Election results: Why 2021 is not 2024
The results of assembly elections to West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — where the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) won respectively — have resulted in instant analysis of what this means for 2024. The conventional view is that this marks the beginning of a possible third front challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), where regional leaders — especially Mamata Banerjee — will play a critical role. After all, the West Bengal chief minister has shown the model to defeat an aggressive BJP.
There can be no doubt that Ms Banerjee, as well as MK Stalin and Pinarayi Vijayan, have performed impressively. There can also be no doubt that the BJP stares at a stiff political challenge because of its management of the second wave of Covid-19. But it would be premature, on the basis of specific state elections in 2021, to speak of possibilities in 2024.
Three years is a long time in politics — and the BJP may well recover some of its lost political momentum in Uttar Pradesh next year if it wins the state polls. But more importantly, the third front experiment has always confronted two challenges. There is rarely a consensus on who should be the leader of such a front, and taking on Narendra Modi in presidential style elections without a leader is a hard task. Any third front idea also instantly collides with the Congress’s ambitions of being the primary opposition force — and till an understanding is developed first among regional parties and then between the regional parties and the Congress, a concerted challenge is unlikely.