Indian Election 2009 is all boiled down to five states. They are Andhra Pradesh, TamilNadu, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
All other states have a clear-cut favorite running on top speed or in no great way may affect the final outcome. Of the populous states Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Gujarat are all clear NDA favorites.
Except for Kerala, no other state is a clear congress favorite.
These five states are real toss-up states. Except for Uttar Pradesh, Congress and its alliance partners are the main contenders in all these states. If in these states Congress loses badly, which is possible, then not only that Congress cannot come back to power, it could be the third front that would be catapulted to power, with Congress support.
BJP’s way to power
If BJP wins Uttar Pradesh, even to a decent extent, sweeps Congress of Maharastra, which is a good possibility and wipes out Congress totally in its favorite states, then none can stop NDA coming to power.
In this case it may need support from AIADMK, TDP or BJD, which it would definitely get. In this case Advani is the Prime Minister without doubt.
Actually BJP has the easiest of tasks to perform to come to power this time, than any other combination. Third front or Congress can come to power only based on lot of permutations and combinations. It is not easy.
BJP/NDA can come to power with just concentration of few states. But then it has been made difficult by BJP itself. In Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which are the critical states for it, BJP has been sleeping for sometime now.
Hence it appears very difficult for BJP to ascend to power, though BJP is the only party that is right at the doorstep of power.
Third front’s way to power
The third front can come to power with the support of Congress if it wipes Congress/BJP off Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, TamilNadu and West Bengal and if BJP wipes off congress in Maharashtra.
The rural voters in TamilNadu are a disenchanted lot and I am not sure if DMK/Congress combine can come back to power. In the Urban areas may be DMK will muscle its way through, which remains to be seen. Though there is no large scale issue for discontent against DMK/Congress, the current economic climate combined with DMK family control has given enough discontent to common man, who would turn against DMK at the first instance of a problem.
Also the opinion polls conducted by various agencies do not go deep enough to rural areas, where real AIADMK voters reside. Hence always the results will be skewed against AIADMK. In the 2001 election, AIADMK was given 2 seats, but it came to power with its own majority. In 2006 election, DMK was given absolute majority to a brutal majority, when it fell extremely short and formed a minority government.
Hence I foresee that AIADMK can perform exceedingly well this election and may aim for clean sweep, if its alliance arithmetic works out. It could be even 30-35 for AIADMK+ and 5-10 for DMK+.
In Andhra Pradesh too, the discontent or apathy towards Rajasekara Reddy’s Government and the way his family acquired several crores of assets have not been taken into account by the opinion polls. The current economic climate does not bode good for Congress. And the alliance arithmetic is also against it. There is also a probability that Chiranjeevi takes off lot of Congress votes, as Chiranjeevi’s caste has been voting for Congress for most of the time.
In Uttar Pradesh, it all depends on performance of BSP and BJP. If BSP manages to retain its hold, then the third front is a strong contender for power. If BSP falls off, then BJP can benefit from it, which would benefit NDA. SP benefiting from it is also possible, but I don’t foresee it, as SP has lost its support base and Mulayam has lost his sheen totally.
WestBengal is another state that is a toss-up. If Congress-TMC alliance can sweep off Left or make a good dent, then third front is a non-starter. Congress has a higher chance at Delhi. But if the alliance proves a damp squib like the previous time, then Left has a strong chance to power. But this time, situation is different. We need to wait and see what happens in West Bengal.
In the third front case, the Prime Minister will be the one who is closer to Congress. It could be Jayalalitha or Mayawati, if they sweep Congress off in TamilNadu/Uttar Pradesh or even someone from Left as a common candidate. But the possibilities of this is remote.
Congress’s way to power
If in these states, Congress loses mildly or wins handsomely, then it can stake its claim to power with the support of one or more of third front parties. A stable government can be formed if Left with a reduced majority decides to support Congress. Left is one enemy which Congress can bank reliably on, for both Congress and Left know that their turfs are secured between the two of them. If Congress goes with some other party, then reliability cannot be guaranteed, as all other parties are Congress’s primary enemies.
In Uttar Pradesh, the discontent if any with BSP has to go to BJP and not SP. If SP by chance performs and Congress gets its support, then the alliance will not be stable. More important, Congress cannot perform freely with SP as the partner.
The hallmark of 2004 election result was the alliance of UPA-Left. In my judgment Left acted as a speed-breaker of the ruling party. If UPA and Manmohan Singh had their way, the entire Pension funds would have evaporated in the Stock market fall. Congress could have never imagined a come-back even in its dreams, in that case.
Left would have definitely retarded several economic reforms that had privatization as their cornerstone. Notably the Airport infrastructure development, Airport Authority privatization got stalled due to stiff opposition from Left. But in the current economic environment, it does not really matter. In this way Left acted as a speed breaker, but which did not affect the overall performance badly.
In fact the speed breaker helped avoid some accidents, as in the pension funds case or even the foreign investment in retail sector, for which the Congress has to be thankful to Left.
If congress loses mildly in 2009 elections in these five states, there is a high possibility of current combination coming back to power with reduced Left. In this case, the most likely Prime Minister is Pranab Mukherjee, without doubt.
If in these states, Congress decimates its opposition, then it may try to come to power with small parties support in which case Manmohan Singh can be the Prime Minister again.
The Prime Ministerial Options
I would say the following are chances of Prime Minsterial options, given the current perception. There is a very little difference amongst the top contenders. At this point of time, I am somehow inclined to call it in favor of Pranab Mukherjee than others. It may change during the next two phases of polls.
1. Pranab Mukherjee – 60%
2. Manmohan Singh – 58%
3. Advani – 59%
4. Others – less than 50%
The real dark horse of this election is the performance of BJP in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which could tilt the option towards Advani heavily.
And Pranab Mukherjee is one of the front-runners of the Prime Minister’s post in the post-election scenario, as all the ‘secular’ parties may get together to keep BJP out, but may also require Left support to reach the mark.
It is highly possible that he forms the next coalition government led by Congress and other parties, supported by Left.