Prime Minister Narendra Modi 2.0?
If they have got it right, the exit polls will of course give Mr Modi a lot to cheer aboutUpdated: May 19, 2019 22:38 IST
A slew of exit polls on Sunday, after the final phase of polling ended, has given the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) either an outright majority or a comfortable edge in the 2019 Parliamentary election. The NDA numbers are based on an exceptionally strong performance by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) across north, west, central and east India. All polls predict that it will be the single largest party by a long distance, while some give it a majority on its own. To be sure, exit polls have a chequered history in India. They have often got seat predictions wrong, and most famously, in 2004, got the general direction of the outcome itself wrong.
But if these polls are credible, three features will stand out about the elections. Narendra Modi succeeded in converting this election into a referendum about himself. Even more than 2014, when there was a strong element of anti-incumbency which catapulted the BJP, this election was entirely about Mr Modi. It was almost as if he was standing from all the constituencies, and candidates were irrelevant. A substantial element of the electorate has thus chosen a PM, not their MP. Two, if the polls are correct, it is clear that despite a more focused Rahul Gandhi, with some innovative manifesto announcements, the Congress would have failed in challenging the BJP in the bipolar states where the two parties are in direct contest. The BJP’s ability to replicate its performance in states where it had peaked in 2014 will be at the Congress’ expense yet again. Mr Gandhi’s party was clearly unable to take advantage of the success in the state assembly polls last year. And finally, it shows that the north and the south of this country are now thinking differently. Except in Karnataka, the BJP is barely present in four other major southern states -- its expansion has hit a wall here.
If they have got it right, the exit polls will of course give Mr Modi a lot to cheer about. But since this was truly his election, there is also a great degree of responsibility on him. Mr Modi has been in campaign mode for months now. It is time to shift gears and begin thinking about governance. If the results on May 23 look like what the exit polls suggest, Mr Modi needs to get a smarter cabinet, with specialists; he needs to heal a divided nation; he needs to focus on the slowdown in the economy; and he needs to take difficult foreign policy decisions.
First Published: May 19, 2019 22:38 IST