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Lok Sabha polls: 7-phase marathon voting ends Sunday

  • Published at 11:18 pm May 18th, 2019
INDIA-VOTE
An Indian security official stands guard as voters queue to cast their vote at a polling station in Faridabad in the northern Indian state of Haryana on May 12, 2019, for the sixth phase of India's general election AFP

Official vote counting and the declaration of results will take place on May 23

At long last the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections ends today with voting in 59 constituencies in seven states including West Bengal, and one union territory.

With this, elections for 542 seats in the Lok Sabha – the all powerful house of the Indian Parliament –which started on April 11 will be complete. Even though the lower house of the Indian Parliament has 543 seats, elections in Tamil Nadu were cancelled after a huge sum of cash was seized.

The remaining 59 constituencies will vote from 7am to 6pm in most states, except in Jharkhand and parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where voting will end early, at 4pm. Apart from nine seats in West Bengal, including some in Kolkata, elections in the remaining 50 constituencies are being held today in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh, and the union territory of Chandigarh.

Exit polls

Exit polls predicting election results after talking to people returning from polling booths, will start coming in half an hour or so after voting ends. Although,  past experience suggests exit poll predictions in India are not that reliable.

Final official vote counting and the declaration of results will take place on May 23.

Now that the election campaigns are over, politicians are pondering over their performance in persuading voters during their campaigns, and prior to that, while electorates were waiting to find out what their government will be for the next five years.

Campaigning in the largest democratic practice in the world has often been nasty with prominent leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian National Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, and All India Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, trading harsh words. Their strident fervor is an indicator of the importance of the outcome of the elections, described by many as the most important one in their lifetimes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be spending the day meditating at a famous temple in Kedernath, Uttarakhand.  

‘No absolute majority’

According to people and journalists dealing with elections in India, and most opinion polls, no single party will get an absolute majority. But chances are bright for BJP to form the next government with its allies in the ruling coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

In terms of numbers, the party predicted that their NDA is likely to bag a little over 272 seats, the magic number needed to form a government, while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by  Congress is likely to get around a 150 seats. The remaining seats will go to regional parties and independent candidates, which may turn out to be a big factor if the NDA falls short of the 272 mark.

However, they have cautioned that things could go differently, given the unpredictability of elections.

‘Not like 2014’

“Look, one thing is for sure. This is not going to be like 2014. Modi magic is not going to work the way it did five years ago. There are various reasons behind it like demonetization, the ill-treatment of minorities – especially Muslims, who constitute roughly 120 million out of 900 million voters – the inability to rejuvenate the rural economy, and unemployment,” an editor of a reputed Indian daily told Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

The BJP won 282 seats in the 2014 general elections, and the NDA alliance bagged 336 seats out of 543.

“People provided Modi with a clear majority for a change, but I don’t think people of the country got the change they wanted.”

The editor said: “Though the so-called Modi Magic has been tarnished to a significant extent, the prime minister is still the main asset of the BJP as well as other parties belonging to the NDA. If the NDA can indeed manage to secure a majority to rule the country again, it will be because of the image of Modi.”

“Only a miracle can help BJP secure an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. Yes, it is true that the BJP-led NDA is much stronger than the Congress-led UPA, but nothing can be said for sure,” Gautam Lahiri, a senior journalist and former president of the Delhi Press Club, told this correspondent from the Indian capital.

“We may even have a hung parliament,” he said.

‘BJP likely to lose ground’

“BJP is most likely to lose some ground in the BJP heartlands of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. Hence, the ruling party, prior to the beginning of the campaign, has been making all-out efforts to make inroads in West Bengal, the third largest state in the country that sends 42 members to the Lok Sabha,” said a journalist of a reputed Bangla daily in West Bengal.

“Following the promising results in neighbouring states like Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, the BJP felt that it might do well in West Bengal with which it could make up the loss it may incur in the Hindu-speaking states where BJP was earlier invincible,” he said, adding: “The results in West Bengal can well be an important deciding factor in the formation of the next government if the BJP can significantly increase its voter tally.”

Out of 42 seats in West Bengal, Trinamool has 34, Congress 4, and the BJP and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have two apiece.