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Polled Out

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Exit polls have not always been entirely accurate but have generally managed to capture the electorate’s mood. There have also been polling agencies that have been outliers, taking a line different than most pollsters. On occasion, they have been closer to the actual results. However, the exit polls released after voting concluded for the General Elections on 1 June are unanimous in claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is returning for a third term. In fact, they have predicted numbers that probably even BJP voters were not expecting, even though they did work hard for the ‘400 Paar’ call made by Modi.

These numbers have predictably been rejected by the INDI Alliance. Its leaders claim they will win 295 seats, without actually explaining how this would come about, because that would imply there was an anti-Modi wave. Nobody covering the elections reported on such a sentiment from any part of the country. So, is it a face-saving tactic while they come up with a larger strategy to, somehow, discredit the results when they are announced on 4 June? If the mandate turns out to be as overwhelming as the polls suggest, will these be rejected based on alleged EVM manipulation, counting centre manipulation, ECI collusion, etc.? Will the election process, which was conducted in the most extraordinary fashion by the world’s largest democracy, be sought to be discredited? Will the process begin again of denouncing India as an autocracy, thereby disrespecting the electoral mandate.

The people know for whom they have voted, and any such approach will further take away whatever shreds of respectability remain in the opposition parties. It is not as if it is the end of the world if a government gets re-elected for a third time. The present ruling party (including its earlier avatars) was for decades out in the cold, electorally, even though its ideology was a significant force during the freedom struggle. But still it worked its way up to power. Instead of behaving like sore losers, it would be good for the opposition parties to make the necessary changes to win the people’s trust. Do they really think that, in a rapidly changing world, votes will be cast in favour of dynastism, casteism, outdated ideology, and narrow interests? If the polls are wrong and they are right, has India voted for family-owned parties, a Cuba style economy, and further division based on identities other than being Indian? Is that where the Indian people are at present? This will become known soon enough.