The exit polls predicting the BJP 2.0 at the centre have been largely contrary to the expectations in the country. Not that Modi wasn’t all along a favourite to win but the conspicuous absence of a wave in the PM’s favour had led the people anticipate an outside chance for the Congress and the wider opposition. And it was expected that the exit polls reflect a more nuanced picture of the outcome. While Modi’s loss was not factored in, people didn’t see him getting a majority on his own. The most probable outcome was seen the return of Modi in a weaker coalition.
But contrary to this, the exit polls have again predicted more or less a comfortable BJP majority. Reason for this is that the polls have shown the shortfall in UP where the party had previously done well compensated by an improved performance in West Bengal and the North East. And should the results now follow the exit polls on May 23, it will be a big setback for the opposition which apparently seemed to have led a valiant campaign against the BJP.
At the same time Modi still carrying the day will certainly raise questions about the nature of the opposition campaign. Was it really upto Modi’s overarching political challenge? While the jury is still out on this, there were certainly areas and aspects where the opposition confronted Modi with little to no resistance. One such aspect was the reluctance to take on the BJP on ideological front. Instead, the opposition, particularly Congress aggressively plied a development agenda. Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s NYAY scheme promising Rs 72000 crore to the 20 per cent of the poorest families in India tried to dent the BJP’s ideological sting. Congress tried to shift the battlefield to economy while Modi determinedly stuck to nationalism, security and terror. The PM chose to play down his development mantra. And for obvious reasons. His unhelpful record on this front stood in the way. So, he brought his party’s ideology into play. Kashmir, Pakistan, terrorism, security became its staple issues. The BJP also took recourse to its longstanding ideological position on J&K which in recent years has found increasing resonance with a significant section of the population across the country.
At the root, however, the contest is about the two ideas of India. And which is what makes it so critical for the country. The poll outcome will thus determine the ideological and development course of the country over the next five years. And here’s hoping it is a course that is equally salutary for the minorities of the country. And should exit polls come true, it should be an occasion for some deep reflection for the opposition. More than a rethink on tactics next time round, they would need to work on an alternative vision of India and project it forcefully and with conviction to the people.