Victory and loss are part of any electoral system. But the kind of suspense and tension that prevails this time, was perhaps never witnessed in the past. Earlier, both sides would reach the counting centres, hoping for the best, but this time, even before the actual counting of votes could begin, the exit polls itself – which predicted an absolute majority for the NDA – seems to have dampened the spirits of many. So much so that opposition leaders in states such as Bihar, have alleged EVM tampering and issued threats of bloodshed if it is proved.
In Bihar, the exit polls conducted by various media houses have given nearly all the 40 Lok Sabha seats to the NDA. While Republic-CVoter survey predicted 33 seats for the NDA, Times Now-VMR gave it 30 seats. Republic-Jan Ki Baat predicted NDA to bag 28-31 seats, India TV-CNX 32, ABP-AC Neilson 34 and News 24-Chankya 32 while India Today-Axis gave 38-40 seats to the NDA. It means that the NDA is all set to decimate the opposition this time.
The opposition, left restive by the prediction, has alleged that the ruling NDA is trying to manipulate the “people’s verdict” by swapping EVMs under the garb of exit polls; and has warned that such attempts will be met with violent protests. Former Union minister and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) president Upendra Kushwaha warned of “bloodshed and chaos” if any attempts were made to “loot” people’s mandate.
“Earlier we had heard about looting of polling booths, but this time it is suspected that attempts could be made to loot the results through swapping of EVMs or other such measures at the counting centres. If that happened, we will be compelled to take up arms. The administration will be solely responsible if there is any bloodshed in such a situation,” warned Kushwaha at a Press conference in Patna on May 21.
The open threat of bloodshed assumes significance given the fact that they were issued in the presence of other alliance partners, such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and the Vikashseel Insan Party (VIP). Of them, RJD is led by jailed politician Lalu Prasad Yadav, HAM by former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi while VIP is headed by fisherman community leader Mukesh Sahni.
What stokes their anger?
The reason why the opposition is suspicious this time is that even at the peak of Narendra Modi wave in the last 2014 Lok Sabha polls, they had won nine seats even after contesting the elections separately. All the three major combines—BJP-led NDA, JD-U-CPI combine and RJD-Congress had gone to the polls alone. It was because of this split in the secular votes that the NDA was able to win 32 seats out of Bihar’s total 40 whereas the RJD-Congress combine and Nitish Kumar’s JDU had emerged victorious on seven and two seats respectively.
But this time the political situation is entirely different. While all the prominent opposition parties are contesting under the umbrella of the Grand Alliance, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has lost much of his shine, credibility and support among the masses because of his frequent tendency to switch sides and “insult the people’s mandate”, say political experts. The fall in Kumar’s popularity can be gauged from the fact that he has piggybacked on Modi government’s achievement and sought votes for his own party candidates using the name of Modi, they add.
NDA weaker this time, say experts
“That means Nitish Kumar is not a factor in this election. (LJP president) Ram Vilas Paswan too has already quit the poll scene handing over his seat to his younger brother, while the BJP is entirely dependent on Modi. To top it all, anti-incumbency factor is also working against Modi this time. So, how can the exit polls predict a complete clean sweep for NDA in Bihar? In the worst case, the Grand Alliance should win a minimum of 20 seats,” said a political expert.
“In no circumstances, the NDA can win all the seats in Bihar. If that happens, then it is dangerous,” he warned. Moreover the poll percentage too remained static at around 57 this time—about one per cent more than the last 2014 Lok Sabha polls that means enthusiasm was totally missing among the voters. “How can then the exit polls claim total rout for the opposition?” asks experts and it’s this explanation which has left the opposition parties restive.