If the latest exit/post polls are considered an indicator, India's political landscape looks certain to undergo a change. The post-election surveys conducted in four states and one UT have predicted the Congress's losing power in Assam and Kerala and failing to capture power in West Bengal and Puducherry. It could do a bit better in Tamil Nadu but only by banking on the DMK; something similar to what had happened in Bihar last year. [What exit polls for 2016 state elections said]
Congress left in not many states
The loss of Assam and Kerala would mean the Congress would only remain in six states, five of which are of little political significance (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya). [Congress losing states one after another]
The only big state that the Congress rules now is Karnataka but here too, the regime of Siddaramaiah could find it difficult to beat the anti-incumbency in 2018. Visualising the scenario of the Congress going to the next Lok Sabha election without being in power in a single state of the country can't be ruled out (most or all the states it is in power at the moment will go to polls in the next two years).
Situation equally grim for Left
The situation is equally grim for the Left Front. Though it was never as influential in the national politics as the Congress, the Left still a better time a decade back when it won 60 seats in the general election of 2004 and played an important role in government formation.
But its journey since then has only gone downhill. It not only paved way for the rival Trinamool Congress (TMC) to become a part of the UPA II after pulling out of the UPA I in 2008, it has faced adversity against Mamata Banerjee in all elections---be it national, state or local---since 2009.
Left likely to receive fourth big thrashing from the TMC
If the exit polls are to be believed, the Left is set to face another humiliation this year, which will be the fourth major since the 2009 Lok Sabha election. And though the Left supporters will believe that this loss will be made up in Kerala where the CPI(M)-led LDF is predicted to return to power, the fact that the Left did not hesitate to join hands with its class enemy---the Congress in Bengal for this year's election---could play to its detriment in the long run.
The fallout of this opportunist electoral understanding has already been felt in Tripura---the only Left-ruled state in the country---and the BJP could make the most of this desperate opportunism of the Left and Congress in states like Kerala and Tripura in coming days, sounding the death knell of the communists.
BJP and AAP: The next Congress and Left of Indian politics?
But just like in physics, no vacuum exists in politics, and the fast disappearance of the two traditional powerhouses of Indian politics---organisational and ideological---looks to pave way for new forces and the BJP and AAP are the front-runners to take those empty slots.
BJP's decent gain outside Hindi belt
The BJP's likely victory in Assam and debut in Kerala means the saffron party has gradually made itself an acceptable alternative in corners that were once perceived to be inaccessible for it. The BJP showed in 2014 general elections that it is the favourite party to replace the Congress in Assam and now in 2016, it is expected to dislodge the traditional power in the north-eastern state.
In Kerala, too, even a small gain for the BJP would encourage it to break the bi-polar politics lead by the declining Congress and Left in the days to come.
In Tamil Nadu, gains in vote-share in a few pocket will make Prime Minister Narendra Modi's followers ecstatic for the southern-most state has been a difficult terrain for the party so far. In Bengal, too, the BJP has been predicted to win seven per cent vote-share, which is again not bad for a party which has been a non-entity in that state.
These high points of the BJP's performance outside the Hindi belt will make its cadre and supporters hopeful about their party turning a truly national one. After the losses in two prestigious battles in Delhi and Bihar last year and the recent debacle in Uttarakhand, the BJP needed to generate a few success stories to revive its mission to achieve a Congress-mukt Bharat.
If Modi and Amit Shah can pull off decent shows in UP and Gujarat next year, then the BJP will look strong for its challengers in the big fight of 2019.
AAP's urban-centric 'Naxalite' politics is appealing to many
The other party, AAP, is also another player of the future in Indian politics. Given it has a young leader in Arvind Kejriwal and harbours an all-India ambition, the AAP's support base is here to stay. Kejriwal has an easy calculation of targeting Modi to remain in the news and assuming that Modi still has a long time to spend at the national stage, the AAP will also remain relevant. [AAP rejoices MCD debut]
The AAP has a unique blending of urban support with a 'Naxalite' way of functioning and that makes look appealing for the common man, something the Left parties had enjoyed in the earlier decades. Just like the Left found an ideological enemy in the Congress to make its own space in Indian politics, the AAP has found a political enemy in the BJP to thrive.
If AAP can wrest Punjab next year, the contest will be on between Modi & Kejriwal
The AAP is still in its earlier days but if it can manage to wrest Punjab from the SAD-BJP alliance next year, its national ambition will certainly gather more confidence and one would expect for face-offs between the BJP and AAP in future.
The AAP will also find support from regional satraps like Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad in its future battles against Modi. With the fast disappearance of the Congress, the AAP could be the new-age Congress with a more popular leadership, unlike Rahul Gandhi, and as like the Congress of the past who took or gave support to the regional parties for power formation, the AAP could play a central role in the anti-BJP arrangement.