No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.
- Adam Smith
Stage is now set for an estimated 900 million Indians heading to the polls to elect their next Parliament/government. In the 70-odd years since India’s independence, this will likely be the first election that seriously challenges the country’s inclusive political culture. After the hustle and bustle of campaigning, which came to an end on Tuesday in 91 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 20 states and Union Territories, now it is over to voters as Thursday marks the start of the mega seven-phase electoral exercise. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and parts of Odisha will be voting on Thursday to elect new Assemblies also. Counting of votes of all phases will be on May 23. Attracting tumultuous response from parties over its recent exploits, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has been proactively exercising authority as the custodian of elections. With the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in effect with the upcoming elections, there have been several infringements forcing ECI to advocate norms and act accordingly. And, with the predominant objective of conducting free and fair elections, the ECI has pulled up the strings in few matters. The poll panel has been actively trying to ensure that no stone is left unturned in ensuring free and fair elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking re-election under more favourable conditions. Just a few months back the situation was not favourable for Modi and rising concerns about a lack of jobs put his government on the back foot. Several state Assembly polls showed slumping support for him and his party — Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). India’s vast size and diversity make its elections tough to follow — and nearly impossible to predict. But if one goes by the poll predictions (exit poll) published by different agencies it is now almost certain that the BJP will return to power, but not with a majority of its own, which will make it head a less close-knit coalition than at present. So, crossing 272-mark would be tough task for both BJP and Congress. As some “scientific” predictions indicate Congress and some other Opposition parties are likely to improve their tally, but the grand alliance may fall short of a majority by a whisker. In 2014, the BJP won its powerful mandate by sweeping these four key states: winning 71 of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, all 25 seats in Rajasthan, 27 of 29 states in Madhya Pradesh and 22 of 40 seats in Bihar. It’s going to be nearly impossible to replicate that success in 2019.
In 2014, two factors contributed to the BJP’s unprecedented victory in UP; extremely high vote share and split in Opposition votes. In 2019, the Opposition is more united than it was in 2014, so BJP’s vote share will be an important factor in its performance. There is no denying that this time the BJP has its leadership, campaign, organizational machine, and most significantly, a range of alliances across key states in place. In these aspects Congress appears to be struggling. This is most stark in its failure to stitch up alliances. While “scientific” predictions and half-baked assessments could prove inaccurate, the truth will be revealed on judgement day, May 23.