What factors impact the world’s largest democratic exercise?

With the formal declaration of elections by the Election Commission which announced the dates for polling in seven phases for the world’s largest democratic exercise, environment within the country has channelled with great vigour.

It will be the biggest test for the political parties, a test between the old guards of India’s cultural identity and the liberals and an even bigger test of the role of social media in an election.

As the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) readies for battle with the newly energised Congress party-led opposition in the election the role of Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp remain crucial in deciding who wins.

Each general election is important. It determines who will govern the State, exercise executive power, shape the legislative agenda and, through all of it, have an impact on the lives of all citizens. But some elections are perhaps more critical than others.

With the Election Commission announcing dates for the 17th Lok Sabha elections, this is perhaps one of them. And that is not because of the nature of the contestants in the fray, but because of the position, India finds itself in.

India is in the midst of many changes. The country’s developmental growth has expanded and its reach in the global market has shocked many boosting the indigenous industries.

Strategies for general election

With the three state assembly win last year, the Congress needs to firmly keep in mind when it readies its tactics and strategies for the next general elections. It’s important to remember the political context in the three states where the party has recently performed well.

Uncluttered by regional players, the Congress and BJP were locked in a straight, binary contest. The absence of third fronts helped the main opposition party to tightly consolidate anti-BJP votes. The context across India, however, reveals a far more complicated scenario.

Regional Outlook

Most states have strong regional players, some of them opposed equally to both BJP and Congress. Regional players like the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), now alliance partners will be working to outperform both BJPand the Congress in the most politically crucial state. It’s crucial in the sense that opposition parties – in this case primarily the SP, BSP acting together in a state like Uttar Pradesh which, with a whopping 80 seats, can make and unmake governments at the Centre.

In New Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party is too fighting alone after Congress rejected the need for an alliance with the AAP.

In Bengal, the Left Front and Congress need to have a tight seat-sharing pact with Mamata Banerjee’s ruling Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) to keep the BJP at bay. Targeting the TMC and BJP as equal enemies, which the Left – particularly the  (CPI(M)) – has been consistently doing suits the BJP. Any splintering of the anti-BJP/NDA vote bank will be divided among the ruling TMC, Communist Party of India (Marxist).

However, Mamata Banerjee who is also leading the Opposition front may alliance with the Congress which is also trying to forge a Mahagathbandhan.

Amidst the Opposition conglomeration, BJP is trying to yield maximum votes from the youth and first-time voters in the name of development.

The 17th Lok Sabha elections will witness around 15 million voters in the age group 18-19.

The RSS which creates the groundswell of support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) this time will ensure 100% voter turnout so that the difference in vote share between the BJP — the Sangh’s political arm — and other parties is not slim.

According to sources within RSS,  Amit Shah had said that the party will need to improve its vote share to 50% because there are chances that it will have to face a combined Opposition grouping against it in 2019. And that is what is now happening,” said a functionary on condition of anonymity on the sidelines of the ongoing Sabha. Although the BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with a vote share of just 31%, it bagged 282 out of 543 seats.

“The Sangh does not want votes to be wasted. It has asked its volunteers to conduct door-to-door campaigns to urge voters to come out and vote and recognise the importance of voting for those who work with the best interests of the country in mind,” said a second functionary.

“Swayamsevaks have been asked to ensure that there should be 100% participation and that the electoral rolls have the names of our families and those around us. And for the government that works in the favour of the country, as the current government is doing, whatever can be done by swayamsevaks in their capacity as citizens will be done,” RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale said.

Impact of recent airstrikes

The Balakot air strikes conducted by the Indian Air Force has its impact, largely electoral. The entire nation was overwhelmed with the response of the IAF air strikes on the terrorist camps in crossing the LoC.

Opposition parties feign support but within days visceral politicking began with the parties demanding proof from the government.

The air strikes come at an unexpected time for the opposition. Congress President Rahul Gandhi had acquired a spring in his step. The introduction of Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra into formal politics had created euphoria among Congress workers, especially in Uttar Pradesh. The Pulwama strike took place four hours before Priyanka was scheduled to address a press conference. Wisely, she cancelled it, speaking for just two minutes to condemn the attack, details of which were just filtering in.

The Opposition now fears that air strikes have fundamentally altered the arithmetic of the 2019 Lok Sabha election in favour of the BJP. The public outrage is so strong at this time that national security has now become a key electoral issue, overshadowing the Congress’ attack on jobs and rural distress.

There was always an inevitability among the citizens for the Modi government taking strong military action against terror assets inside Pakistani territory.

This is will be boosted as huge propaganda by the ruling party while the Congress and the likewise continues to question on the airstrikes.

 

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