Several recent developments have led opposition parties, including the Congress, to conclude that the Narendra Modi government is mulling a protracted two to three months long electoral exercise from January onwards.
The prolonged electoral exercise could include simultaneous, but multiple phased polling for 543-seats of the Lok Sabha and to as many as 14 state assemblies.
On Sunday, the national executive of the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, passed a resolution in support of the proposal to hold simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections, and asked the Modi government to build consensus on the issue.
But such a move would require the constitution to be amended. A constitution amendment needs to be passed by two-thirds majority in both the Houses of Parliament and then ratified by state legislatures. The Modi government, even with its allies, would struggle to muster requisite numbers for this in the Rajya Sabha.
It would seem the way out, and as the JD (U) resolution has also suggested, the Modi government could hold Lok Sabha elections along with assembly polls to as many as 14-states. It has asked the Modi government to explore whether the term of some of these state assemblies can be extended, and of some others shortened.
Four states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram – are due for elections in November-December. The JD (U) in its resolution has asked whether the terms of these can be extended.
Assembly polls to five states are scheduled with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in April-May. These are Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
But there are four more states whose terms expire by February 2020. These are Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Delhi. Of these four states, three are ruled by the BJP and Delhi is ruled by the Aam Aadmi Party.
Could the respective BJP governments suggest the assemblies be dissolved early and elections held along with Lok Sabha elections? Would the Modi government put Delhi under central rule, particularly after the tensions between the Centre and AAP government, and hold assembly elections along with Lok Sabha polls?
Would JD (U) be willing that assembly elections in Bihar are also held along with Lok Sabha elections? The term of the Bihar assembly ends in November 2020, but it could secure a better seat sharing bargain with the BJP now.
Thus, on paper assembly polls to as many as 14-states can take place with the Lok Sabha polls.
Last week, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik came out in support of the idea of simultaneous polls. Elections to Odisha assembly are held simultaneously with that of the Lok Sabha polls. Similar is the case with Andhra Pradesh, but the ruling Telugu Desam Party opposes simultaneous polls.
The TDP, Trinamool Congress, DMK and several other parties are aware that simultaneous polls would make the elections into a presidential style one, and this could help the BJP given Modi’s continuing personal popularity among the electorate.
There are other reasons why the opposition believes the Modi government might advance the Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP has begun its poll preparedness in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh in earnest. During his visit to Mirzapur and Varanasi in eastern Uttar Pradesh earlier this week, BJP chief Amit Shah asked party cadres to be battle ready for the Lok Sabha elections.
BJP sources said the party could replace as many as half of its 71-sitting Lok Sabha MPs from UP. It plans to field more non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalit candidates in an effort to blunt the putative Samajwadi Party – Bahujan Samaj Party alliance. Prime Minister Modi will be visiting his Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi on July 14-15.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav has said the BJP was planning to hold Bihar assembly polls along with the Lok Sabha polls.
The Modi government has announced increased minimum support price (MSP) for 14 crops, and has also promised a special package to sugarcane farmers.
Next in line could be a programme to procure farm produce, other than wheat and rice, at MSP. There are plans to distribute pulses through PDS and streamline the Prime Minister’s crop insurance scheme, and expedite disbursal of claims under the scheme.
With the Supreme Court set to hear the Ram Janmabhoomi case daily in the coming weeks, the BJP plans to bring the issue to the forefront of political discourse.
On Friday, the BJP marked the birth anniversary of Syama Prasad Mookherjee with the resolve of installing a “Hindu chief minister” in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The question of Article 370, security situation in Kashmir, and relations with Pakistan after the new government gets elected there, would also determine the announcement of election dates.
The upcoming monsoon session of Parliament is also likely to see the Modi government again push for the passage of the ‘triple talaq’ Bill, and another Bill to grant statutory status to the National Commission for Backward Classes. The BJP hopes to reach out most backward castes among the OBCs.