Elections concluded on Sunday in India. Counting of ballots is on Thursday. But based on exit polls, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will prevail over Congress Party (INC) led by Rahul Gandhi, 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. A party in an alliance contested the election under its own symbol and name without opposition from members of the alliance.
Some dozen exit polls released on Sunday evening put BJP/NDA ahead between 245 seats and 369 seats – a wide distribution. In India, exit polls are not very reliable. The poll showing NDA winning 369 seats could be well off though its outcome is not impossible. The poll showing NDA getting only 245 seats – 27 short of a majority also does not reflect the reality, based on my findings travelling around India. Modi is extremely popular in India – the most popular political figure in the country and people want him to serve another term. His NDA is reliably expected to clear a majority.
Some 917 million voters were eligible to cast ballots, but only about 65 per cent actually voted or around 600 million. 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 booth. GECOM should consider hiring some election workers from India to help with counting and honesty in managing elections.
There has been keen interest in this election by people from Guyana and the wider Caribbean and their diasporas. Several were in contact with me over last month while I was in India on Modi’s chances of re-election. I told them not to worry, Modi would return as PM, though the exact number of seats was uncertain.
It is very difficult to make sense of the wide distribution and differences in the exit polls in India. But one commonality among all of them is that the BJP and its alliance partners 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 dinner on May 23 for a discussion on selecting its prime ministerial candidate and Government formation. 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 travelled around several states and from the trends I picked up, BJP will 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. There has been simmering discontent in all four states. Congress will see a reversal in all of those states in general election results that could lead to unrest among its elected members and the toppling of at least two of its coalition Governments.
The election was a referendum on Modi and he has beaten back critics. 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 by Indian air force against terror camps deep inside in Pakistan in February closed the deal for him. Almost every Indian supported the strike. Indians are concerned about national security. There is rising nationalism as India becomes wealthy.
As I indicated in a previous write up, the BJP will win around 269 seats (possibly more) and alliance around 40 for a minimum total of 309 (and possibly more). 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 of 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 southern India, not partnering with BJP, but will support the NDA and that is expected to win around 47 seats.
Vishnu Bisram (PhD)