Sutanu Guru analyses if the best hope for the Congress is to lead a coalition after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections
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If you are a mainstream political pundit, you will argue how poll strategist Prashant Kishore is all set to score a hat trick in the UP assembly elections. He helped Narendra Modi win a historic mandate in 2014. In 2015, he persuaded acrimonious foes Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav to join hands for the Bihar assembly elections. He even convinced the Congress to become a junior partner in the alliance. It inflicted a resounding defeat on the BJP. And now, he seems to have played matchmaker to Akhikesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi for the ongoing UP seemly elections. Many analysts are predicting a big win for this new alliance. We will all know when counting begins on March 11th.
But what no one seems to be discussing is what happens to the Congress in 2019 when it hopes to dislodge Modi. The cruel fact is: while it has become a part of the government in Bihar and could become a part in UP, it has condemned itself to becoming a bit player in future political stakes. In fact, most journalists and pundits who share a dislike for the "communal" BJP and a visceral dislike of Modi are forgetting recent history while going ga ga over the Rahul-Akhikesh combine. In the 2016 assembly elections, the CPM in West Bengal and the DMK in Tamil Nadu paid a heavy price for tying up with the Congress. The Congress completely failed to transfer any votes to the two parties. Strategists of both the DMK and the CPM now admit it was a blunder to ally with the party. Also don't forget that unlike Bihar which was a two way fight, the BSP makes it a three way contest in UP.
That apart, look at the numbers. Bihar and UP together ha e 120 Lok Sabha seats. By agreeing to be a junior partner in them, the best the party can hope in 2019 is to contest about 25 seats and win about 15 if it is very, very lucky. From where else will Congress manage enough victories to cross at least 150 seats? In the east starting with Assam and ending in Tamil Nadu with West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in between, the best it can hope is to win about 15 out of the 150 seats on offer. Effectively, the Congress can at best hope to win 30 out of 270 seats. It must win at least 130 of the remaining 270 odd seats. You can safely predict even today that it cannot hope to win more than 10 out of the 28 seats on offer in Karnataka. Out of the 48 seats on offer in Maharashtra, even Congress leaders admit that it will do exceedingly well to win 20. We get to a Congress tally of 60 seats, out of almost 350 seats on offer.
It's best hopes lie in riding on anti incumbency and breaching BJP bastions in Chhattisgrah, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan which together send 105 Lok Sabha MPs. It can also do very well in Punjab and Haryana which offer about 25 seats. But even if anti incumbency sentiments against the BJP are very high, does the Congress stand any chance of sweeping these BJP bastions? Congress sympathizers can claim that anything is possible in Indian politics; but for objective analysts, that looks like a pipe dream at the moment. So even if Modi and the BJP completely lose the plot between now and 2019, the most probably tally for the Congress could be 100.
Even that appears to be a tall order at the moment.