Elections 2009: An Assessment

India starts going to polls next week, so I thought I’d give my assessment of what I see happening:

  • The first race is between the BJP and Congress to get ahead in the race to become the largest party. Congress will be happy to get to 150 to start government formation talks, while the BJP will aim to get to 165-175 seats to be in the same position. (BJP needs more, because it has fewer options among the smaller parties to talk to.)
  • The Third Front hodge-podge is trying to do the same! It will need outside support from the Congress if its constituents need to form the government.
  • Various ‘Fronts’ are being formed so no one is quite sure.
  • This is going to be one of the closer elections India has seen. With triangular and quadrangular contests in many seats, no one is quite sure what will happen. All parties will need to mount a significant get-the-vote-out operation.
  • The real game will start once the results are declared on May 16. If neither the BJP or Congress gets to 175, then we are in for a lot of horse-trading.
  • Whichever government is formed, it is unlikely to last very long given the push-pull of the coalition partners. (I had thought the same of the UPA government in 2004, and was proved wrong!) But I think this time around there is a strong probability of elections again in a couple years — and that may be the Real Thing to get a stable government. Or not.

In short, everything’s possible!