* THE COMEBACK: No one was surprised when the Narendra Modi government made a comeback, though the sweep of the mandate (outdoing 2014) did surprise a few. Not Amit Shah who had predicted that they would cross 300. Three others who had predicted the same included the powerful BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav, and Cabinet ministers Hardeep Singh Puri and Piyush Goel.
* THE HICCUP: Came from the state polls of Maharashtra and Haryana. As in 2014, the BJP was hoping to top off the Lok Sabha win with the two Assembly states, but it seems that the two BJP Chief Ministers did not have the same comeback track record as the Prime Minister. Manohar Lal Khatter managed to retain his seat by “persuading” Dushyant Chautala to tie up with him, but it was Maharashtra that sent the rudest message to the BJP when its oldest ally, the Shiv Sena pulled the rug from under its feet. Shiv Sena tying up with the Congress was unthinkable in the politics of old; but this is the Age of Modi and the Congress has realised it will have to redo its thinking if it wants to survive. Interestingly, other NDA allies like the JD(U), LJP and Akali Dal have also taken a leaf from the Sena’s book and upped their ante against the BJP’s “Big Brotherly” attitude. With Bihar elections coming up in 2020, watch this space. For a lot will depend on the BJP’s takeaway from Maharashtra—will it now be more accommodating to its allies or does it feel it made a mistake in giving away so many seats to the Sena to contest from and thus lost the mandate, for its strike rate was higher than the Sena’s? Would it have made more sense in going it alone—though going solo didn’t do it much good in Jharkhand?
* TWO DEBUTS AND ONE WAR HORSE: The two political debuts this year were Dushyant Chautala, who formed his own party and ended up with more numbers than the parent party; the other was Aaditya Thackeray, who is fast emerging as the face of the “New Sena” that seems more concerned about the environment than the mandir. The old warhorse who proved that he was still very much in the running is of course Sharad Pawar, who was the architect of the Maharashtra alliance that gave the Modi-Shah duo a hard lesson in realpolitik.
* YEAR OF THE RIGHT: Electorally they may have met with a few stumbling blocks, but Modi-Shah have surely checked all the deliverables on the right wing agenda—whether it was abolishing triple talaq, abrogating Article 370 or shepherding the Ayodhya verdict on a fast track. The jury, however, is still out on the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC, for the protests against this Act were still very on as the year ended.
* RISE OF THE NUMBER 2: Interestingly, this is also the year that saw Amit Shah emerging from the shadows. Not only did he join the Modi Cabinet as Home Minister, but he has also been the face of both the decision to abrogate Article 370 and pass the CAA. No longer just a backroom manager, he is very much the de facto Number Two.
* THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: The Modi government still has to get its sums right and fix the economy. The year ended with the GDP showing its lowest growth rate in six years, falling to 4.5% for the July-September quarter, as against 7% during the corresponding period of the last fiscal (2018-19). Since the Budget is first on the to-do list of 2020 (since it’s slated for 1 February), one hopes that this will be tackled with the same urgency as delivering on the right wing agenda. While pink may not have the same emotive appeal as saffron, many an election has been lost on the price of onions.
* THE ONE WHO GOT IT RIGHT: Has to be Dr Subramanian Swamy, for he is the one person who has been sounding the warning bell on the economy, even at the risk of displeasing his party’s high command. Again, it was Swamy who has been one of the main litigants pleading for the case of building a Ram Temple at Ayodhya and attended each and every hearing in the Supreme Court.
* STUCK IN STATUS QUO: Rahul GAndhi is still stuck in his mother’s shadow. Resigning when the going gets tough and making an appearance when it looks as if the tide may turn in the Congress’ favour. As the main Opposition party the Congress really needs him to get his script right. He missed the last decade. Maybe the next decade will bring with it some 2020 vision.