Harsh realities await the new government

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on May 20, 2019

Real picture on May 23   -  THE HINDU

Whoever comes to power at the Centre will have many things to fix in an India groaning under hardships

The exit polls have spoken and almost all of them are giving a thumping victory to the BJP-led NDA, with the average number of seats projected being just short of a more than comfortable 300.

A sure shot signal of what the exit polls would bring was given by the equity markets a full 48-hours ahead, when the Sensex vaulted by over 500 points, signalling that the mandate, according to exit polls, is for a second term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The last phase of the polls, held on Sunday, was marred by violence in West Bengal where the exit polls show the BJP making significant inroads into Mamata Didi’s bastion, wresting 15-17 seats in the State.

Opposition parties, as well as sceptics, have dismissed the exit polls, pointing out how horribly wrong they have often gone, both in India (2004 and 2009, and the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections) and more recently in Australia, where defying all exit polls Australia’s ruling Conservative Coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrisson made a “miraculous comeback” on May 19, the day of our exit polls.

While Mamata Banerjee dismissed “the exit polls gossip” and urged the Opposition to remain strong and united, TDP Chief and Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu continued his hectic interactions with Opposition leaders, including Congress’s Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, in a desperate bid to get ready a non-NDA coalition in case of a hung Parliament. If these polls are right, he himself is staring at a grim defeat at the hands of Jagan Reddy.

Surprise in UP, Bengal

The biggest surprise thrown up by the exit polls is the projected result in UP, where one exit poll gives the BJP and its allies as many as 65 out of 80 seats, leaving barely 13 for the SP-BSP combine, after giving Amethi and Rai Bareilly to the Congress. On the other hand, the lowest number of seats given to the NDA by another poll is 22.

There is a similar huge gap in the projections for West Bengal too; the highest for the NDA there is a whopping 22 seats, and the lowest is four. Such wide divergence in projections has given the Opposition reason enough to pooh pooh the exit polls, saying that the real picture will be different when actual results come out on May 23.

But there is a general consensus among the pollsters that the NDA will return with a comfortable majority, and there will be no hung Lok Sabha. If the BJP does perform so well to ensure a second term of the Modi government, it would have done so by miraculously reversing the rot in States like Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where the Congress had so recently ousted BJP governments and is now ruling those States.

If the BJP does sweep MP and Rajasthan, and even UP and Karnataka, as projected by the exit polls, Modi’s stock within the Sangh Parivar, where there was talk of Nitin Gadkari being an alternative in case the BJP fell horribly short of a majority and had to go shopping for allies, will skyrocket. That he was helped by the Pulwama terrorist attack and India’s swift response through a widely publicised military attack on PoK, is an important sub-text of the BJP’s projected victory. But on May 23, I would still watch out for the actual numbers in UP and West Bengal, and even Karnataka. That the last would vote so dramatically differently from the rest of the southern States is an interesting anomaly to bookmark.

Some governance please

Notwithstanding the statutory health warning that exit polls can, and have, gone horribly wrong, it looks like an NDA victory alright. When the dust settles down on an election that was fought with such bitterness and with political rhetoric hitting an all-time low, the new government will have to turn its attention to the grim reality and all-round distress that stares the country in the face.

Parched farmlands and agrarian distress; unemployment blues; economic woes reflected on the streets of India beyond Dalal Street; and depressed consumer spending even from the classes which have money to spend.

All these are harsh realities and the new government has so many broken things to fix in an India groaning under hardships, that its top leaders will need much more than grand election speeches to fix them.

Then there is the other thing; the unbearable prospect of a rabble-rouser who gave the label of ‘deshbhakt” to Gandhiji’s killer, making her grand appearance in our Parliament. As if we needed another wake-up call on the assault on our liberal, secular social fabric.

Published on May 20, 2019

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