FIVE BIG QUESTIONS BEFORE 2019 LOK SABHA POLLS

WILL NARENDRA MODI REMAIN NUMERO UNO?
Like it was in 2014 Lok Sabha polls when it had helped Modi emerge as the only pan-India leader. Manmohan Singh had faded. Rahul Gandhi was not there. And regional satraps were just one-state phenomenon. If Modi had any competition from the regional satraps, it was from within the BJP only.

CAN RAHUL GANDHI BE THERE?
It seems Rahul Gandhi is honestly now trying to reach there, trying to break the image of a reluctant politician that he has carried ever since his initiation into the national politics in the latter half of the last decade. He is looking to break myths and facts around him with and after his US trip. And he is sounding focused.

DEMONETISATION, GST AND PETROLEUM PRICES – WHERE THE ECONOMY WILL GO?
It has been mostly negative developments ever since the demonetisation was announced on November 8 last year – or if we say negatives far outweigh the positives so far, it will be apt – at least the goings at the moment say so.

India is a country of small and middle income people and businesses and demonetisation negatively affected them, even if we go by the logic of the short term pain – because no one can vouch for the long term gains – except some studies including the World Bank’s and Nomura’s projections that have shown faith in an exercise that really proved unimaginable in scale (read confusion here). GST has only added to this pain and (confusion).

The Modi government has been fortunate to reap the windfall benefits of historically low crude oil prices that have helped it mitigate the huge under recoveries of its oil marketing companies. In addition, the government has also filled its coffers with lakhs of crore of Rupees by increasing the excise duty multiple times. It has kept the oil prices high, like these were during Manmohan Singh’s government. BJP had made it a big issue then, in spite of the fact that the crude oil prices were historically high then.

Now Congress and opposition parties are making it an issue and they are right, at least in public perception – and this is all what matters in electoral politics – even if the Modi government has diverted this windfall gain in several infrastructural projects. That BJP is feeling the heat due to all these issues becomes clear from the government action on revising GST structure and hinting that it is now going to pass on the benefits of the low crude oil prices to consumers, finally.

WHAT WEIGHT THE REGIONAL SATRAPS WOULD CARRY?
The regional satraps are still one-state phenomenon. And what goes against them is, the appeal of their parties is also limited to their respective states – SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh – BJD in Odisha – RJD in Bihar – TMC in West Bengal – TRS in Telangana – Left Front in Kerala – and DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.

The most important of them, who could have rallied other regional satraps behind him and could have posed a formidable challenge to Modi, Nitish Kumar of JDU in Bihar, is now Modi’s ally, thanks to politics of yore by RJD.

THE ALWAYS ILLUSIVE THIRD FRONT?
India has just few short lived governments third front governments, i.e., of VP Singh, of Chandra Shekhar, of IK Gujral and of HD Deve Gowda, and the alternative third front politics has always been a failure. The basic problem has been – all of them consider themselves to be PM material – so the unity to challenge the main national parties, i.e., first Congress and now Congress and BJP, has always been a misnomer. The maze doesn’t look different even this time.

©SantoshChaubey

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