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Advantage Establishment


Political analysts have been commenting on the ‘lack of a discernable wave’ in the ongoing General Elections. This has given rise to speculation about an ‘invisible wave’ as some sort of an explanation for not being able to understand the public mood. The reason for this is the fact that the BJP led NDA has become mainstreamed and people tend to take the ‘establishment’ for granted and as such do not feel the need to overtly express their opinion unless specifically asked. It may be noted that, under such circumstances, people’s protests would be against shortcomings in delivery of services. During the ten years of NDA governance, there have not been many protests, except for the anti-reform movements – of the farmers, and against the CAA, NRC, and related laws.

It may be recalled that the BJP polled over 37 percent of the votes in 2019 and the combined votes of the NDA were 45 percent. If the government has been continuing on the same trajectory in the past five years, would it be a surprise that the incumbents may be approaching the fifty percent figure. As such, if there is to be a perceptible wave, it will have to be an anti-incumbent one. Is that visible anywhere?

If there had been no attempt at unifying the opposition regardless of ideology and incompatibilities, people would not even have been asking the question. Whatever perceptional advantages that may have accrued from this will have had impact in the first two phases of the elections. Now that the opposition alliance is unraveling in so many visible ways, even this advantage will have been lost. It is mostly where former allies of the BJP are ranged against it that some votes may be transferred away from the ‘establishment’. Ironically, it is not the former allies that will be the ones benefiting.

This was realised from the start by someone with a loyal vote bank – Mayawati. She has gone it alone in UP despite the probability of not winning much. Had she allied with the Samajwadi Party, her voters would have moved en masse to the BJP. At the present, at least, they will stay with her, while also resisting the SP by voting BJP in the larger context. WB Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is realising this a bit late. In Odisha, do not be surprised that BJP and BJD link arms post-election. This is, of course, not the complete picture, but the inherent dominance of the incumbents can be understood.