India's run up to 2019, Second Issue

September 09, 2018


           In the past few months, there have been phenomenal changes in global politics and domestic governance. Issues ranging from Imran Khan's election to various controversies in the Trump administration, changing oil prices and Supreme Court decisions have unfolded over the course of time. Rahul Gandhi's Hindutva pitch in Mansarovar and TRS's decision to conduct early elections in Telangana affect the ruling BJP's prospects for 2019. I have briefly addressed each of these issues and their concurrent inflictions in Indian electioneering. 

Imran Khan's Pakistan:

          Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf headed by Imran Khan cobbled together an alliance and eventually formed the government in Pakistan, pushing Nawaz Shariff's PML to a distant second. Isolation on the global front was evident with the US reducing its multi-million dollar aid, constant fighting in Afghanistan and chronically poor ties with India. It is indeed a formidable task for Khan and India to overcome differences through talks and diplomacy. Pakistan needs to alter relations with its all-weather friend in Beijing to mend ties with India. The CPEC is a major cause of worry for India and has undermined India's security in the contended PoK region. Imran Khan's liberal foreign policy will help for better ties with other countries and ending terror in Kashmir. But, the degree of military control in governance has its repercussions. Alleged intervention by the military in the recent national polls raise pressing questions concerning the democratic principle of the country.
          With an active military role in governance, India Pakistan ties will tend to remain bleak. Improved relations between the two countries are necessary for stability in the region. But, if Imran Khan joins hands with the Indian government and professes a better solution for improved ties it may help the BJP in projecting itself as a robust foreign policy contender in the 2019 general elections. Many media houses and the opposition have targetted the BJP government for its failing foreign policy. They have continuously criticised  India's failure in checking advancements in Doklam, Modi's unannounced Pakistan visit to greet Mr.Sharif on his birthday and inaction during the Pathankot Crisis (surgical strikes were conducted, but doubts were raised). If the government is successful in pitching in for better relations and stability in the region, positive outcomes are expected in the elections as a result. 

A Failing White House:

          Michael Cohen's recent federal court hearing, deepening crisis in the Whitehouse, repeated lies and alleged Russia- Trump Jr. meeting have eaten away the miniscule bits of democracy that remained in the country post President Trump's win. Better economic performance, improved global outlook and increased job rates are the few incentives for the Trump administration before the run-up for the midterm elections. But Nancy Pelosi's recent message to the caucus undermines all incentives. As minority leader, she has continuously vouched for better transparency and tagged the Trump administration as indeed a 'deceitful government.' A Failing Whitehouse has its associations in India's politics. 

          Oil and Petroleum is a pressing issue for the Indian government. India imports 18.4 million tonnes of oil from Iran every year. The US faces strained relation with Iran and has asked countries to cut oil purchases from Iran and indeed pushed India and China to the fence in reducing oil imports. On the contrary, Iran offers to provide oil at a reduced rate and has recently agreed to accept Indian currency as an exchange medium. The petulant NATO has agreed to the US order and has also asked close allies to do so. But, India is already facing a staggering increase in oil prices and an expected public outcry in assembly elections might be the likely result. Combining the two factors, India is swindled in a condition between diplomacy and controlled oil rates. The GoI has pushed for constant oil imports along with better diplomacy, but the US is highly doubtful of the solution presented and has asked for further consideration. 

          The Headline 'India to acquire S-400 Missle Defence System from Russia' appeared in the New York Times (as if it was their concern, but...), arrived as a shock to the Whitehouse, after the recent Turkey S-400 missile system turmoil. The Whitehouse's weak administration effects have spilled out on diplomatic fronts as well.  The recent visit by 'Mad Dog' Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to India for the '2+2' dialogue focussed primarily on Iran and S-400. Though Russia has warned the US and threatened to take military action if the Whitehouse continuous to interfere in other countries' military choices, Trump is keen on defaming Russia on the military front. Yet, the questions about the decision to acquire S-400 Missile System remains unanswered. 

Narendra Modi is failing to entice President Donald Trump like he did with President Obama. Close sources to the government state that an invite has been sent to Donald Trump during the final Republic Day gathering for NDA-I. But, the likelihood of the President's presence is doubted due to strained ties. If the government is successful in inviting Trump, then Modi's popularity in the country would soar just like the Obama- Republic Day event and may have a assertive effect on the elections. The government is yet to undertake tough decisions on the Diplomatic front to please Russia/US and also provide better satisfaction to her citizens.

The Supreme Court Gamble:

          Playing the Devil's advocate, the highest court of the land has indeed delivered breathtaking judgments in the past few weeks, and the most recent one crumbled the social beliefs the country was set up in. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which reads out as: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished, criminalizing gay-sex and unconventional forms of sex. The court delivered one of the most progressive judgments, though late, finding this section violative of the constitution and provided rights for gay people in the country. The BJP's members have advocated strongly against gay sex reinforcing the pro-Hindu agenda of the ruling party. This may have a toll for the youth of the country support the decision, but the veteran Hindus may still align in favor of the BJP. The court also came out with essential judgments including adultery law amends, Sabarimala temple women entry and Triple Talaq. The RSS and the Sangh Parivar has called in favor of the judgment but also said that gay sex goes against nature. The involvement of Sangh Parivar in decision-making, be its vocal dissent against policy matters like GST or comments on judgments like the Lynching issue it had long hauled the government's initiatives when something went against the Hindu aim. 

Another noteworthy discussion will be the insights of the Babri Masjid Case. In the year of 1992, Hindu fundamentalists attacked the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya, and since then, the BJP has held specific command over Hindutva politics. The party in its 2014 Election Manifesto vents out clear possibility of building a Ram Mandir in the site of Babri Masjid and this has since then been argued in the courts. The court is likely to send out its order in the upcoming weeks, and if it comes in favor of the Hindus, then the party will bolster its strong Hindutva command. The RSS and the Sangh Parivar will use this timeliness to help re-pitch the notion of a more Hindu alternative and will enhance the Party's chances in the general elections. On the other hand, if the Hindus lose the case, then the RSS and the Sangh Parivar will play a more adverse role in amassing the Hindus on the belief of protectionism and conservativism. Either way, the judgment will help bolster the party image, but the degree of the impact will vary accordingly. 

Dissolved Assembly of Telangana:

           TRS's recent decision to dissolve the government of Telangana and provide for early elections after a big show of strength in Vijayawada rally is indeed a surprise for the opposition. The TRS is a regional party headed by KC Rao, the first Chief Minister of the state. The state has been acclimatized with good economy, sound and growing middle class and improved transport systems. The party has dissolved the government to help the party use the early victory for the Lok Sabha polls next year. Most believe that the party is likely to win the elections but six months is a long time for south politics.  This may not be a huge factor for the 2019 elections, but will be a definite setback for both the BJP and the Congress party and indeed can prevent the Hindu party from entering the Dravidian Bastion as well. 


          Rahul Gandhi's Mansarovar Yatra is no good for the BJP. The self-claimed youth leader is continually working towards rejigging his image as a Pro-Hindu patriarch, and the exciting part is the effect his re-branding is having on the populace. Many surveys show that Rahul's re-branding has projected him as a potential frontrunner and has helped remove doubts about his leadership. The run-up for 2019 has gotten enjoyable and with less than a few months to go, the fight will get even brutal. The Modi government is combating fuel charges and Rahul Gandhi has already begun his Hindutva stunt. The possibility of MahaGatbandhan is not evidently seen yet, Telengana may tell the possibility of a TDP + Congress coalition but the chances remain glib. 

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