It is all over bar the shouting. Okay, seeing how they are still hoping against hope that all the exit polls are way off the mark, let us make it count.
Yes, it is all over bar the counting. Leaning on the 2004 example, the Mayawati’s and Mamata Banerjee’s and, of course, our very own, Rahul Gandhi, will not lend credence to the outright win for the BJP and an overwhelming majority with its NDA partners as predicted by these polls. Mind you, these were conducted by several media groups, including, notably, by those which are viscerally hostile towards Modi.
Anyway, May 23rd is not far away. We should wait. Hopefully, they will accept the actual results, will they not? The way they have pelted the Election Commission, rubbishing the official outcome cannot be beyond them. Poor EVMs will be trashed for always rigging in favour of the BJP. So pathetic is Mamata Banerjee that she sees a conspiracy even in the exit polls, suggesting that the EVMs will be changed to conform to the exit poll outcome.
It is this collective failure of the anti-Modi parties to ignore the reality on the ground which may explain their miserable performance, assuming, as we do, that the exit polls very-nearly reflect the actual outcome on May 23rd. Mamata herself seems to be paying the price for overt pandering of the Muslims. The upsurge in favour of the saffron party is a clear outcome of the religious polarisation in the State. The Left has crumbled and its vote shifting to the BJP.
On the assumption that the exit polls offer an indication of the way the wind is blowing, let us make a few more points. One, the BJP ran a first-rate campaign- energetic, direct, purposeful and with a clear objective. It was spectacularly backed up by Amit Shah’s foot soldiers. Organisationally, the management of the BJP was faultless. Above all, cleverly did the BJP move its focus from its patchy record in government to national security.
The Palanpur-Balakot theme lent substance to the strong leader image of the prime minister. He addressed more than 140 rallies, a record in itself. Since the Opposition unwisely made him the target of its campaign rather than his performance in government, Modi enjoyed shredding to bits the claim to the power of his rivals.
Overshadowed by the nationalism and security narrative, the ruling party’s excesses such as cow lynchings, love jihad, even the unproductive pain of notebandi, etc, were relegated to the background. Modi found a new constituency among the new voters who overwhelmingly voted for him. Economic woes, joblessness, farm distress in large parts of the country were pushed off the national consciousness.
Two, Modi really had no challenger. Having succeeded in making it a presidential poll, he knowingly singled out Rahul Gandhi, a very weak link in the Opposition chain, for his lack of experience, his sense of entitlement and his failure to work with fellow Opposition leaders.
The so-called Mahagathbandhan did not materialize. In Tamil Nadu where it did with DMK as the fulcrum, as per the exit polls it is doing well. For the key one in UP, with Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, and Ajit Singh joining hands, the Congress played the spoiler.
Most exit polls predict an outright win for the BJP, though a solitary one gives the UP Gathbandhan far more seats than the BJP. In spite of how many seats it wins in UP, all exit polls predict an easy majority for the NDA. Which means Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu ought no longer exert himself, running from leader to leader to unite the Opposition caboodle for challenging Modi.
Instead, he should go and mind his own backyard where his arch rival is said to have snatched his kursi, defeating him convincingly both in the Assembly and the parliamentary polls as per the exit polls. Meanwhile, one likely fall out of the Modi win could be the increased vulnerability of weak governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, if not Rajasthan in the near future.
Of course, the BJP should play by the rulebook, try for wider consensus-building, taking along the Opposition as well, but given that legislators have fickle loyalties and move with the electoral wind, nothing can be predicted about the longevity of the state governments with thin majorities. Two more short points. Modi this time must take up land and labour reforms.
And, two, vigorously pursue the corruption cases against politicians, whether from the NDA or the Opposition. It is not enough that he is incorruptible. Others who have made money through bribes must be made accountable. And one last word, national consensus, not confrontation, should be his goal.
Put behind the bitterness and rancor of the campaign, get on with the onerous task of people welfare in right earnest. That is the only message of the mandate — and certainly not to ratchet up trouble with our perennially hostile western neighbour. We should be ready to deal with it if it is ready to shun the path of terrorism. Both neighbours will profit from a mutual quest for peace rather than war.