Early LS polls unlikely: Modi to use Kumbh Mela to launch 2019 campaign
In the past few months, there have been multiple news reports in the media suggesting how Prime Minister Narendra Modi might advance the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to coincide with three state Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan.
The ruling dispensation, including Modi, has been aggressively batting for 'One Nation, One Election' claiming how it would save valuable resources. In fact, the Law Commission of India has already held meetings with national and regional political parties seeking their suggestions on the same.
Experts argue that advancing the General Elections might be a good idea considering all three states that go to polls in late December or early January are BJP-ruled states. According to them, a loss in even one the states would give Congress the much needed boost before the final battle in 2019. These three states will witness a bipolar contest between the Congress and the BJP.
However, sources have informed that Modi, Shah and the RSS may not be so forthcoming about the idea of advancing the polls considering Kumbh Mela 2019 is going to be held in Allahabad from 14 January to 4 March 2019. According to sources, the BJP and the RSS are planning to use the world's largest gathering of Hindus as an occasion to launch the BJP's 2019 campaign.
According to an RSS functionary from UP, “Party strategists are of the opinion that the Kumbh Mela should be used to to spread the message of wonderful initiatives taken by Modi. The gathering would also help in tiding over the anti-incumbency wave against the Adityanath government in the state. It is a Hindu festival and the party will use it to convey the message of BJP being the only choice of Hindus.”
In 2014, NDA won 73 seats out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state but the recent losses in three Lok Sabha by-polls have rattled the BJP. Even the coming together of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party has made the saffron party jittery which is now planning to use the Hindutva card to appeal to the voters to ensure a repeat of 2014 and Kumbh Mela seems to offer the perfect platform.
Moreover, multiple reports suggest that Modi and his office will personally oversee the preparations of the 50-day jamboree and the prime minister might even visit Allahabad to take stock of the situation. “So, if polls were to be held early, why would Modi and his office care about the Kumbh Mela so much? Well aware of how Kumbh is attended by lakhs of devotees from across the country, he will use this occasion to yet again hard-sell himself and his government. So there is no question of advancing the polls,” the functionary said.
The last time a prime minister was personally involved in overseeing Kumbh preparations dates back to 1954 when the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru kept tab on all preparations. Apparently, Nehru's popularity soared because of his involvement. With Kumbh Mela and General Elections being held in the same year, Modi government would turn it into a grand event to make a strong appeal to his core constituency of Hindus.
Interestingly, even the Opposition parties are gearing themselves for the possibility of early Lok Sabha elections and have put in place mechanisms to ensure that they are not taken by surprise even if it is done. Congress vice-president is holding meetings with state leaders and asking them to be prepared for such a possibility.
In addition, the 2019 Kumbh Mela would also witness a Dalit sanyasi being designated as Juna Akhara's Mahamandaleshwar. It is for the time in history that Juna Akhara – largest order of sadhus in India – will appoint a dalit in the most prominent position. Ever since 2014, BJP has been trying to woo the multiple akharas, particularly Dalit saints, in order to consolidate the lower caste vote base in the state.