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Exit Polls: Effects on Indian Polity

By Col N N Bhatia(Retd)

Both politicians and the nappies need to be changed often and for the same reason!

Margret Thatcher

The world’s largest democracy has just finished the polling for the general elections lasting over 2 months. The entire country of India’s size and diversity, the election mania had a vice like grip over the world’s other events.

The Assembly elections of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim have been held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha/general elections. The legislative assembly elections of Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir will be held later this year. My daughter visited Sweden on an official trip in Dec 2018 and was repeatedly confronted with one question from the host country’s officials that whenever the Swedish authorities contacted their Indian counterparts for mutual and bilateral deliberations, they were told politely to contact after the elections. Needless to say, in December 2018 we had state assembly elections in four states, now general elections and we gear up for other states’ elections later this year!

While the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and its allies, after the initial hiccups, went all out for the poll campaign, the Congress led opposition could not muster non-BJP regional parties in its ‘Gathbandhan’ or ‘Maha Gathbandan’.

There has been extreme divide more on caste, religion, region and politicians’ personalities rather than long term, economic policies, agrarian reforms, development, tackling national security and unemployment and geo-strategic vision.

The media regretfully appeared less and less impartial and the polling code of conduct severely violated. The many ‘Ms’ effects namely the ‘Modi, Money, Media, Massive Organisational capabilities of the ruling party and Misinformation’ played the decisive role in the entire campaign that was excessively violent in the West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. At ground zero in West Bengal, the BJP-TMC fought for supremacy in the state casting long shadows over voting. The voting has been around 67 % and many urban pseudo intellectuals who have been highly critical of the saffron government’s functioning and have no grass root contacts, did not vote, not realising that the none of the above (NOTA) option existed to express their resent to all political parties or candidates fielded by them.33% of the population not voting is big numbers almost entire population of the US! Those not voting really cannot expect welfare measures and the jobs from the government they never voted for!

Modi untiringly invoking his humble Chowkidar and Chaiwalla (there are still no confirmed reports that he really sold tea in his child hood) and impoverished image and origin pitted against the high end Luyten’s culture.

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But now PM Modi lives in style with designer Modi Kurtas and jackets, Bvlgari googles, Movado watches, Mont Blanc pens and attired in the monogrammed suit costing Rs 10 Lakh. He has spent Rs 4,400 crores on publicity alone and Rs 2021 crores in the last 5 years on trips abroad, besides fleet of bullet proof BMW sedans, Range Rovers and Air India One at command and living in 12 acre Lutyen Delhi Bungalow having exclusive staff of 50 to look after the PM with the humble beginning while the farmers commit suicides and youth suffer from unemployment all over the country. If Modi forms the new government, his image is likely to become larger than life and country. As of now, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), BJP and the NDA need Modi and not the other way round as masses are voting to Modi and not his political party.

The 2019 Indian general election was held in seven phases from 11 April to 19 May 2019 to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha. The counting of votes will be conducted on 23 May, and on the same day the results will be declared. About 90 crores Indian nationals were eligible to vote in one of the seven phases depending on the region.

Accordingt most exit polls released on 19 May 2019, and the Washington Post, BBC and Al Jazeera predict return of the BJP-led alliance and incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears poised to win the re-election while the entire opposition has rejected the exit polls and Mamta Didi said it was gossip.

The exit polls predict 245 – 370 + seats to the BJP led national Democratic alliance (NDA) with big losses in Uttar Pradesh (UP) where it had won 71 out of 80 seats in the previous general election and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) -Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance while BJP is likely to make for the losses in West Bengal and Odisha. Opposition is fuming over Modi’s Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines visit allegedly as poll code violations and using religion to influence voting in an otherwise secular country.

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There have been numerous violations of code of conduct by all the political parties and their leaders with opposition accusing the Election Commission being highly partial to the ruling alliance glaringly and sadly and the Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa had recued himself from attending ECI’s meetings on Model Code of Conduct, as ‘minority decisions were going unreported’.

During the elections, Lavasa had disputed the poll body’s decision to clear PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah of multiple charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct. But, Lavasa has claimed that the commission was not acknowledging the minority decisions in its final orders. The Congress and other opposition parties and a group of retired civil servants have accused the Election Commission as being compromised.

Notwithstanding this blot on our democracy, all institutions like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Supreme Court, Niti Aayog, bureaucracy, print and electronic media, central police organisations (CPOs),Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and politicizing armed forces for the political gains have eroded our democratic institutions, norms and values.

Non-productive after effects of the demonetization and imposition of the goods and services tax (GST) have left country’s economy in shambles, creating unemployment and retarded Gross Domestic Product(GDP) giving salvos to opposition and professional economists to fire on fudging /suppressing uncomfortable data on the jobs and the GDP.

While India is one of the fastest growing economies, the GDP growth data is disputed by renowned economists.

Experts feel demonetization and GST law have ‘seriously hit small entrepreneurs, marginal farmers, unorganized sector laying off jobs to millions and the casual labour’, thus, creating all time high unemployment.

According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), unemployment was raising at 3.4% in India and the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly reiterated 24 lakh jobs were lying vacant in the various governmental departments and services.

While the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that the Indian economy was on steady growth, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) and government’s schemes such as the Jan Dhan Yojana, rural cooking gas and electricity for homes, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Sochalay Yojna (toilets), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY) have reached some needy economically weaker sections of the society, yet many large segments of the rural and semi urban poor are uncovered and none got the coveted ₹15 lakh promised to each poor family.

The NDA government at Centre says action has being taken on many shell companies and recovery of ₹130,000 crore (US$19 billion) in black money in the last 5 years made.

For political blackmail, the government launched income tax raids on opposition leaders at the nick of elections, while opposition and financial experts feel that the BJP secretly had cleverly saved its money safely to fight elections while the entire opposition lost their money due to shockingly sudden imposed demonetization and has thus become hub of black money and corruption avoiding judicial inquiry by the opposition on the Raffle deal with France.

Our farmers are under tremendous stress and the Congress party criticized BJP totally neglecting them. While Congress promised ₹72000 per annum to poor and marginal farmers, the BJP introduced “Kisan Samman Nidhi” to help the small farmers at the time of seed planting through a direct deposit of ₹6000 annually to their accounts which is rather too less and too late. While Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) highlighted good crops in the year 2017, many farmer groups demanded election manifesto of all the political parties should promise to keep agriculture out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to protect their interests. Rapid increase in suicide cases of by the marginal farmers and marketing and the appropriate prices of their agricultural products should be the major concern for the impending government.

The media in India gets hysteric over every issue, may it be Pulwama attack, Abhinandan, Modi biopic, the NaMo TV channel exclusively broadcasting Modi’s speeches and propaganda or Modi’s meditation in Badrinath and Kedarnath. The Indian media has been at times spreading misinformation and the social media circulated endlessly fake news. We need to mature and learn skills of the BBC or the Al Jazeera and remain impartial in objective reporting covering all the political parties, their leadership and manifestos.

Sadly, the armed forces were dragged by the BJP government for political gains while the relations between India and Pakistan during the election campaigning period were all time low. Pakistan based and sponsored Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber attacked and killed 40 CRPF personnel traveling in a road convoy near Pulwama on 14 Feb 2019. The Indian Air Force (IAF) retaliated the outrage by counter terror operation hitting Balakot JeM camp deep inside Pakistan on 26 Feb 2019 and the very next day Pakistan Air Force (PAF) downed Indian MIG 21 in an aerial dog fight and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan who was released by Pakistan on 1 Mar 2019 speculating escalation in conflict and international pressure.

Now that the elections are over and so is the pre-election rhetoric, the new government must consider options to tackle in resolving complex Kashmir issue, border dispute with China and relations with all South Asian countries and revive back channel diplomacy.

During the last 5 years, we have had maximum civil and military casualties along our borders from the proxy war and in the hinterland from the Naxalite onslaught. The country must ensure that the arms, equipment, tactical and strategic doctrines are optimized and our armed forces and CPOs maintain highest standards of combat effectiveness. Whichever government comes to power, must concentrate on the issues deliberated above to make India strong and emerging super power.

Last but not the least; the exit polls predict 245-370 + seats to the BJP led NDA alliance. Since there is a big variation between 245 and 370 seats, the exit polls neither can be out rightly rejected nor accepted without a pinch of salt. The latest WhatsApp message (cannot comment it is fake or genuine) is attributing 206 seats to Congress and its allies, 176 seats to NDA and 161 seats to others. In 2015 Delhi Assembly elections all exit polls went wrong drastically and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) won handsomely 67 seats out of 70 assembly seats, the other 3 going to the BJP. In the Australian polls last week, contrary to all the exit polls, the Australian Conservative coalition scored stunning political victory in the general election defying all poll forecasting and main opposition party officially conceded defeat.

I am neither a Modi Bhagat nor a Rahul hater. I respect the likes of Nehru, Shastri and Vajpayee and my appraisal above is dispassionately in the interest of my country that I love.

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