Reference is made to news item captioned “India’s Modi set to return to power with a bigger majority, exit polls show”
(SN May 20). The surveys I conducted and my own analysis leads me to the conclusion that Modi will win again perhaps with his own majority. There was a Modi wave especially in urban areas.
Just for clarification, the Indian election was contested between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress Party (INC) led by Rahul Gandhi, 48 year old scion of the Gandhi dynasty. The BJP contested in a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that it led while the Congress (INC) led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The NDA is made up of 41 constituent parties while the UPA is made up of 36 parties; seats were allocated for contest in varied constituencies and states based on potential prospect for victory. A party in an alliance contested the election under its own symbol and name with other parties of that alliance not putting up a candidate.
The news item quoted one exit poll that showed the ruling BJP and its alliance partners (NDA) winning between 339 and 365 seats. This poll could be off though its outcome is not impossible. A dozen exit polls were conducted all with varying numbers and a wide dispersal or distribution of seats with one poll showing BJP alliance getting only 245 seats – 27 short of a majority; that poll will not reflect the actual result based on my findings on the ground. Modi is extremely popular in India – the most popular political figure in the country.
The actual result will be released on May 23 when counting begins. Some 917 million voters were eligible to cast ballots, but only about 63 percent actually voted or around 600 million – the largest voting exercise in the world. The counting of ballots is quick – within two hours the results are known unlike in Guyana where it takes at least two days “to count” less than 600 ballots per polling station.
It is very difficult to make sense of the wide distribution and differences in the exit polls. Exit polls in India are known to be extremely off from actual voting numbers. But one commonality among all of them is the BJP and its alliance partners are in the lead and will form the government. The opposition Congress party and its partners dispute this conclusion. The Chair of the UPA, Sonia Gandhi, has invited leaders of her alliance and others to a dinner on May 23, the date of counting of ballots, and a discussion on selecting its Prime Ministerial candidate and government formation. This won’t be necessary. There will not be a Prime Minister from the opposition or from “a third front”, an idea that was floated a week ago. Modi will return as PM and his alliance will win a majority.
I traveled around several states and from the trends I picked up, BJP would lose seats in the key states of Uttar Pradesh (from where most Guyanese trace roots), Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, and Punjab but make gains in other states that will more than balance off losses. The Congress won state elections with alliance partners in four states last year – Madya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Rajasthan. There was simmering discontent in all four states. Congress would see reversal in all of those states in general election results. In addition, several Bollywood personalities (Satrughan Sinha, Ponam Sinha, Kirti Azad, etc.) and sports figures contesting against BJP will lose.
The election was billed as a referendum on Modi. He was struggling early in the year to win an election when I was in India in January. But his decision to carry out surgical strikes against terror camps in Pakistan in February closed the deal for him. My polling in April and May throughout India found that almost everyone supported the surgical strikes inside Pakistan to teach the terrorists a lesson. As I indicated in a write up just before the close of elections on May 19, the BJP will win around 269 seats (possibly more) and alliance around 40 for a minimum total of 309. Only 272 seats are needed for government formation. Last time BJP won 282 and the alliance 54 seats for a total of 336. Over the last couple years, alliance partners fell out with BJP and linked up with Congress and new partners joined BJP; new partners boosted BJP’s chances. In addition, there are three parties in south India, not partnering with BJP, but will support the NDA and that is expected to win around 47 seats.
Vishnu Bisram (PhD)