By Praveen Rai
The voter turnout in first phase of Lok Sabha elections 2019 was almost the same in percentage points as in previous General elections, except for the steep drop in Telengana (8 percent) and a significant dip in Uttarakhand (4 percent).
However, the footfall of the voters in polling booths were greater in numbers than 2014 elections due to addition of first time voters by Election Commission of India (ECI).
The elections were more or less successful, barring sporadic glitches in EVMs and incidents of poll violence at a few places in Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The ECI received several complaints from political parties about EVM malfunctioning and rigging, but some went overboard and questioned the neutrality of the institution in conducting free and fair elections. The allegation against the ECI is not only baseless, but also a manifestation of falling standards and decorum of political parties in India.
The political parties in the fray flashed victory signs on Television and social media platforms after the polling, but some political experts jumped the bandwagon to declare that the lower voter turnout is negative signal for the BJP seeking a second term in Delhi.
There is a pshephological correlation between an increase or decrease in the quantum of voting with the performance ratings of an incumbent government, but it is hazardous to fathom its political outcome in the early stages of staggered Indian election.
The second phase of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 will be held in the states of Tamil Nadu (39), Karnataka (14), Maharashtra (10), Uttar Pradesh (8), Assam (5), Bihar (5), Odisha (5), Chhattisgarh (3), West Bengal (3), Jammu and Kashmir (2), Manipur (1), Tripura (1) and the union territory of Puducherry (1).
The round up of General Elections held in 2014 in 97 parliamentary seats reveal that the NDA won 33 seats (BJP 27 and allies 6), UPA won 15 (Congress 12 and allies 3), Left 2 and the remaining 47 PCs were won by the regional parties.
Among the provincial parties, the AIADMK (37 seats) won the lion share of the total seats, while the remaining electoral spoils were shared by other political establishments.
The Lok Sabha elections in the Tamil Nadu in 2014 witnessed a multi-polar competition between the AIADMK, the DMK in alliance with IUML and VCK, the BJP in partnership with DMDK, PMK, IJK, PNK, the Congress and the Left parties.
The AIADMK led by Jayalalitha, popularly called Amma, defied Modi wave to register a spectacular victory by winning an overwhelming 37 out of the 39 parliamentary seats with 44 percent vote share. The BJP and the PMK won one seat each, while the DMK alliance, the Congress and the left drew a blank.
The AIADMK continued its winning momentum and won a comfortable majority the state elections held in 2016. The passing away of Amma and Karunanidhi, legends of Dravidian politics in 2017-18 not only created a political vacuum, but also a realignment of party politics in the state.
The baton of DMK leadership passed to the hands of M K Stalin with minor family squabbles, while succession in the AIADMK turned into a long theatrical battle befitting a Tamilian potboiler.
The game of thrones ended in Tamil Nadu after the two warring factions agreed to an equitable power sharing, with K Palaniswami as the Chief Minister and O Panneerselvam his Deputy, while TTV Dhinakaran quit the party with 18 MLAs to form a new political outfit, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). The outcome of bypolls in 22 assembly segments will decide the fate of AIADMK in the state.
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu is a four-cornered electoral competition between the AIADMK led National Democratic Alliance, its chief rival DMK led United Progressive Alliance, actor Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) and AMMK led by TTV Dhinakaran.
The AIADMK will contest on 20 PCS, its ally PMK 7, BJP 5, DMDK 4, Tamil Maanila Congress, Puthiya Tamizhagam Katchi and Puthiya Needhi Katchi one seat each. The AINRC also a part of AIADMK alliance will fight from Puducherry seat.
The seat sharing arrangement of DMK alliance include 20 seats for the DMK, Congress 9, VCK 2, CPI, CPI (M), MDMK, IJK, KMDK and IUML one seat each.
The direct contest between the two archrivals in Tamil Nadu, the DMK and the AIADMK is restricted to 8 Lok Sabha seats, while the remaining 31 PCs will witness an electoral contest between its alliance partners and DMK allies.
The election narrative in Tamil Nadu pivots around state and local issues like the long standing riparian dispute with Karnataka over sharing of Cauvery river water, police firing on a non-violent mob protesting against the reopening of a polluting Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi that resulted in the death of 13 people and the stiff opposition by the citizens of the Salem-Chennai Greenfield expressway that could destroy the ecological balance in the region.
The AIADMK is highlighting the Global Investors Meet 2019, the efficient handling of relief operations after cyclone Gaja and credit for All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Madurai. The DMK in campaign mode attacked the ruling party for crisis in governance, poor law and order situation and disruptions in state welfare schemes that caused economic misery to the beneficiaries, particularly women.
The southern region of the state, an AIADMK bastion bore the major brunt of the Supreme Court order banning polluting firecrackers, as thousands of manufacturing units in Sivakasi was shut down with a large number of workers losing their livelihood. In Kanyakumari, the death of 191 fishermen and the widespread devastation in the wake of cyclone Ockhi in 2017 is a poll issue, while in the industrial zone of Coimbatore and Tiruppur, the GST could be an influencing factor in the elections.
The key constituencies that would witness a clash of prominent political leaders include Chennai Central, Dharmapuri, Nilgiris (SC), Coimbatore, Sivaganga, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari.
The Chennai Central has been the home constituency of former Union minister Murasoli Maran (DMK), and his son Dayanidhi Maran who lost the election in 2014 elections is contesting to reclaim the lost ground on the basis of bringing multi-national companies and providing jobs.
His opponent is Sam Paul from PMK, who as an entrepreneur is also promising the electorate jobs and transparency in public life. It is one of the smallest PCs in India in geographical terms and a DMK bastion, as Karunanidhi won several assembly elections from this constituency.
The Dharmapuri constituency is a strong hold of PMK whose main support base is the dominant Vanniyar community that constitutes 41 percent of the population. PD Elangovan and R Senthil of PMK won the seat in 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections, while R Thamaraiselvan of DMK won the seat in the 2009 general election.
Anbumani Ramadoss wrested the seat in PMK fold in 2014, and is contesting the election against S Senthil Kumar of the DMK. The Nilgiris is a reserved constituency for the scheduled castes with a significant demographic presence of the Badaga tribe (20 percent population), Arundathiyars (a Dalit sub-sect) and the ‘Vellalar Gounders’, a dominant OBC community.
M Master Mathan of the BJP won the seat twice in 1998 and 1999 elections before losing it to R Prabhu of the Congress in the 2004 elections. In 2009, A Raja of the DMK won the seat, while C Gopalakrishnan of the AIADMK won it in 2014. This time around, M Thiagarajan of the AIADMK is contesting against A Raja. It is one of the eight seats that will witness a direct face off between the two dominant parties in the state.
The Coimbatore seat will see a right-left ideological contest between CP Radhakrishnan, the former chief of BJP state unit, and the former member of Parliament, PR Natarajan of the CPI(M). CP Radhakrishnan had won the seat in 1998 and 1999 polls, while PR Natarajan won the election in 2009.
Coimbatore is the commercial capital of Western Tamil Nadu, also called Kongu Nadu and the second most populated city in the state. The Sivaganga constituency is the home turf of former Congress finance minister P Chidambaram, who was elected as Lok Sabha member seven times from this seat.
In 2014 elections, PR Senthilnathan of the AIADMK defeated his son Karti Chidambaram. In this election, Karti Chidambaram is contesting against the BJP candidate, H Raja, who is known for stoking political controversies. The BJP is relying on Hindu votes, which could be split by TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK that has a strong support base among the Mukkulathor community in Sivaganga.
The caste communities that play a decisive role in this seat and adjoining constituencies comprises of Chettiars, Dalits, Thevars and the Konars.
The Thoothukudi seat in Tamil Nadu will be a contest between Tamilisai Soundarrajan of the BJP and Kanimozhi, the sibling of DMK supremo, in the backdrop of police killing of 13 people in the anti-Sterlite protest in 2018.
The Kanyakumari PC will witness a fierce contest between two sons of the soil, Pon Radhakrishnan of BJP and H Vasanthakumar of Congress. It was the lone seat won by the saffron party in 2014 elections. The BJP had won this twice by religious polarization of the Hindu electorate, as the Hindus and the Christians are in equal numbers, each comprising of 46 percent of the population in the district.
The DMK led SPA is all set to win a large number of parliamentary seats, but it would not be a complete sweep like the 2004 elections, as the AIADMK led by NDA could buck the skewed winning trend in Tamil Nadu and end up winning seats in double digits.
The General elections in 28 parliamentary constituencies of Karnataka will be held in two phases, with 14 going to polls in the second phase. They include four PCs in Bangalore (Rural, North, Central and South), Udupi Chikmagalur and Dakshina Kannada in coastal region and Hassan, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Mandya, Mysore, Chamarajanagar, Chikkballapur and Kolar in Southern Karnataka.
The state known for its politicians changing party affiliation at the drop of a hat, witnessed a triangular competition in 2014 elections between the BJP, the Congress and JD(S) led by HD Kumaraswamy. The BJP propelled by the Modi wave won 17 out of the 28 seats, while the Congress won 8 and the JD(S) managed to win two seats.
The saffron establishment continues to be the first choice of Karnataka voters in national elections since 2004, and the only state in South of Vindhyas where the BJP stamped its political dominance. The assembly election in 2018 witnessed a close contest between the BJP and the Congress in the state, which resulted in a hung assembly with saffron party emerging the largest party in the state.
The Congress bowled a political googly to saffron party by entering into a post poll alliance with JD(S), offering the Chief Minister-ship to HD Kumaraswamy. The Congress-JDS government in Karnataka continues to be far from stable, as the shadow of horse-trading looms large on the alliance, which is expected raise its ugly head if the incumbents fail to win a majority of the seats in this election.
The Congress-JD(S) combine has worked out a seat arrangement, whereby the Congress will contest from 18 seats while the JD(S) will field its nominee in 10 seats of Uttara Kannada, Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Tumkur, Hassan, Mandya, Bangalore North and Bijapur. The issues on which the two political formations is contesting the elections is a mix of national and state narrative.
The Congress-JD(S) combine is raising issues like farmers’ distress, drought and unemployment, while the BJP is raking up emotive issue of national security, patriotism and muscular leadership of Narendra Modi.
The ruling alliance is banking on the audiogate scandal of BS Yeddyurappa trying to poach a JD(S) MLA, waiving of farm loans of up to Rs 2 lakh per farmer and farm distress, further compounded by severe drought spread across 156 taluks in the state.
The key PCs that will witness a keen contest include is Chamarajanagar, a Congress citadel with sitting MP R Dhruvanarayana pitted against V Srinivas Prasad, a former Congress leader and five-time MP in Lok Sabha, on a BJP ticket.
The Mandya Lok Sabha constituency, a JD(S) stronghold will witness fierce contest between HD Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumar against popular actor Sumalatha, the widow of Congress leader Ambareesh, who is contesting as an independent candidate. She is receiving support from the BJP and local Congress cadres, who are disgruntled for not allotting her the seat on a Congress ticket.
The Hassan PC is a JD(S) bastion has been represented by former Prime Minister and stalwart HD Deve Gowda since 2004 elections. He has vacated the safe seat for his grandson Prajwal Revanna, who would lock electoral horns with BJP candidate A Manju.
HD Deve Gowda is contesting from Tumkuru constituency against G.S. Basavaraju of the BJP, a senior parliamentarian. The PC has an electorate of Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities in equal proportions, making it a stiff contest for the JD(S) patriarch.
The rebellion by Congress sitting MP, S.P. Mudda Hanume Gowda on denial of ticket from this constituency has further complicated the situation for Deve Gowda. The combined vote share of the Congress-JD(S) in 2014 elections is 10 percentage points higher than the BJP, which on statistical conversion would mean 17 to 20 seats for the alliance.
However, its success depends upon the unity of purpose among the Congress and the JD(S) workers in ground zero and the ability to transfer votes to each other.
In Maharashtra, the ten parliamentary constituencies going to polls in the second phase of elections include Buldhana, Akola and Amravati (SC) in Vidarbha area, Hingoli, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad and Latur (SC) in Marathwada region and Solapur (SC) in western part of the state.
In 2014 elections, the BJP and the Shiv Sena won four seats each, while the Congress managed to win two seats. The Marathawada region of the state has experienced one of the most severe drought, and agrarian distress and farmers suicides are the main electoral issues that would determine the outcome in Beed, Osmanabad and Latur PCs.
The Beed seat is represented by BJP’s Pritam Gopinathrao Munde, which fell vacant after the death of her father Gopinath Munde’s in a car accident. She won the by election, and is contesting this election against Bajrang Sonawane of NCP. The Latur seat, a Congress citadel for decades will witness a tough contest between BJP candidate Sudhakar Shrangare and Machhindra Kamant of Congress.
The availability of water has been one of the key issues in Latur, and the BJP led State government transported water through goods train to solve the crisis in 2017, but the problem still persists, as the city gets water supply once a week.
The Solapur constituency in the western region of the state is witnessing an intresting contest between former Union home minister and senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, Lingayat seer Mahaswami Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya of BJP and Prakash Ambedkar, Dalit leader of outfit Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).
The BJP is banking upon the Lingayat with around four lakh votes to win the election, while Ambedkar is trying to mobilize the three lakh Dhangar, three lakhs Muslim and 2.50 lakhs dalit votes to upset the saffron advantage in this seat.
The Congress and VBA campaign against the BJP focused on issues of severe shortage of drinking water, farmland crisis, widespread unemployment and voter’s disenchantment with Demonetization and GST. The Nanded seat will witness a tough contest between former Congress chief minister, Ashok Chavan and Pratap Patil Chikkalikar of the BJP.
In 2014 elections, Chavan defeated DB Patil of the BJP by slender margin of 80,000 votes, and need to up the ante to retain the seat.
The election in Uttar Pradesh in this phase will be held in 8 PCs of Nagina (SC) and Amroha in Ruhelkhand region, Aligarh, Hathras (SC), Mathura, Agra (SC) and Fatehpur Sikri in Doab and Bulandshahr (SC) in western part of the state.
The BJP won all eight seats in 2014 elections mainly due to phenomenal Modi wave and fragmentation of votes in opposition camps. The Lok Sabha elections in UP started on the right note with BJP pitching for nationalism in the aftermath of Balakot strikes in Pakistan, and Modi’s development work, while the SP-BSP-RLD combine and the Congress attacking the Modi government for failing to fulfill its promises, but it soon digressed to religious issues for polarization of votes.
The BSP supremo Mayawati’s clarion call to the Muslim community to vote en bloc for the secular alliance created a backlash, as state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath turned the election discourse upside down with a ‘Áli versus Banjrangbali’ binary to consolidate Hindu votes for the saffron party.
The communalization of election has the potential to upset the caste community arithmetic of SP-BSP-RLD alliance and could neutralize the pole position of the regional parties in UP.
The constituencies that will witness a clash of titans with star power include Aligarh, Agra and Mathura. The contest in Aligarh is between sitting BJP MP Satish Kumar Gautam, Ajit Baliyan of BSP and Bijendra Singh of the Congress.
Muslims constitutes 20 percent of the population and play an influential role in elections, but the constituency has never elected a Muslim candidate for Lok Sabha. The seat has sizable number of Dalits (20 percent) and the Jats and Lodh castes, which supported the BJP in 2014 elections.
The Agra seat will witness a triangular contest between the BJP state minister for animal husbandry, SP Singh Baghel, BSP’s Manoj Soni and Preeta Harit of Congress, a former IT officer. Mathura will see a tough contest between film actor Hema Malini, seeking a reelection on BJP ticket and RLD candidate, Narendra Singh.
The saffron party will lose a few seats in this phase of elections, provided the regional parties alliance succeeds in maximizing the non-BJP voters and prevent it from splitting in favour of the Congress.
In Assam, the parliamentary constituencies going to polls incude Karimganj (SC), Silchar and Autonomous District (ST) in Barak valley and Mangaldoi and Nowgong situated in lower and upper Assam respectively. The BJP won all the three seats in Barak valley in 2014 elections, while the Congress won in the remaining two seats.
The political situation changed after the National Register of Citizens (NRC) left out four million causing widespread resentment and protest against the BJP. The NRC is under revision, but the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 introduced by the saffron party setting 31 December 2014 as the cut-off date for Hindu, Parsi, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh illegal immigrants once again backfired as Northeastern states witnessed another round of political protest.
The situation is normal now but the issue could influence the voting decision of the electorate and reverse the gains made by saffron outfit in this region.
The Silchar constituency will witness a tough competition between All India Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev and BJP candidate Rajdeep Roy. The seat has been a Congress citadel as former union minister Santosh Mohan Dev, father of Sushmita Dev represented it between 1999 and 2009.
The Muslims comprise 35 percent of the population in Silchar, while Bengali Hindu voters, mostly refugees from Bangladesh, have a sizable population. Dilip Saikia of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is locking horns with Bhubaneswar Kalita of the Congress in the Mangaldoi seat. It was vacated by sitting BJP MP Ramen Deka, as part of seat arrangement between the BJP and its allies (AGP) and Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF).
The PCs of Kishanganj, Katihar, Purnia, Bhagalpur and Banka located in the eastern periphery of Bihar are going to polls in the second phase of elections. In previous Lok Sabha elections, the RJD won two seats while the remaining seats were shared by the Congress, JD(U) and NCP.
The constituencies that will witness a fierce electoral battle include Bhagalpur, where the sitting MP of RJD, Shailesh Kumar (Bulo Mandal) is challenged by Ajay Kumar Mandal of JD (U). The Kishanganj seat in the state accounts is a Muslim dominated district (70 percent of population) and is one of the poorest districts in India with a per capita annual income of Rs 9,928 and four out 10 citizens are illiterates.
The seat is witnessing a triangular competition after six decades between Asaduddin Owaisi led AIMIM candidate Akhtarul Imam, Syed M Ashraf of JD(U) and Mohammad Javed of the Congress.
The five parliamentary constituencies in Odisha where elections would be held in this phase are Bargarh, Sundargarh (ST) and Bolangir in western region, Kandhamal in south and Aska in the coastal belt. The BJP led by Naveen Patnaik won four seats in 2014 elections and the BJP one. The two seats that will witness a direct faceoff between the BJD, which ruled the state for 19 years and the BJPis Bolangir and Aska.
In Bolangir, BJP’s Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo won thrice between 1998 and 2004, before losing it to Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo of the BJD. It is one of the most backward districts as regards socio-economic indicators in the country with a demand for separate state, Koshal.
In this election, BJD has fielded former MP Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo against BJP veteran Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo and Samarendra Mishra from Congress ticket. Aska PC is a BJD bastion and Naveen Patnaik made his political debut from this seat in 1997. Pramila Bisoi of BJD will contest against Anita Subhadarshini of the BJP, who is daughter of former BJD strongman Ramakrushna Patnaik and Rama Krushna Panda of CPI(M) with the backing of Congress cadres.
The 3 constituencies that are going to polls in West Bengal include Jalpaiguri (SC), Darjeeling and Raiganj in north Bengal, which was won by TMC, BJP and CPM respectively in 2014 elections.
In Darjeeling, the TMC, BJP and the two factions of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) are avoiding the issue of statehood as the 104-day strike and the violent clashes that led to 14 deaths is still haunting the people in hill district famous for Tea plantations.
The BJP has dropped its sitting MP SS Ahluwalia and given the ticket to Raju Singh Bista who is contesting against Amar Rai Singh, the veteran GJM legislator who joined the TMC. The BJP has the tacit support of the Binay Gurung faction of the GJM.
In Raiganj seat, the TMC has fielded Kanaialal Agarwal, once a follower of Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi of the Congress against sitting MP Mohammed Salim of CPI (M) and BJP candidate Debasree Chaudhuri.
In Chhattisgarh the three constituencies that are going to polls in this phase of elections are Rajnandgaon, Mahasamund and Kanker (ST) that was won by the BJP in previous Lok sabha elections. Rajnandgaon, a high profile seat will witness a prestige battle between Abhishek Singh, son of former BJP chief minister and former Khujji MLA Bholaram Sahu from the Congress. Raman Singh had represented this parliamentary seat in 1999.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the polls will be held in Srinagar and Udhampur. The Srinagar seat will witness a three cornered contest between sitting MP Farooq Abdullah, of NC against Khalid Jahangir of BJP and Agha Syed Mohsin of PDP. The sitting MP of Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency, union minister Jitendra Singh will contest the elections against Vikramaditya Singh of Congress, son of senior party leader Karan Singh.
The other constituencies that will participate in competitive politics in this round of elections include Inner Manipur seat, where the Congress party has dropped the incumbent MP Thokchom Meinya. In his place it has fielded former chief secretary of the state O Nabakishore Singh to contest against Nara Singh of the CPI and RK Ranjan Singh of the BJP.
The Tripura East seat, which has been a impregnable fortress of CPI (M) since 1996, the party has renominated its sitting MP Jitendra Choudhury to compete against BJP candidate Rebati, Pragya Deb Burman of Congress, a member of the royal family and revenue minister NC Debabarma of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), an ally of BJP government in the state.
The Puducherry Lok Sabha seat was won by R. Radhakrishnan of All India NR Congress (AINRC), a regional party in 2014 elections. There are several candidates in fray in this round of elections, but contest is primarily between V. Vaithilingam of Congress supported by DMK grand alliance and K. Narayanasamy of AINRC.
To conclude, the second of General elections will witness the rainbow alliances in various states gaining political momentum, particularly in Tamil Nadu.
(Praveen Rai is a Political Analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi).
(DwaipayanSanyal is a freelance Political Economist based in Noida, Uttar Pradesh).