2019: Options Before Modi

The by-poll results could help Modi make the necessary course corrections.

2019: Options Before Modi
2019: Options Before Modi

What lessons Modi draws from the results of the by-elections will depend a lot on how he interprets them

The results of the UP and Bihar Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha by-elections are before us. Even Modi loyalists will acknowledge that these results are an indication that he has not lived up to people’s expectations substantially, esp after promising the moon. Opposition unity will only make things more difficult for BJP. In fact, many Modi Bhakts are happy about the by-poll results, as they hope this could help Modi make the necessary course corrections.

Let’s face it: the alternatives, whether Rahul Gandhi or any leader from a Third Front, will be very bad for India. All the alternative leaders are corrupt to the core and have no great national agenda. Modi at least has a good track record to show and the right intentions; he has no family to pamper with billions of dollars in foreign bank accounts and companies.

So, the best bet for India in 2019 elections is Modi. If UP and Bihar were to behave even somewhat like they did in the by-polls, BJP may not be able to hope for a huge majority for NDA like it did in 2014, with all the dissensions within NDA.

What lessons Modi draws from the results of the by-elections will depend a lot on how he interprets them. And how he interprets them will determine what course of action he will take in his march towards the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In any case, by-polls are by-polls and one can’t attach too much importance to these results.

Broadly, there are 3 possible interpretations:

Interpretation 1: SP-BSP coming together to defeat BJP is a one-off event, and it won’t happen in UP nor across the country.

Interpretation 2: Coming together of some parties to defeat BJP may be possible on a limited scale, but not across the country.

Interpretation 3: All the parties are fighting for political survival, and so, it is possible for them to get together significantly to defeat BJP; in fact, it is likely.

In case of Interpretation 1, Modi may want to do nothing different, except for what he would be doing anyway in the interest of the nation, regardless of the by-poll results.

In any case, by-polls are by-polls and one can’t attach too much importance to these results. Maybe it’s just a rap on the knuckles, and people from these constituencies just want to send out a message that they expect a lot more from him.

Creating a parallel professional stream of top bureaucracy through direct recruitment, could also be possible initiatives.

When people have to decide in 2019, their decision is not just about who should win a constituency or two, but who should govern India for the next 5 years. The alternatives before them are only Rahul and someone from a hotch-potch disparate opposition. Even if there are possible alternative PM candidates (like KCR, Chandrababu Naidu or Naveen Patnaik), they are most unlikely to be acceptable to all the opposition together. So, with no credible united opposition candidate, people are more likely to give Modi another chance.

Add to these, the Modi factor – he’s an ace campaigner, and is likely to pull many rabbits out of the hat as he’s been doing so often. So, Modi need not be unduly worried about the by-poll results.

In my view, this is an over-simplistic interpretation and involves huge risk.

In case of Interpretation 2, Modi may try to do a few things differently from what he would have done had he not lost the by-elections. For example, he may do a few populist things in the available time, and reserve a few more for the 2019 Election Manifesto, like: Aggressive implementation of National Health Protection Scheme (i.e., Medical Insurance of Rs 5 Lakhs per family covering 50 crore people, extending this scheme on a low premium paid basis for the others, etc), 33% reservation for women in various elected bodies incl Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, addressing agrarian distress in some substantive way, etc. Wherever money is involved, it will not be easy. He may also do something substantive on the caste combination front.

Modi could also enhance Centre-State coordination so that projects by States are speeded up because one of the reasons for the failure of Modi to show results is the failure of States.

This is a likely interpretation and has a significant chance of success. The fact that there is no credible alternative to Modi will add to his comfort.

In case of Interpretation 3, Modi may do a few things radically differently from what he would have done had he not lost the by-elections. Apart from some of the populist initiatives listed above, he may try some of the following:

Shaking up the Union Cabinet could be one, with at least a few key changes: for example, he may bring in Dr Swamy as Minister for Finance or Law & Justice, shifting Arun Jaitley to, say Defence. This may upset some senior Ministers, but he could consider this situation as an opportunity to do just that, as many problems Modi faces are due to Arun Jaitley’s handling of his Ministry.

Shaking up of the bureaucracy could be another, with a few key changes to facilitate speeding up of court cases, esp of fugitives and politicians, and hastening implementation of reforms. Compulsorily retiring many bureaucrats, and creating a parallel professional stream of top bureaucracy through direct recruitment, could also be possible initiatives.

Being a maverick, Dr Swamy could say or do something that Modi may not like on some key issues.

Replacing some of the losing Chief Ministers by potentially more acceptable leaders is another possible option. To assuage the feelings of the outgoing CMs to avoid inner party rivalry, they could be taken into confidence about the need for this action and accommodated in the Central Ministry. This may be easier said than done, but if done through a democratic process, it could be made to work.

This interpretation (and consequential actions) has a very good chance of success because people will see this as a clear acknowledgement of their resentment; also, there is no point in continuing to do the same things and expect different results.

However, one issue Modi may be worried about in giving Dr Swamy a key Cabinet post is, being a maverick, Dr Swamy could say or do something that Modi may not like on some key issues. If some understanding could be reached between the two on this, it could become a workable proposition.

1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

An Engineer-entrepreneur and Africa Business Consultant, Ganesan has many suggestions for the Government and sees the need for the Govt to tap the ideas of its people to perform to its potential.


  1. This time around , compared to 2014, three PM aspirants are missing Nitish accepted Modi, Jaya is dead and Kalaignar out of action.But KCR, Naidu and Pawar replace them and Congress party out of reckoning.Though it appears KCR and Mamata on same wavelength when it comes to cross the bridge difference may crop up.Seat sharing in UP between Maya and Akhilesh will not be smooth sailing like bye elections.If BJP could set things right in MP, Rajasthan , Chhetisgargh etc Congress tally may even less than present 44.Hope Modi/Shah duo pll out rabbits before election and win with more majority. Even assuming , for logical purpose it comes as the largest party third front govt, for short duration, would be possible only with BJP’s support tp gp fpr another mid term poll like 1996/98.I advise oppositions to go with the BJP govt to reform electoral system ” one nation, one election” with fixed term for legislators .

  2. Kichidi party will be detrimental to India, for its progress, culture and its people. I wish BJP gets some more jolts like this before 2019 so that they do not consider this to be a pushover. They need to show some urgency and put things in its proper place. It is sad to see that FM has been given to a person who is not competent at all and is not changed till now. i was expecting something to happen during last cabinet reshuffle, but it proved it did not. Not sure what Mr.Jaitley holds that makes BJP to retain him in such an important position.
    2019 will be a make or break year for Indian politics. If BJP gets majority again, then it will make all other political parties to run for cover. If it does not, it will make India run for cover.

  3. Just imagine Modiji bringing Swamy as FM and Swamy in turn abolishing Income Tax (he knows the trick how to do it), this will rejuvenate the people’s mood and the economy,

  4. Prevent the ‘unholy alĺiance’ of the ‘evil duo’ SP and BSP in UP through any means. Similarly ensure the criminals ‘Congress — NCP’ do not ally in Maharashtra. If these 2 States are taken care of, NDA will be back with 350

  5. Please don’t pitch for appointing Dr. Swami as the finance minister at this juncture. 1 year is too short a time for him to correct 4 years of mistakes and this year is fraught with the risk of rising oil prices. It is akin to the Dream Budget of 1997- which was very good course correction but failed in the aftermath of the asian crisis. He should be appointed at the fag end of this term, giving an assurance that once Modi is re-elected Dr. Swami will get a full 5 year term to do all the good things.

  6. there is credible alternative to Modi, third fornt or UPA total corrupt. Modiji did a lot in 4 yrs for the country not in peice by piece by as UPA did ,under UPA every ministry was a independent, no collectve in the national interest ,Govt Babus were king maker, where as under NDA ,all ministries works to gether for one goal….but Indians completly drenched under Congress culture,specially rural areas they attract either free beeies,caste ,cash..Modi knows this & he delivered ,LPG,Electricity, for poor…farmers issue In Maharastra huge work been done towards chk dam,results will come future…but lot to do to get rid offarmers agony.and big chunk voters from poor Modi has to reach them convince them . reshuffle ministrues will not fetch…bringing swamy in to cabinet another headache, I donot think Modi will do any changes….Rahul is not a leader for opposition,Nor third fornt.TDP will AP…Modiji will go for early election by saying saving govt money ,thst argument will convince common man…karnataka winning will be big boost for BJP .with that boost Modi may call early LS polls along with 7 to 8 states Assembly will deffinetly retain his position,may not same 2014 seats but NDA forms…..he need to change Shivraj,Sindia

  7. What ever Modi may do for development, will not last long in peoples mind.Take the case of Gujarat ,which Modi has transformed, didnt give him high % of votes. In 2014, Naido lost, inspite of rapidly developing AP, in IT and industrial sector. The fact is mass indian electrorate is digested with the idea of getting freebies.It can be fans,TVs, bicycles,mixies, free food, clothing,smart phones etc etc. So, Modi has to adopt two strategies. One, concentrate on development and secondly, side by side promote one time instant freebies.

    Ram mandir, UCC, corruption, article 370 arestale issues and let BJP adopt the two strategies, they will come to power with large majority.Regarding recent by poll, BJP lost because at least 15% of its supporters slept at home and didnt turn up to vote.

  8. Adopting option 3 solutions alone will bring back BJP govt in 2019 as people have totally lost faith in Modi catching the corrupt,leave alone punishing them.Most of the BJP supporters understand that this govt and the previous congress govt are almost same in economics and corruption.The only attraction to BJP is its Hindutva plank.Even on Hindutva issues this govt’s moves are belated and halfhearted.This is the reason for low polling in recent byelections in UP.This trend(low polling)will extend in 2019 loksabha elections leading to downfall of BJP.


  10. MODI didn’t said anything on J&K,Kerala and WB where Hindus were killed and tortured every day.Love Jihad continued but he is silent But when media faked cow vigilantism.Now DMK started rannting secession of southern states of India and he is silent.


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