Let’s look at the State-wise index of Opposition unity/disunity in the wake of signals from Bangalore
The galaxy of leaders who attended the swearing-in ceremony of JDS’s HD Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister of Karnataka at the head of a coalition with the Congress has certainly, and justifiably, put a spring in the step of the Opposition. The perfectly valid premise of anti-BJP regional parties, the Left and Congress is that electoral mathematics, if the main Opposition parties in each State have some sort of arrangement in place to take the BJP in one-on-one contests as far as possible, will trump Narendra Modi’s allegedly waning charisma and Amit Shah’s much-vaunted election machine which may be together termed electoral chemistry. Whether this will work or not will, naturally, only be tested in the 2019 General Election. But a dekko at the current state of play in major States should provide grounds for a reasonable prognosis of how matters may develop.
Let’s first look at those leaders of non-BJP parties who were not in Bangalore — Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao of the TRS, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of the BJD, MK Stalin of the DMK and the Chautalas of the INLD. Put together the States of Tamil Nadu (39), Orissa (21), Telangana (17) and Haryana (10) send 87 MPs to the Lok Sabha. KCR and Patnaik’s reluctance to reveal their cards at this stage is perfectly understandable as in both States while the BJP is in the ascendant the Congress is still their main Opposition. As for the DMK, it is likely to ally with the winning side post-2019 — it has been part of both the UPA and the NDA in the past — if it gets the numbers which look likely keeping in mind the increasing unpopularity of the ruling AIADMK. Additionally, the Rajinikanth factor may also be in play in Tamil Nadu depending on the number of seats his party contests/wins. In Haryana, where the BJP is ruling, the INLD and Congress are locked in a battle to be the main Opposition. These States, therefore and provided nothing changes, will have a low index of Opposition unity in 2019.
The next bunch of major States we need to examine are those where there is a direct contest likely between the Congress and the BJP in the main. These include Punjab (13), Rajasthan (25), Madhya Pradesh (29), Chhattisgarh (11), Gujarat (26), North-east States including Assam (25), Himachal Pradesh (4) and Uttarakhand (5) which total of 138 Lok Sabha seats. Even assuming the BSP which has decent pockets of support in Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, and also AAP in Punjab, agree to a seamless seat-adjustment with the Congress to prevent a split in Opposition votes, these will be very keenly fought States in the General Election. The Opposition’s assessment is that there is no way the BJP, which made a virtual clean sweep of these States in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, can do even half as well this time around. But it must also be remembered that these are what can be termed saffron strongholds and there is a reason why they backed Modi so strongly. BJP insiders argue that while losses for the party could be expected in the Assembly polls in some of these States, in the Lok Sabha with a ek sher, sau langur redux campaign in place and Modi-for-PM on offer, these stronghold States will back the BJP strongly again.
For the above 225 Lok Sabha seats, therefore, the index of Opposition unity and/or the relative weakness of the Opposition may give the BJP some breathing space. It is in the remaining 318 Lok Sabha seats mainly from Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where the Opposition’s index of unity could be high if the turnout in Bangalore on Wednesday is any indication. That should worry the BJP.