During the course of electoral campaigning, the discussion will focus on issues on the basis of which choices will be made by the electorate. Everybody, from the political parties, themselves, to the media and other interested groups will try and identify, even prescribe, what these would be. There are many with specific agendas who would like to introduce these into the debate so that politicians favourable to them get elected. Many of these issues will be directly relevant to all, while others may not be so high up on the list of priorities.
In the coming election, the foremost issue will, of course, be whether Prime Minister Modi deserves another term in office. This is so because the opposition has identified his removal as its primary objective, even regardless of the ideologies of each political party being in conflict with each other. This raises questions about their commitment to these ideologies, but it is for the voters to decide if such things are to be overlooked. Consider how the AAP, which came to power fundamentally on the basis of anti-incumbency against the Congress, is today eager to forge an alliance with it. The same applies to the SP-BSP alliance in UP.
Of course, had it been a presidential style election, the question of another term for Modi would have been easily resolved. In a parliamentary democracy, that is not the singular issue, because voters also have to decide on who amongst the local candidates are to be supported. It is very much possible that, despite Modi’s popularity, the BJP’s sitting MP or wannabe MP is not considered suitable. There is a limit to how much the Modi factor can prevail, especially as the effort everywhere is to put up single opposition candidates. It matters, therefore, how much the BJP can make bringing Modi back the primary issue. In Uttarakhand, for instance, the BJP faces the challenge of identifying suitable candidates in constituencies where MPs cannot be repeated because of old age or indifferent performance.
According to the opposition narrative, Modi’s decisions such as demonetisation and implementation of GST have been anti-people acts. These are supposed to have created joblessness and an agrarian crisis that never existed before. People may not have experienced any of this, personally, but might be convinced this is the case with others. So, it will be a challenge for the BJP to have people decide on the basis of their own reality. The campaigns of the various parties will need to be designed on these compulsions, if they are to prove effective. How well they do this will become evident in the not so distant future.