All this might suggest that Modi’s days in office are numbered. But one can never be sure with India. After all, no one has ever predicted elections in India right, at least in terms of numbers.
The picture is not bleak for the BJP either. Modi still commands popularity among a broad swathe of the electorate. There, still is no face in the opposition who can match up to Modi’s personality cult. Another plus for the BJP is that the Mahagathbandhan has failed to build its own brand of politics. On the contrary, it relies on just Modi bashing and at best, appears a group of reactionaries with no concrete alternative.
Picking up this deficiency of the opposition, Yogi Adityanath recently referred to them as “anarchic elements.” In a Facebook post, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, taking a jibe at opposition said, “People are more intelligent than what politicians may think. They never choose chaos as an option.” He further called the alliance “an unviable and an unworkable short-lived combination.” Of late, the BJP has been trying to sell this argument that the Mahagathbandhan in power will pull in different directions and cannot provide political stability, a recurring phenomenon in Indian politics during the 1990s. As against this, they are trying to frame the elections as a one-on-one Presidential race which would naturally be beneficial to Modi.
Additionally, there is an ever-present possibility of post-poll defections. If the BJP narrowly falls short of a majority, a coalition partner in Mahagathbandhan might jump onto the other side for better political—or to be precise—portfolio prospects. This cannot be ruled out since previously in two of the states, Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar, parties that campaigned against the BJP eventually ended up forming government with it. Notwithstanding the endless possibilities in the Indian body politic, there is a growing consensus among the political circles in India that the BJP will fail to cross the halfway mark. In that case, it will need both traditional partners and new allies to form a government. The INC-led Mahagathbandhan, on its part, will look to dry up this source for the BJP.
In retrospect, the BJP’s rise to power in 2014 could be contextualized in the global right-wing resurgence. This is apparent from the fact that Modi’s victory coincided with the growth of right-wing nationalism world-wide and shrinking of support for the center-left parties. Furthermore, it could be seen as part of a larger change and movement that propelled the likes of Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Shinzo Abe, and Jair Bolsonaro to power, along with helping to cause Brexit. In a sense, one could argue that the BJP was elevated to power by forces larger than the party’s own strengths. However, today the support for right and center-right parties is dwindling if not collapsing. This is because such parties could not match up to the radical promises that they have made earlier. In this scenario, we might see the centrists and leftists retaking the political control of the world. If Modi loses the elections this summer, for the global right, it might signal the beginning of the end.
Minaam Shah is a student of international politics based in Kashmir and editor of the Asian Peace Review. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets at @minaamshah.