If most poll pundits were surprised by BJP’s clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections, the Maharashtra assembly polls may be an even bigger surprise.
Campaigning for the October 15 elections ended on Monday evening, but most politicians and poll analysts are yet to get an idea of what the verdict would be. Even those among the politicians, who normally give honest opinion in private are admitting that the elections are difficult to predict. Why is this?
About five months ago, when the Lok Sabha election results were declared and the BJP-led coalition won 42 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, it looked like the incumbent CongressNCP government was on its way out. The BJP-Sena and their allies were leading in 244 of 288 Assembly segments under t he 4 8 Lok Sabha seats. Logically, it would have meant that the saffron combine would sweep the Assembly elections.
However, now, a day before the votes are cast by the voters, things are not as clear. While there is general feeling that the BJP would do well, questions are being raised whether it would be enough for the party to form the government on its own?
There are reasons behind these questions.
First and the most obvious one is that the saffron combine has split and the two for mer partners are contesting separately after 25 years. A lot has changed since they joined hands in 1989— the era before India’s economy was opened by the Narsimha Rao-Manmohan Singh duo, changing the lives of all Indians. There is an entire new generation of voters, who have never seen them fighting against each other and there is little idea about how they will react to the Narendra Modi versus Uddhav Thackeray war. The split in the votes of the saffron combine could be different in different constituencies, regions and age-group of voters.
Second, it is a multi-cornered election. Five prominent parties—Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP and MNS—are all contesting solo. T he l ast t i me t he state saw a multi-cornered contest was in 1999, when t he Cong ress, NCP and Sena-BJP were locked in a triangular fight. In a fivecornered contest, swing of even a few percent of votes can change the equations for candidates and parties. The i mpact of t he antiincumbency against the Congress- NCP could get diluted as the opposition is divided.
Third, is the Modi factor. The BJP is entirely relying on Modi’s charisma to win the elections. Six months ago, he was a matchwinner. He succeeded in creating a wave and won absolute majority for this party. Is the Modi magic still there? Has the attack unleashed by the rival parties on him, especially the Thackeray cousins damaged his popularity? Will the Maharashtra versus Gujarat debate stirred by the rival parties hurt his image in the state?
These and some other issues have made the election complicated and hence difficult to predict.
Voter-surveys that have been published so far are largely saying that the BJP has an edge over others. Some say that the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena is likely to do better. A couple of them are also indicating that Congress won’t do as badly as was feared in the beginning. However, all parties have reacted to the surveys cautiously. Whatever stand they take publicly, in private, politicians are admitting that they are not confident of victory.
The BJP is even indicating that it sees Sena as a possible post-poll ally. The picture could be clearer by the time exit polls are conducted on October 15, after the polling is over. Hopefully, the people will elect a strong and stable government that would give much-needed boost to the state’s future development.