Alliance discussion and seat-sharing talks are likely to dominate political headlines in the first part of 2019
2019 is all set to witness key events in the political sphere, including the all-important general elections, legislative assembly elections in multiple states and forging of alliances that are likely to have a bearing on India for years to come.
Politics in 2019 will continue to revolve around the elections. Here are the key events lined up over the next 12 months:
Lok Sabha polls
The general election, pegged as the largest election exercise in history, is expected to happen in April-May. The Election Commission (EC) is likely to declare the dates for the same in early March, thus imposing the Model Code of Conduct.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is aiming to retain power along with its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners.
However, the Indian National Congress, being led by Rahul Gandhi, has shown resurgence since defeating the BJP in one-on-one contests in three ‘Hindi heartland’ states — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Other parties and regional forces such as K Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) are hoping to play kingmakers in an event where the two major alliances fall short of the majority mark.
Multiple opinion polls released in the second half of 2018 have predicted a contest much closer that what was expected. Hinting at a return to the coalition era, some surveys have also predicted strong possibility of a hung Parliament.
Alliances and negotiations
Several opposition parties have agreed in principle to put up a united front against the BJP. Their plan is to put up a single candidate against those of the NDA, across the country.
This would require parties — many of whom have been long-time rivals — to come together. Arch rivals Samajwadi Party (SP), led by Akhilesh Yadav, and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have already announced they would contest Lok Sabha polls together, to consolidate the anti-BJP votes.
Alliance talks are underway in most states and seat-sharing negotiations are in advanced stages in a few others. As the Lok Sabha polls near, these negotiations are expected to gather steam.
These alliances are also expected to have an impact on the next round of assembly elections held in the country over the next five years, irrespective of the Lok Sabha polls result.
Meanwhile, Telangana CM KCR is trying to build a non-BJP, non-Congress alliance.
Assembly polls: First leg
At least four states — Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim — are scheduled to head for assembly polls in April-May, simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls.
N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is hoping to retain power in Andhra Pradesh amid resurgence of YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP). YSRCP is the principle opposition party in the state.
In Odisha, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is battling anti-incumbency after being in power for 18 years. BJD is not only facing challenge from principle opposition party Congress, but also from the BJP. Despite anti-incumbency against the government, opinion polls suggest Patnaik himself remains popular.
Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling is hoping to retain power for the sixth consecutive term. Having occupied the state’s top office for over 24 years (since 1994), Chamling is the longest-serving chief minister in the country. His Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) would compete against the state’s main opposition party — Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM).
Another Northeastern state, Arunachal Pradesh, will head for assembly polls in April-May. In 2014, Congress had formed the government having won 42 out of the 60 seats in the Assembly. However, several Members of Legislative (MLAs) later moved to the BJP to help it form the government. Chief Minister Pema Khandu-led BJP government is expected to be challenged by the Congress and other regional parties.
The assembly in Jammu and Kashmir stands dissolved and is currently under President’s Rule. The EC is expected to hold fresh assembly polls in the state. This too could possibly be held along with the Lok Sabha polls.
Assembly polls: Second leg
Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana are expected to head for assembly polls in the second half of 2019. Some reports suggest that the assemblies in these three BJP-ruled states could be dissolved early so that the state elections could be held simultaneously with Lok Sabha.
As things stand, the three states are expected to vote in September-October.
In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP is hoping to retain control of one of India’s major financial and industrial hubs. However, it is unclear if its alliance partner Shiv Sena would continue the alliance. In early 2018, the Sena had announced it would contest the Lok Sabha and assembly polls separately. BJP and the Uddhav Thackeray-led party fighting separately could boost chances of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance.
Opinion polls have shown fall in the popularity of Chief Minister Raghubar Das-led BJP government in Jharkhand. Congress, which is reportedly in talks with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) for an alliance, is hoping to capitalise on the anti-incumbency sentiment.
In Haryana too, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government is facing anti-incumbency. However, a fractured opposition that consists of the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) could benefit the BJP.
There is also a possibility of a snap assembly election being held in Tamil Nadu. Speaking to Moneycontrol in 2018, TTV Dhinakaran camp’s spokesperson CR Saraswathi said there was a likelihood of the state elections happening early along with the general elections in 2019.
The All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is governing the state with a wafer-thin majority. Opinion polls suggest that Edappadi Palaniswami government’s popularity is plummeting. If the opposition parties are able to win a large number of the total 20 assembly seats in the impending bypolls, the AIADMK could lose majority in the House.This could either result in horse trading, hectic negotiations for external support or could even trigger snap polls in the state.Get access to India's fastest growing financial subscriptions service Moneycontrol Pro for as little as Rs 599 for first year. Use the code "GETPRO". Moneycontrol Pro offers you all the information you need for wealth creation including actionable investment ideas, independent research and insights & analysis For more information, check out the Moneycontrol website or mobile app.