Five of the seven phases of this general election are over. The campaign has had one major, or perhaps only one, issue: Narendra Modi.

In that sense he has become like Margaret Thatcher in the UK. After 1979 all elections were about her. She had once famously said “I will go on and on and on and on”.

In terms of a quadrant graph the way to look at such political personalities is to make four ‘like-dislike’ categories. You can have “Like BJP, Dislike Modi; Like Modi, Dislike BJP; Like Both; and Dislike Both.”

So here’s the thing: those who like both — Modi and BJP — are about 40 per cent, give or take; and those who dislike both are also about 40 per cent, give or take.

This means the election will be decided by one of the two other categories, namely, ‘Like BJP, Dislike Modi; Like Modi, Dislike BJP’. This makes it very hard for the voters to decide.

For example, if you are Muslim woman, you may have a reason to vote for Modi because he banned triple talaq and gave you a gas connection and a toilet. But, equally, you may dislike the BJP for its political rhetoric about Muslims.

How would such a woman vote? Will it be a last moment decision or a pre-decided one? We simply don’t know.

Or, on the other hand, it may be a Hindu voter who strongly disagrees with Modi’s political tactics of self promotion and exaggeration and over-the-top sartorial style but approves of the BJP’s political anti-Muslim strategies. A personal prejudice against Modi, too, could be present.

How would such a person vote? It’s extremely hard to say because of the 45 RPM record aspect. These were musical vinyl records in the 1960s that had two songs on either of the record.

So you couldn’t buy just the one song you liked. You had to buy both. It was a way of selling unpopular compositions. In exactly the same way Modi and the BJP come together. This makes the choice more complicated.

In other words, if you take a quadrant view of the choices before the voters who don’t have clear preferences, they have to choose combinations. It’s the love me, love my dog problem.

This is even more true of the Opposition. Along with the Congress come a whole cartload of politicians who count for nothing when not piggybacking on it. Remember: even taking them all together, the vote shares of the non-Congress parties was less than 15 per cent. The Congress had nearly 20 per cent. The BJP had 38 per cent.

Economic angle

But there’s the economic aspect of high prices and low incomes. This affects everyone because most voters now feel they are worse off now than they were in 2014. This may not be true objectively but that’s the perception and in voting it’s perceptions that determine outcomes. The Opposition is saying that these people will vote against both Modi and the BJP. They could and may already have.

But the BJP says that even if this is true, the margins in 2019 were so huge that its candidates will win anyway. This is probably correct because it won by more than 50 per cent margins in 224 seats. Eighty per cent of these were against the Congress.

Or, to put it another way, in 2019 the BJP had won nearly 300 seats with a lakh and half more votes. The Opposition group has to reverse those margins to get 273 for itself. But is the voter angry enough against Modi or the BJP or both to vote them out? We simply don’t know.