Great expectations

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There are many twists and turns yet to come before the 2019 poll though BJP keeps pole position

Opposition efforts to get the candidate of their choice elected as the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha came spectacularly undone on Thursday. Not only did they change candidates midstream in the run-up to the poll, the division of votes threw up two very interesting factoids. First, non-NDA, non-UPA parties' votes including 13 AIADMK, 9 BJD, 6 TRS and 1 INLD along with 4 Nominated members' votes and those of three Independents added to the NDA's 89 to give the ruling alliance 125 votes for the well-liked Harivansh Singh of Nitish Kumar's JDU. Secondly, the Opposition's candidate BK Hariprasad of the Congress, failed to secure 18 votes from his own side as three MPs each from the Congress and SP and two from the TMC were absent during voting while all three AAP MPs also stayed away. Two members each of the PDP and DMK were also not present during the voting while one Naga People's Front MP was also absent and two MPS from the YRS Congress abstained from voting. Hariprasad, therefore, ended up with just 101 votes, much less than what he ought to have polled even in a losing cause. The only people surprised by the result were our South Korean television channels. Expectedly, the BJP/NDA is gung-ho after the win. But backroom strategists, while happy to augment the momentum generated for them and the dissensions exposed in Opposition ranks by the victory, know that expostulating from this win the contours and constituents of a BJP-led NDA or an Opposition grand alliance would be premature. Just as some good performances by a combined Opposition in various Lok Sabha/Assembly by-polls does not a mean much in terms of the actual formation of an effective mahagathbandhan, though once again the momentum generated helps the Opposition narrative, ditto the win in the election to the RS Deputy Chairman for the BJP/NDA.

The point has been made that the BJP has learnt a lesson — allies, both current and lapsed and future will be the key to winning the 2019 General Election. Well, yes and no. Yes, allies are always needed when you have about 30-odd per cent of the popular vote in a first-past-the-post electoral system. No, the BJP did not learn this from its RS win. The BJP, unlike the principal Opposition party the Congress, is clear not only about its ideological moorings but also on its approach to stay electorally relevant and organisationally dominant while building its narrative with the help of our North Korean television channels. So, it is not as if in the search for allies the party will stop its aggressive expansion plans; it will continue to do so in States such as West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Orissa, Assam, North East and Karnataka where alliances are either not needed or not possible pre-poll. Then there are States such as Bihar, Maharashtra and Punjab where the NDA alliance is intact but fraying at the edges; here, the BJP and its allies are likely to keep the status quo till the 2019 Lok Sabha poll because splitting would mean both alliance partners lose seats/votes. The Hindi heartland, where the BJP has to defend its massive wins of 2014, remains the key for the Opposition depending on whether it and especially the Congress can punch according to it weight in these parts.

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