Retired Supreme Court judge Markandeya Katju, known for his frank and often outrageous political statements, has forecast chaos and instability after the upcoming 2019 general elections.
The elections, he said, would create conditions similar to the mid 1990s and 1977, when no single party had the critical mass to form a stable government at the center. India saw three prime ministers in less than two years in 1996-97.
“It is almost certain that BJP will suffer a massive defeat in the coming Lok Sabha elections,” said Katju, “but Congress too will not get anywhere near a majority.. instead, a coalition govt will be formed in the Centre controlled by regional leaders like Mamata, Akhilesh, Chandrababu Naidu, Naveen Patnaik, Tejaswi Yadav, DMK, ADMK etc.
“This motley collection of regional satraps, who have nothing in common, will first of all fight each other for lucrative portfolios (as happened in Karnataka after the state assembly elections recently) and then keep squabbling over several other issues (like the members of the Janta Party formed after the Emergency ended in 1977), and will be at each other’s throats all the time, motivated by the desire for power and pelf. This will result in total chaos in the country, resulting in a vacuum,” he said, adding that India could even move a dictatorship as a result.
Katju is known for his provocative and often outrageous statements. However, he is also one of the rare, English-speaking persons in Indian public life who regularly speak on controversial topics that are avoided by most politicians and public personalities.
Being an ex-Supreme Court judge and a legal expert, Katju also enjoys some amount of immunity from defamation cases, though he did end up having to tender a written apology for a controversial remark on judges in the context of a 2017 order that set aside the death penalty in the Saumya murder case in Kerala.
It is widely anticipated that the BJP will fail to cross the halfway mark in the 2019 elections and find itself in a situation similar to that of the Congress Party in 2004 and 2009 — with one crucial difference: Smaller parties, which helped the Congress form coalition governments in 2004 and 2009, feel nowhere as comfortable with the saffron party as they did with the Congress.
Most of BJP’s key allies have either left the party’s National Democratic Alliance or view the party with deep suspicion thanks to the saffron party’s aggressive attempts to increase its penetration in areas traditionally dominated by its allies.
While Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party left the NDA in Andhra Pradesh, the Shiv Sena has been behaving more like the opposition party in Maharashtra for the last three years, taking potshots at the ‘big brother’ whenever it can.
This is because regional parties see the Congress as a passive, ‘manageable’ and non-threatening partner, while the BJP under Amit Shah is seen as a cunning outfit that will go to any lengths to increase its presence across India, including stabbing its allies in the back.
As a result, if both the BJP and the Congress end up with around 125-170 seats each — as seems likely — it will be easier for the Congress to stitch up a coalition than the BJP.
Katju’s comments seem to imply that he believes that the Congress Party’s tally will fall considerably below its 2004 figure, when the party had managed to offer a relatively stable coalition government with just 145 seats in a house of 543.