The game has been played for 2019 general elections. Some people will now play out the games of exit polls. If the past is anything to go by, these polls will be complete duds. Especially in the 2019 elections which have been extremely time consuming and stretched, the voters have been uncannily quiet and non-commital. For those who might remember, this election has been similar to the 1977 post Emergency polls summoned by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Irrespective of how the mandate turns, one thing this election will be noted for is the capital invested, divisive speeches and a generally accusational atmosphere created by all political parties. Interestingly, apart from promises of sops, none of the political parties have offered any roadmap for the future of this country. There have been no social or economic thought expressed during this entire campaign process. Narratives mutated over the course of the election as time progressed. For example, initially, the Congress was seen whipping the standard corruption cow in the Rafale deal as a rallying point. It is not that Rafale deal is not murky or there is no corruption involved. However, the Congress quickly changed tack when it emerged that farmers were in distress and unemployment was an issue young voters were concerned with. The BJP, meanwhile, was clutching at straws in the absence of an issue that would not rake up its failures or earlier poll promises. The answer seemingly came in the form of Pulwama which had a knee jerk reaction within the ruling clique. Pulling Balakote to the limit, Modi tried to create a tear jerking kind of national fervour. Inconvenient truths about basic intelligence failure and a general unpreparedness were subjects left untouched by a political outfit that claims to hold national security close to its heart. Jingoism was tried out as the panacea for all gross failures. The failed Balakote attempt was further dampened by the Abhinandan episode. In fact, the operations were questioned and there was a collective call to bring the truth to light. The electorate has looked to separate the valiance of the armed forces in counter operations from the political spin being given to it in the name of nationalism. As election fever set in further, there was a change in narrative that the Congress was trying to drive its campaign on. Rahul Gandhi has grown in confidence from being a tyro groping for his space to a confident leader and his words now have greater clarity. He has been able to turn Modi’s barbs around and to give the BJP a taste of its own medicine. Although he perhaps needs a little more of political seasoning to fit into a bigger role, he has shown promise. On the other hand, in an election where no national party is certain of majority, most regional leaders have emerged as weaklings greedy for power and without a national outlook. The only exception could possibly be Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal. She is the only leader who has given Modi a run for his money. Although Bengal also seems to have been breached since the communal divide has taken roots in that state. The desperation of the BJP has become increasingly evident in the way the party has lost discipline. The Prime Minister himself has led from the front as he hit the campaign trail, singing Balakote and Pulwama, in spite of clear instructions from the Election Commission that these should not be raised as issues on which the elections should be fought. All the while, N Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh has been working in the background trying to cobble up an alliance, which has been given the name ‘mahagathbandhan’. As the election winds up and a better picture emerges of the way the mandate is likely to go, the course of the combine will also be determined. Although the BJP appeared to be confident that it will get the required majority and form the next government, it may all be face saving bravado and there are doubts about the numbers. The Prime Minister’s image has taken a beating with the faux pas he made during different interviews he gave the media in an unkempt manner. The vandalism of the statue of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar in Bengal and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s statements on Nathuram Godse being a deshbhakt, while reacting to MNM founder Kamal Haasan’s remarks, have all tarnished the image of the BJP during the elections. Modi has managed to alienate a good segment of the bureaucracy, too, by his style of governance. Going by the churning on the ground, it would be difficult to predict which way the winds will blow. But we have to remember, the country is ours, no matter who wins or loses.