Will achhe din for Mr Modi come only in 2017?

The government is moving at a frantic pace behind the scenes.

 |  5-minute read |   16-11-2015
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The year 2014 was anannus mirabilis for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He thrashed his opponents in the Lok Sabha polls. He inspired his party to win the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and become the second largest party in Jammu and Kashmir. He laid the foundations for his leadership and enjoyed a honeymoon period.

The year 2015, in contrast, could be called an annus horribilis.

Modi lost to the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi. He was drubbed at the hands of the RJD's Lalu Prasad Yadav and JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Congress president Sonia Gandhi managed to get Parliament sessions washed out.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) fell apart and the Land Bill couldn't be revived. There were controversies like #ChurchAttacks, #LalitGate and #AwardWapsi.

What are the chances that 2016 will not be a repeat of 2015?

The Congress could still romp home in Kerala; Mamata Banerjee could get re-elected in West Bengal while Jayalalithaa could retain Tamil Nadu. In Punjab, the BJP's ruling partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is in total disarray. The AAP did manage to win four Lok Sabha seats in Punjab in 2014. So it will be anybody's game in the upcoming Assembly polls. The BJP has a chance in Assam, but theoretically, could get washed out in all the elections in 2016.

Sonia could continue to disrupt Parliament in the first half of 2016 and we could still have at least one #AwardWapsi-type campaign before every election.

You may ask why this formula can't be repeated all the way till 2019. Well for one, you can't stall Parliament for such a long period. The people would never support it. #AwardWapsi campaigns will also start to show diminishing returns with each attempt.

In a way, you could say that the Opposition is peaking too soon. Had all this happened for the first time in 2018-19, then Modi well could have kissed his second term goodbye.

Secondly, Modi won everything from 2002-'14. His opponents upped the game in 2015 and won. You can be sure that Modi will rework his strategy and strike back. More importantly, the BJP has been increasing its vote share everywhere including even Delhi, Bihar and even civic elections since 2013.

Even if the BJP loses most of the Assembly elections, it is sure to increase its vote share in all of them. That's very important for the build-up to the 2019 general election.

Thirdly (and most importantly), 2017 is a landmark year because for the first time the BJP will have a major say in the election of the President and vice president of the country. In all the earlier presidential elections, the Congress led the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Assemblies. Even when the Congress was in the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, it ruled elsewhere.

Now the BJP leads the Congress 282-44 in the Lok Sabha and 1083-972 in terms of elected representatives in the Assemblies (another first since independence). In 2016, the BJP will emerge as the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha too.

The BJP's dominance over the electoral college (it was quite weak during NDA-1 and hence settled for a "neutral" President in the form of APJ Abdul Kalam) is one of the most underplayed stories. Modi will be able to push reforms through the ordinance route thanks to the new President and control Rajya Sabha proceedings thanks to the new vice president.

Fourth, the TINA (there is no alternative) factor will also kick in as we get closer to 2019. No prime minister is born overnight. Jawaharlal Nehru was identified by Mahatma Gandhi in advance. Indira Gandhi became part of the Congress Working Committee in 1955, 11 years before she was made the prime minister.

Morarji Desai made a pitch for prime ministership in the 1960s. Nehru called AB Vajpayee a future prime minister of India. Manmohan Singh was seen as the father of the reforms and was on Sonia's radar well before 2004.

Rahul Gandhi has failed. "Jungle Raj" has begun in Bihar and Nitish Kumar may not be on a stronger ground. As 2019 draws closer, Modi will become stronger if no strong challenger comes into the scene.

Fifth and no less important too, public memory is very short. If a lot of people are frustrated over the slow movement in bringing black money home and corruption convictions it doesn't matter because it's not a general election year.

The government is moving at a frantic pace behind the scenes. If results are visible even as late as 2018 all will be forgiven and Modi will be able to trumpet it during his 2019 campaign.

In 2002 most were predicting that Modi would get a boot at the hustings in the Gujarat elections. He won quite comfortably. While they called it polarisation, the truth is that Modi's charisma saw him through.

These same people said he would lose in 2007 in the absence of polarisation, but he won quite comfortably again on the basis of his development plank. We are seeing an action replay at the Centre.

In 2014, Modi won on his charisma alone. However since he became the prime minister, infrastructure projects and foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow are on the upswing. Such efforts are bound to yield results in the years to come and Modi will be able to harvest it by 2019.

Even if Modi is seen to be going on the right track by the next general election, he has a good chance of clinching a second term.

The second half of Modi's rule may prove to be much easier than his first half. He'll take that any day for he who laughs last laughs the longest!

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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