“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
– Bill Gates
A year ahead BJP supremo Amit Shah sounded the bugle for the Lok Sabha battle by launching a frontal attack on the scared opposition equating them to snakes, mongoose, dogs and cats who despite being traditional rivals are coming together to oppose prime minister Narendra Modi and deny him a second chance. The BJP’s stunning defeats in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-elections make one thing clear: 2019 is going to see a real contest between the BJP and the rest, and Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will have their political strengths tested to the limit. Another conclusion, too, is possible: the BJP’s real challengers will be regional parties like Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a combo that proved lethal in the recently-held by-poll in Uttar Pradesh. Host of factors have forced the Modi-Shah duo to start the electoral battle almost a year before the scheduled date. The growing unity among the opposition parties has, no doubt, alarmed the Prime Minister and the party president. There is no denying that the Prime Minister knows well that the situation on the ground is not encouraging because his four years have failed to produce any concrete results. Unemployment is at record high. Prices of food items, fruits and vegetables are beyond ordinary citizen reach. Prices of diesel and petrol are at record high. Disillusioned prevails among NDA’s friends and foes alike. The bickering ally Shiv Sena, which has declared its intention of going alone in the next polls, made strong comments against the BJP, saying the party was “still living in the golden era of 2014” while “the picture of 2019 will be completely different.” . The Shiv Sena shares an uneasy alliance with the BJP in Maharashtra too and has been vocal in opposing some of Modi’s policies.
The Karnataka elections, across 224 constituencies, to be held on May 12, will serve as the curtain raiser for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The outcome will especially galvanise the BJP and the Congress, and could have a significant impact on Assembly polls due in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram later this year. For the BJP, a win in Karnataka would give it a foothold in the south, where its presence, generally speaking, is less than significant. More importantly, outcome of the Karnataka assembly elections will decide the exact timing of the Lok Sabha polls. If the BJP manages to defeat the Congress in Karnataka then general elections in most likelihood will be held as per schedule in 2019 but if it loses then there is all possibility of preponing of the big battle for the Delhi durbar. In that case, the Lok Sabha election may well be advanced to December 2018 along with the key state polls of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Therefore, the next few months will be very crucial for BJP, Congress and other forces. A win in Karnataka would strengthen the Congress case that it should be the leader of this grand alliance. If the Congress wins, it will be a feather in the cap of present Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, who will have overcome anti-incumbency and the political might of the Shah-Modi combine.