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Circa 2019?

It is already May 2017 and exactly 3 years in to the new regime. Another 2 years to go when the country will be ready again to witness the ritual of selecting the Government at the centre. Whether BJP and Modi was able to fulfil the promises that they had made to the larger public or whether it was just a seasoned politician canvassing or perhaps was it bluster of an extremely confident and knowledgable man, it is a point that was being, is being and will be debated. Another important aspect that will come up for discussion in the various debates in numerous channels will be – Will he get the mandate in 2019? It is anybody’s call but there is something that has a good chance of happening, which is well within the Government’s purview if not the outcome of the elections i.e. when the elections are called. There is a good chance that it will not be a 2019 mandate but more of a May-August 2018 mandate. In all probability, BJP might look to advance the elections by a good 9-12 months. Why would BJP do such a thing? Why advance the elections by a good year or so? More so, when there has been a recent example of what happened to Theresa May and her party’s poor performance at the hustings?
First and foremost, the polity in India is such that whenever the incumbent is looking to get re-elected, it necessarily tends to fall in the abyss of appeasement. It is a foregone conclusion that the Government in power is expected to bring out doles in the form of tax sops, subsidies, loan waivers, favourable policies etc in order to woo the larger public. In effect, the Government in power gets transformed to lame duck, by default, for the last year, running up towards the elections. Knowing Modi and his aversion for benefit-spraying he will look to pre-empt this idea of being a lame duck. Modi comes across a person who doesn’t believe in being passive with issues and looks to take problems head on. Additionally, it just doesn’t suit the personality of a no-nonsense strong leadership to recede being in a lame-duck environment. Thus, by advancing the elections by a good year and by springing a surprise on everybody, he and others in the Government will be able to do their job.
There is another upshot of this idea. It is a clear as daylight that the opposition doesn’t stand a chance in the General Elections, if they fight separately. If the opposition were to fight under separate banners, it is without doubt BJP’s elections to lose. But, if the opposition were to unite under a single banner, then there is a good chance they might put up a stiff resistance to the BJP juggernaut never mind the thought of who will head the Government, if at all and when they are likely to get a majority. This ‘bringing together’ of the opposition would require a lot of prep-work, as there are some very many egotistical, fief-holders in the fray, who just cannot stand each other i.e. Congress can’t stand AAP, BSP and SP can’t see eye to eye and Trinamool and CPI will necessarily look to be on the opposite sides of the political spectrum. Thus, to bring such diverse and diametrically opposite personalities together will require a fair bit of time. A lot of time would be required perhaps to firm up the PM candidate – Will Rahul Gandhi fit the bill? If somebody else gets more seats then will Congress have the upper hand? So on and so forth. Alternatively, it works in BJP’s favour if the opposition remains opposed to each other. The opposition fights against each other, the votes get divided and BJP candidate goes through. By advancing the elections, BJP would again pre-empt this possibility. When the opposition is still sussing each other out – perhaps a year earlier to May 2019 – to form coalitions, BJP might just drop the General Elections bomb. The kind of personalities, acrimony and issues that the opposition has within itself would be difficult to overcome in a short span of time.
Lastly but definitely not the least of the reasons is that whenever a Government is looking to get re-elected, it tends to get on the defensive. So, if an incumbent is looking to get re-elected close to the re-election date i.e. May 2019, the narrative that the opposition tends to arrange is that of – What has the government done? Has the common man’s life improved? Are the citizens better of? Consequently, the narrative from the incumbent is in the defensive tone i.e. looking to answer most of the questions that are put through. But if an elected incumbent is looking to advance the election, it somehow is able to set a narrative around which the election can be fought. An assertive narrative of accomplishments, issues management, non-corruption etc can be arranged which then the opposition will have to counter. It is clearly pre-empting and turning the tables, so to speak in the narrative that gets out to the common man. It also tends to put the incumbent or perhaps creates a perception of the incumbent on a sure footing. A view that the incumbent can express is that why would they advance if they were so afraid to lose the elections. The act would also burnish the leadership qualities of Modi as an assured and a confident leader.
So perhaps, instead of a Circa 2019, it would well be a 2018 General Elections year.

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