President Ram Nath Kovind’s tenure expires on July 25, 2022. After the elections for five state assemblies are completed, the presidential election will be conducted in mid-July of the following year. The coveted elections will be the first litmus test for the unified Opposition group, which is now in the planning stages. They may run a joint candidate.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, has lost governments in a few states. The opposition believes that the BJP’s loss in West Bengal, the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, mishandling of the crisis, farmers’ protests, price rises, and anti-incumbency will cause it to lose the majority of the state elections scheduled for next year, hurting its chances in the Presidential election.Assume, for the sake of argument, that the BJP-led NDA narrowly ekes out a simple majority (202 seats) in the crucial Uttar Pradesh elections.
In such a scenario, and after accounting for by-elections to fill state Assembly vacancies and Rajya Sabha re-elections, the NDA is likely to receive 46.7 percent of the vote, the UPA 26.4 percent, anti-BJP parties 16.5 percent, and neutral parties (fence-sitters, including non-aligned independents) 10.5 percent of the vote.
With 42.9 percent of the vote, the UPA and anti-BJP parties would still trail the NDA. The fence-sitters are expected to bail out the BJP with a slew of crucial Bills in the Rajya Sabha, as they did in the past. Why would they do such a thing? Because a victory in Uttar Pradesh would demonstrate that the BJP still has momentum heading into the general elections in 2024. These parties can vote for the NDA, increasing its vote share to 57.2 percent, or they can abstain, resulting in a 52.1 percent vote share.
So, what happens if the BJP loses in UP election in 2022 as well? The magnitude of loss will next be considered. Even if its vote share falls below half, as is expected in other states, the NDA will still have a 1.8 percent advantage over the opposition, with a 45.7 percent vote share. The break-even mark is 120 seats, a drop of more over 200 seats from the BJP’s 2017 tally. At this point, the UPA and the NDA will be deadlocked in the electoral college with 44.8 percent vote shares apiece. Even if the BJP loses Uttar Pradesh, it will be in the lead in the 2022 presidential elections. Even if the NDA loses Uttar Pradesh and all other states, but wins more than 120 seats in Yogi’s state, the NDA candidate will be ahead in the Presidential elections. A defeat in Uttar Pradesh, on the other hand, may tip the scales in the Opposition’s favour and make fence-sitters nervous.
That is why a victory in UP election in 2022 is critical for the BJP as it prepares for federal elections in 2024. As we have shown, even a mere majority is sufficient to derail the hopes of a united opposition.