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Indian politics: Decoding the verdict
In the run up to the 2019 Indian general elections, a number of organisations conducted opinion polls to assess the mood of the electorate and predict the possible outcome, if elections were held on the date of the survey.

The same organisations conducted such studies again and again and arrived at slightly different conclusions, maybe, due to change of mind of undecided voters. Opinion polls conducted between December 2018 and March 2019 predicted a hung Parliament with the National Democratic alliance (NDA) leading the table and followed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and others. As elections drew closer, NDA consolidated its position and increased its tally.

Exit polls, conducted after the polling and published after the last leg of polling was over, presented a somewhat clearer picture, with NDA emerging a clear winner. Two such exercises ? one conducted by India Today-Axis and another by News 24-Today's Chanakya ?were close to the ultimate outcome. The India Today-Axis group gave 352 ? 13 to NDA, 93 ? 15 to UPA and 82 ? 13 to Others. The News 24-Today's Chanakya group gave 350 ? 14 to NDA, 95 ? 9 to UPA and 97 ? 11 to Others.These agencies predicted, with great accuracy, a landslide for Prime Minister Modi with the BJP alone projected to cross the 300 seat-mark and the NDA securing more than 350 seats. Two other studies were also close. One agency, however, still predicted a hung house.

After counting of votes, the results went in favour of NDA which bagged 352 seats in the lower house of the Parliament. UPA was restricted to 91 and Others to 99. Several factors contributed to this stunning victory of the NDA.

In India, which is a multi-party democracy, the combined force of opposition parties can throw a serious challenge to the ruling dispensation. More than anyone else, the well-known freedom fighter Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) had realized this truth. In 1977, when opposition leaders sought the support of Jayaprakash Narayan for the forthcoming general elections, Narayan insisted that all opposition parties form a united front. The Janata Party was officially launched on 23 January 1977, when the Janata Morcha, the Bharatiya Lok Dal, the Swatantra Party, the Socialist Party of India, and theBharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) merged, dissolving their separate identities.  Although the political ideologies of Janata constituents were diverse and sometimes conflicting, the new party was formed under the over-reaching appeal of Jayaprakash Narayan, who was the ideological leader of the anti-Emergency movement. Morarji Desai was elected the first party chairman.Chaudhury Charan Singh became its deputy chairman, Ramakrishna Hegde the party general secretary, and Lal Krishna Advani the party spokesperson.A 27-member national committee, which was the top decision-making body, included, besides office bearers,  Asoka Mehta, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Bhanu Pratap Singh, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Biju Patnaik, C.B. Gupta, Chand Ram, Chandrashekhar, H.M. Patel, K.S. Thakare, Mrinal Gore, N. Sanjiva Reddy, Nanaji Deshmukh, N.G. Goray, P. Ramachandran, Samar Guha, Sikandar Bakht, A. Sridharan, P.C. Sen, Karpoori Thakur and Shanti Bhushan.

More than anything else, it is the opposition unity that made Indira Gandhi, the uncrowned empress of India, bite the dust in 1977. She lost Raebareli, her son Sanjay Gandhi, the much-touted heir apparent, was defeated from Amethi, and her Congress (I)party) was unseated from power at the centre and later from several states. The Janata Party won 298 seats and the Janata Alliance 345. Congress (I) returned from 153 seats and the Congress Alliance could manage 189.

Last year's Uttar Pradesh byelections also pointedto the same truth. The party in power both at the centre and the state lost both the Lok Sabha seats. Regional arch-rivals - Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), teamed up for the first time in nearly 25 years to teach BJP a lesson.  Both the seats -- Gorakhpur represented by Yogi Adityanath before he became the chief minister and Phulpur represented by Keshav Prasad Maurya, before he became the deputy chief minister ? went to the Samajwadi Party.

No such opposition unity could be achieved before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In UP, the SP-BSP gathbandhan did not include the Congress Party. However, the alliance decided not to contest from Raebareli and Amethi, the seats represented by Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively. Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, West Bengal chief minister Ms Mamata Banerjee, Karnataka chief minister H D Kumarswamy and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, among others, tried to stitch a federal front of regional and opposition parties, but did not meet much success. They were caught in a dilemma ? to take the much discredited and much reduced Congress Party, with a record of ditching others, in the same boat or not. They failed to give an impression that they could stay together. They had no common minimum programme, their only common agenda being Modi hatao. Like the Indira hatao slogan of the opposition parties decades back, this slogan also failed to achieve its objective.

Another important factor which contributed to the swing in favour of NDA was the absence of a credible Prime Minister's face in the opposition. Congress President Rahul Gandhi was a non-starter. He was nai?ve enough to offer himself as a candidate for the top executive post. As a Parliamentarian, he was a flop. His much-hyped jibe Chowkidar chorhaiboomeranged. Probably, he should have served as a junior minister in the council of ministers led by Dr Manmohan Singh to acquire experience and expertise. That might have given him the ticket for the Prime Minister's office. Even his grandmother, Mrs Indira Gandhi served as a minister in Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet. His father Rajiv Gandhi rode the sympathy wave and swung to power only because Mrs Gandhi was assassinated. As Congress vice president, Rahul once came out in the open against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying that the ordinance to protect convicted law makers passed by the Cabinet was complete nonsense. He could have advised the Prime Minister beforehand not to do so. His statement at the Press Club of India only opened up the chasm between the party and the government. It betrayed his arrogance. Although the ordinance was a wrong step on the part of Dr. Singh, the manner in which Rahul Gandhi opposed it was audacious.

In the political circles, several other names were discussed. Mulayam Singh Yadav is known for his Prime Ministerial ambition earlier, although he was no longer in the race this time. Mamata Banerjee, a seven-time MP, who has been a three-time Union cabinet minister and the CM of West Bengal in the second term, is also known for her ambition in national politics. She gained confidence as she did not face any serious political challenge in her home state post-2011, when she successfully ended the 34-year run of the CPM-led Left Front in West Bengal.  But she was also using the same tactics which the Left parties used to remain in power. The results ended her monopoly; although her Trinamool Congress got the majority of seats, it was closely followed by BJP. Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh had already become unpopular in his home state. None of these leaders had an all India appeal.Taking a dig at opposition parties for not presenting a direct prime ministerial face, BJP president Amit Shah once said, the mahagathbandhan(grand alliance), if voted to power, would have different PMs on alternate days of the week, except on Sunday when the country would be on leave.

No grand alliance, however, could be formed. There were a few instances of mere electoral understanding. That did not yield much.

In Narendra Modi, people found someone they could identify themselves with. Modi has not come from the elite class and was not beyond the reach of the common man. He is one among them. This so-called chaiwallahhas no pretensions of scholarship or affluence.

The Balakot strike certainly gave some advantage to the ruling party. True, the Armed Forces conducted the exercise, but the central government had given them the go-ahead signal.  Pakistan was isolated at the international level. By raising doubts over the success of the operation, the Congress party alienated itself from people. Probably, they forgot that at the moment of a national crisis, all parties are expected to stand behind the government.

As a result, people rose beyond caste, community and sectarian considerations to bring the NDA back to power, even with greater majority this time than five years back.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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