The largest voting exercise in the world came to an end on May 19 and the evening saw the release of many exit polls across media channels confirming the return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to office.
Often question marks are raised on the accuracy of these polls. However, the fact that they have all been consistent in giving PM Modi’s National Democratic Alliance coalition a majority is significant and indicate that on May 23 (counting day) the results, but for a few ups and downs, shall hold up.
CNN New 18, where I am a resident commentator, has tied up with IPSOS, the international polling agency that got Brexit, the US elections and the German elections right. IPSOS has given the NDA an absolute majority and has gone so far as giving more than 60 seats to the incumbent in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in the country.
Uttar Pradesh was anticipated to be the most formidable battle the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party would have to face. Their 2014 tally from this state was a sweep with 73 seats, along with a partner, in its kitty.
For the 2019 election, arch rivals and regional caste parties the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party came together and formed a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand coalition) to challenge the BJP.
Significantly, the Congress was not invited to the party even though the SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav and Congress president Rahul Gandhi claim to have a personal rapport. This rapport, however, did not deliver in the 2017 elections in the state, leading to a post-alliance analysis that the SP had been weighed down by the Congress.
Politics is the art of keeping the personal out of the political, and Congress got the snub. The Grand Old Party has been moribund in UP for the last 30-odd years, and even the introduction of Priyanka Vadra in this election and her appointment as General Secretary of eastern UP did little to revitalise their prospects.
Mrs Vadra, who has till now stayed on the periphery of active politics and restricted herself to her mother and brother’s constituencies, hit a few roadblocks in her turn as ‘full time’ politician. The siblings encouraged rumours of her taking on PM Modi in his constituency before doing a volte-face.
This hurt cadre morale as well as made them the butt of a few ‘runaway’ jokes, especially since her brother, challenged by Union Minister Smriti Irani in his ancestral constituency opted for a second safe seat of Wayanad in Kerala.
Furthermore, Mrs Vadra in an interview claimed to be cutting votes, an open admission, since that has indeed been the role of the Grand Old Party in UP, this comment received criticism not only from rivals BJP, but also possible allies.
Congress in 2019 has little hope for revival despite Mrs Vadra’s entry, with most exit polls giving the party only the two seats of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in UP. If this holds and if the party cannot take its final tally in the state to double-digit figures, it will be safe to assume that Mrs Vadra who is said to hold a resemblance to her late grandmother Indira Gandhi by establishment media, has been a non-starter.
Her brother, now in his second year as Congress president, will face criticism over his leadership yet again: this, however, will be media driven and cant be expected from the Congress.
With the fifth generation of the Nehru-Vadra dynasty in the Congress and three members of the dynasty in active politics and in control of the decision-making process, the party has never been as much of a family concern as it is today.
Once the party of the freedom movement and a large tent of ideas, today’s Congress stands for and by its first family. However, in today’s aspirational India where a chaiwallah from the wrong side of the tracks can become prime minister, legacy, familial resemblance, et cetera do not hold sway over the public.
Prime Minister Modi’s greatest achievement, when it comes to the culture of electoral politics in India, has been to break the caste matrix and move it to class. It is a distinction that many Indians can connect with since power, despite our diversity, has been concentrated in Lutyens Delhi, the darbar of the dynasty.
Mr Modi has targeted this microcosm of entitlement and power that extends not only to the first family but those on whom their favourable gaze has fallen, through the decades.
His pointed commentary has found resonance, and the dynamics of politics have changed, possibly irreversibly. It is making the BJP the most-favoured party of choice for those who want to enter politics and, as exit polls suggest, even voters who are unimpressed with anointments and ‘birthright’ politicking.
Advaita Kala is an author, screenwriter and a columnist.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.