New Delhi: The new year promises to be as eventful as the preceding one has been. In fact, the pace that was set in the last three months of 2018 will be kept up in the coming months of 2019. First, the Supreme Court would be hearing the contentious Ram temple dispute followed by the current Government’s last Budget in February. The political activity would peak in March-April with the Lok Sabha elections which would set the tone for the next five years as well. (Also read: BJP Takes a Dig at Grand Alliance)
Come to think of it, the results of recently held Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have already served as a wake-up call for the BJP which would need to get its act together for this face-off with a resurgent Congress and regional parties.
The Supreme Court would be taking up this Friday, January 4, a batch of petitions in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case for hearing. The matter is listed before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul.
The top court had in October declined an urgent hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute case and had fixed the politically sensitive issue for the first week of January before an “appropriate bench” and left a decision on the timeline to it.
The temple issue is one that has been troubling the BJP with its oldest ally, Shiv Sena, already announcing it would go it alone in 2019 elections. Add to this the TDP and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP which have left the NDA alliance since, and the going might get tougher for the saffron party. The BJP is likely to keep this issue afloat until the 2019 elections as it will provide an opportunity to attack the Congress.
However, the Congress cannot afford to sit back yet. Despite consolidating its position as the core of any opposition alliance, it can’t yet afford to call the shots. In some states, local parties might cause hurdles in forming a grand alliance of anti-BJP parties. A case in point: UP where both the SP and the BSP have been ambivalent about the Mahagathbandhan. Other states where the grand alliance could face a similar predicament are Delhi, Kerala and West Bengal.
Meanwhile, the BJP doesn’t have only its disgruntled allies to worry about. Reports suggest the economic growth remains well below the country’s potential, with GDP growth slowing down to 7.1 per cent in the 2018 second quarter as compared to 8.2 per cent in the first quarter. This is the slowest pace of growth as compared to the last three quarters.
Hence, the Budget, to be presented on February 1, will be crucial for the Government, giving it one last chance to announce some popular measures. The BJP will also bet that its flagship welfare schemes might insulate it against the patchy economic record. The Government’s focus would be on highlighting its flagship schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and a health insurance plan for 500 million people.
The farming community continues to suffer, despite the above-mentioned efforts. With the Congress’ promise of a loan waiver if voted back to power, the NDA’s job of wooing this community becomes difficult. (Also read: Centre Mulls Waiving Farm Loan Interest if Farmer Pays on Time)
The results of the recent Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have heightened the need to placate the farming community. In the three states, the incumbent BJP managed to win just 35 per cent of the 436 assembly seats in rural areas, while the Congress won 55 per cent of the seats.