The year 2019 witnessed the political ‘battle royale’ — the Lok Sabha election. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 303 seats in the Lok Sabha polls to secure a second consecutive term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) went past the 350 seats-mark, forming the numerically strongest Union government in decades.
The party also retained power in Arunachal Pradesh. But, it failed to make a mark in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Odisha, where the Assembly polls were held along with the parliamentary elections.
BJP failed to secure a majority in Haryana and had to tie up with Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). While it did secure a majority in Maharashtra along with its long-time ally Shiv Sena, it failed to form the government due to differences over sharing of the CM's chair.
In December, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) alliance was able to defeat BJP riding on local anti-incumbency. JMM’s Hemant Soren became the chief minister.
Also read: Lok Sabha polls, Article 370, CAA protests and new alliances —how 2019 unfolded, politically
Politics in the second half of 2019 was largely based on a series of major decisions taken by the Centre. These included abrogation of Article 370 that used to grant special provisions to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories -- J&K and Ladakh.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the proposed pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR) led to arguably the largest nationwide protest seen in recent years.
These developments shaped the political narrative, sometimes putting the Opposition in a tight spot and sometimes pushing BJP on the back-foot.
The tussle over NRC could also continue going forward.
In 2020, the country is set to witness state-level battles, elections to the Upper House of Parliament and continued shifting of political sand.
BJP advancing on Delhi?
The saffron party is gunning for power in the national capital where it has not held the reigns since 1998. In 2014, Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept the polls, winning 67 of the 70 seats in the Legislative Assembly.
For five years now, BJP has maintained its attacking posture against AAP. Now, it has upped the ante under the leadership of its state unit chief Manoj Tiwari.
The election is expected to happen in the January-February window.
While the Election Commission of India (EC) has not declared the poll schedule, the campaign has already begun. PM Modi held a major rally at the Ramlila Maidan on December 22, to kick-start BJP’s campaign.
This came days after AAP formally launched its campaign and slogan “Achhe Beete Panch Saal, Lage Raho Kejriwal (Last five years went well, keep going Kejriwal)”.
AAP has hired political strategist Prashant Kishor. Interestingly, Kishor is also the National Vice President of the Janata Dal (United) – a BJP ally in Bihar. Kishor has been criticising the CAA and the proposed pan-India NRC.
What role Congress plays remains to be seen. The party had finished ahead of AAP during the Lok Sabha polls. However, election after election, voters in many parts of the country have shown a stark difference in the way they vote for governments at the Centre and in the state.
Also read: AAP, BJP, Congress spent 2019 trying to outsmart each other in Delhi
The ‘brawl’ in Bihar
Kishor’s own state is also heading for polls this year. Even with almost 10 months to go for the Assembly polls in Bihar, the political brawl there has already begun.
While BJP and the JD(U) contested equal number of seats in the Lok Sabha polls, both are now vying to become the dominant party in the state-level alliance.
This, even as BJP National President Amit Shah has said the election will be contested under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s leadership. The statement had come amid reports of growing unease between the two allies.
Also read | Bihar Assembly Polls 2020: Debate begins on seat-sharing between JD(U), BJP
With BJP putting up an under-par performance in recent state polls, the JD(U) could push for a more favourable seat-sharing formula.
Nitish has been Bihar’s chief minister since 2005 except for a short period in 2014-15 when he had installed Jitan Ram Manjhi into the position. The ‘vikas purush (development man)’ of Bihar may therefore be facing some degree of anti-incumbency. Additionally, his serial political ‘flip-flopping’ has irked some voters. This feeling was evident among some people when Moneycontrol interacted with them in state capital Patna in the run-up to the general election.
Will NDA under Nitish Kumar’s leadership beat anti-incumbency? Or will the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led opposition alliance snatch another state from the BJP?
Also read: Analysis | As BJP falls in Jharkhand, challenges await party in Delhi, Bihar
BJP in the Rajya Sabha
While BJP enjoys a strong majority in the Lok Sabha, it lacks numbers in the Rajya Sabha. This has made it difficult for the party to pass contentious Bills in the Upper House.
To pass key legislations in the House, the party has so far depended on support from parties beyond the NDA. Yet, it has simultaneously worked to increase its tally as it won more states. BJP’s numbers in the Rajya Sabha have steadily risen from the 2014-level.
As the number moves towards the majority mark in the House, holding on to each seat has become crucial for Opposition parties.
A Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP)’s term lasts for six years. As a result, elections for 1/3rd of all seats in in the House take place every two years. Last such election happened in 2018.
There is already a formula in place to determine how many votes (seats) a person has to win in a state assembly, in order to get elected to Rajya Sabha.
Elections for 73 seats in 2020 will happen in four phases -- in February, June, July and November.
These polls will be held for some seats from Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, besides that for a nominated member.
Jammu and Kashmir, now a Union Territory, is yet to elect its Legislative Assembly. However, it is unclear as to when this would happen. The election will only happen once the delimitation exercise is completed.
Reports suggest that the exercise has not started even four months after abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and that the final decision regarding this is expected only a couple of months later. The exercise will be undertaken to redraw boundaries of the Assembly constituencies there.
It is also unclear how the campaign will unfold with senior political leaders such as Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti from the state currently under house arrest under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Also read — Explained | Redrawing boundaries and more: All you need to know about delimitation
The build-up to the Assembly elections in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will also begin in the later half of 2020, just like the buzz around Delhi polls has begun already. These five elections are expected to happen in April-May 2021.
Political experts believe that BJP and its allies could face a serious challenge in Assam over CAA and NRC.
Buoyed by its performance in the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, BJP has hit the pedal in the state. The saffron party has been constantly attacking the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government. Banerjee is already preparing for the polls. Trinamool has hired Kishor as an adviser. The party is also taking corrective measures such as the ‘Didi Ke Bolo’ campaign.
The political heat is only expected to rise as 2020 draws to a close.