Millennium Post

Countdown begins

The Election Commission (EC) sprung into action as it elucidated the details for the upcoming polls. This year's mandate will be concluded in 7 phases from April 11 to May 19 and round up with results on May 23. Spread across seven phases, the election will see three states – UP, Bihar, Bengal – vote in all seven phases while one seat of J&K – Anantnag – will have voting in three phases with 17 states finishing their mandate in a single phase. Election calendar has been put up, sending every single political party into action. Sounding the alarm for the biggest democratic event, the EC brought forth the road map which will lead to the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha in the largest democracy of the world. The 16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019) – NDA's report card – is the first inscription of every voter's decision making, prior to, of course, the contentious issues and lacunae which may shift the mandate away from them. The five years of governance may have been blemished with the controversies which surfaced much to the opposition's wishes. The current government has certainly led India forward but the peculiarities in the progress are what will strike voters in the coming elections – which is undoubtedly the build-up point for the opposition. Pre-poll alliances, post-poll alliances, issues circling the nation and promises thwarted at public will aggregately decide who leads the nation. Party analysis and dynamics are obviously the most talked about scenarios of any election but issues circling the nation have an equal share in the outcome. The most recent one has been National Security which gripped the country as it witnessed a dastardly attack on our security forces by a Pakistan-based terror outfit JeM. In response, India retaliated through the Balakot Air Strike which showcased Modi as a bold and capable statesman which India may not afford to lose. In Modi, NDA has the leader what UPA may still be looking for. Though the opposition parties questioned the authenticity of Balakot following Amit Shah's unsubstantiated number of casualties, Balakot stands as an effective response in the minds of many. Together, the Surgical Strike following Uri and Balakot Air Strike ensure the people that India is in "safe hands". The promise of strong leadership, evident from the government's response to terror incidents, may single-handedly change the numbers. Rural unrest is another issue which is capable of a significant impact on the mandate. Modi's 2014 landslide victory can be accredited to rural voters. An unhappy rural India does not augur well for BJP which has already suffered a jolt by losing out on the Hindi-heartland states of Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh – predominantly on agrarian distress. Congress' influence on the mandate of these states has made it a reckoning force, declining BJP's popularity in rural India. However, a plethora of rural schemes and development agendas placed by the ruling government look to provide a remedy to this downfall. Corruption reduced Congress' last outing in 2014 to poor performance. The previous UPA government's involvement in scams cost Congress heavily. It is rather understood, then, why Congress has been proactively pursuing Rafale. A corruption charge, that too in current times, will thrash BJP's chances to power. However, it has been able to dodge such accusations till now and that means Congress' attempts might be framed as empty rhetoric on the face of millions who might not understand the peculiarities present in the fighter jet deal. BJP's predominant argument has been the power of a majority government drawing sharp contrast against that of a coalition government. Leadership will definitely be a point in focus with BJP, having Modi at the forefront, criticising the opposition forces for lacking a leader. BJP's argument that a shared leadership will be regressive for the nation against the opposition's stance of an antidote to the autocratic cloak garbed by the NDA qualifies as the age-old argument of perspective: If a glass is half full or half empty. Unemployment and welfare schemes play a good part in the mandate with every party advocating some relief (or progress) in these to ensure votes. India may have become the sixth largest economy progressing in various fields but if there's one thing which time and again brings it back to the earlier days then it is the caste factor. The caste politics in the nation severely determines good chunks of numbers here and there based on primitive associations. Coupled with this is the issue of polarisation that can be influential. The Hindu nationalist sentiment has done its round under the current regime and will play a role in the mandate. The first-time voters will be instrumental in the final count as that figure can alter the outcome. The mood of the youth will count in Modi's run for a consecutive term.

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