Even as the biggest democratic exercise in the world was nearing its conclusion on May 23, political experts and psephologists were out with their takes on the trends and results.
Here are some unmissable points from action-packed Thursday:
Modi wave stronger in 2019: Barely an hour into counting, it was clear that the NDA was going to sweep the polls and that the UPA was going to play the role of a distant second. The only question that remained was whether the BJP would cross the critical 272-seat mark on its own. As things happened, the saffron party crossed 300 seats comfortably, improving on its 2014 showing. This underscores the fact that the sway that Narendra Modi seems to hold on the masses is not only intact, but stronger than ever.
Bengal barricade broken: From just 2 seats in 2014 to a superlative 18 seats in 2019 — the BJP finally broke through in India’s eastern state, one of the most politically sensitive and violent places in the country. Just like the 2017 state assembly polls, the general elections too were marred by violence and disruptive practices. That BJP, for the first time in its history, made a genuine headway into the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC stronghold, is one of the highlights of this election. Gains in the east have helped BJP offset the relatively minor losses in UP and Bihar.
The battle for Amethi: Rahul Gandhi vs Smriti Irani was arguably the most talked up contest of the 2019 polls. Early trends saw the protagonists swap the lead several times. Smriti Irani was ultimately a winner by over 55,000 votes. Food for thought: Rahul’s victory margin in 2009 was almost 4 lakh votes and in 2014 it was shaved down to 1 lakh votes. This downward spiral seems to be portending a sad fate for Rahul in 2024 — if he’s still around in political circles by then, that is!
Sadhvi Pragya trumps Diggi Raja: Perhaps the most controversial candidate in the fray, the Sadhvi, despite her persistent foot-in-mouth syndrome (or perhaps because of it) pummelled Congress royalty Digvijaya Singh, the man often credited with the coinage of ‘Hindu terror’. It is almost as if Bhopal, along with the Amethi contest, presented a true mirror to the mood on the ground, so far as the Indian voter was concerned.
Wayanad saves Rahul’s face: A ‘safe’ seat came to Rahul Gandhi’s rescue as, piggybacking on the dominant UDF in Kerala, the Congress rode to victory in Wayanad. Just imagine, if the Congress president had decided to contest only from the family bastion of Amethi! That would have likely ended his political career.
DMK to UPA’s rescue: A sweep of Tamil Nadu by the Stalin-led southern boosted the UPA somewhat, even as the alliance faces serious setbacks elsewhere. There are no surprises here though, as a DMK victory was a certainty.
‘Mahagathbandhan’ misfires in Uttar Pradesh: Despite the best efforts of the SP-BSP combine, the BJP bagged 64 seats in UP. Though not as barnstorming as 2014, BJP’s performance in the influential northern state was a far cry from the dismal predictions by the Opposition. Reason for success: the BJP campaign was singularly focused on UP with PM Modi holding a slew of rallies in the state.
Jagan’s YSRCP wipes out Naidu in Andhra: YSRCP won 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in AP. In the concurrent Assembly polls, the party won 150 of the 175 seats. The polls in AP were a direct contest between the TDP and the YSRCP, with the Congress and the BJP playing fringe roles — no prizes for guessing who the runaway winner was!