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Support yes, but not a wave

Now that the election for 2014 Lok Sabha has reached almost half way mark, it is time to make a realistic poll assessment – who will get largest number of seats, who will be runners up and what role smaller parties will play? The Modi wave is, perhaps, the most contested of all expressions. It is also evident that there is no powerful Modi wave, which may turn into a hurricane, but certainly Modi has an upper hand. Travelling through Eastern Uttar Pradesh, one realizes that the truth is somewhere in between. Doubtless, Modi is much talked about politician in the region. He is the centerpiece of election talks in tea shops, street corners, bus stops, street corners.

In the context of electoral politics, a wave could be described as a force that decisively sweeps everything away. From what is visible, it would be more accurate to term the BJP prime ministerial candidate as the Modi effect; strong in some in some parts and mild in others.

From the BJP’s point of view, the Modi effect has both disadvantages and advantages. Modi has brought on one platform the Muslim votes, which will go against the BJP. The 2002 Gujarat riots, which left about 1,000 Muslims dead, happened during his tenure. The advantage is that Modi has consolidated Hindu votes in his party’s favour.  Also Modi has galvanized BJP workers. RSS too is solidly behind him.

Riding on Modi’s back, the BJP will most likely emerge as a single-largest party, having numbers in the range of 200-220; nowhere close to an absolute majority. According to conservative estimates, the other major national party – the Congress – may end up between 120 and 100 seats. Little wonder then that whoever forms the government at the Centre, will have to depend on number of seats to be won by regional parties.

One phenomenon has gone unnoticed. Generally a party, which romps home in the assembly elections, slides down in Lok Sabha poll. The performance of the BJP was spectacular in last year’s assembly elections in Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. As seen in the past, in general elections, the position is reversed. Will this happen in the four BJP-ruled states?

Nation’s attention is focused on four key constituencies. In Rae Bareli and Amethi, victory of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi appear certain. In Varanasi, a new situation has developed with Mukhtar Ansari opting out of contest. Jailed Qyami Ekta Dal MLA, Mukhtar Ansari, an alleged Mafia Don, will not contest from Varanasi. He took the step to avoid division of anti-BJP votes in the high-profile battle – a situation which may favour APP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s candidature. Mukhtar is lodged in Agra jail in connection with murder of BJP leader MLA Krishnanand Rai.

Contesting on a BSP ticket in 2009, Mukhtar gave a tough fight to Murli Manohar Joshi and finished a close second, while being in prison then too. Notably, Varanasi has about 15 lakh voters. Generally, Muslims vote for a candidate who is in a position to defeat BJP nominee. Muslim leaders of Varanasi had reportedly persuaded QED to keep Mukhtar away from the race. Now Ansari will contest from Ghosi Lok Sabha seat.

In spite of opting out of race by Mukhtar Ansari, it will be difficult to defeat Modi but margin of his vote may slide. Modi is sure to win Vadodara. With this his dream of winning two Lok Sabha seats will come true and further consolidate his claim to the prime ministerial office.

Another key contest is in the holy city of Amritsar. BJP leader Arjun Jaitley’s victory appeared certain earlier but with Capt. Amarinder Singh as the Congress candidate, the challenge has become tough for Jaitley. Latest reports from Amritsar say that the Captain is now having an edge over Jaitley.
The AAP is the only party in this election to have declared that it will not form alliances with any other political outfit. Yet, it may have a significant role to play in determining who forms the next government in New Delhi. Opinion polls so far have suggested that the party will not only do well in Delhi, where it first announced its presence as a political force to be reckoned with in assembly elections, but will have an impact on other states too, particularly in urban areas.

The poll surveys indicate that it could even win some seats in other parts of the country, including the National Capital Region and Mumbai. More importantly, it could play spoiler, though at whose cost is not quite clear. Some of the poll estimates that its pan-India vote share will be higher than any other party other than BJP and Congress. That would be a dream debut for the APP but nightmare for other parties.

Coming election is biggest India has ever witnessed.  With 81 crore voters and 11 million personnel conducting the polls at 9.36 lakh polling stations, using 1.4 million EVMs, the Indian election is considered the biggest such event in the world. This is a management event that expects zero error and 100 per cent success.

The EC is now a very experienced institution, with a well-oiled machinery. Its foremost concern every time is, of course, a peaceful poll. The safety of voters, of polling staff and even of security forces is always an overriding concern. IPA
Harihar Swarup

Harihar Swarup

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