At last, the election season comes to an end. BJP has come out with flying colours, landing 303 of the total number of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, with NDA overall getting 353 seats. The main opposition, Congress meanwhile, has secured a mere 52 seats, bringing the total UPA to 92 seats. As is clearly evident, this has been a one-sided competition between the current government and the opposition, with the opposition nowhere close to being a formidable enough challenge for the BJP government. The results have been obvious for a long time and became further evident in the last few months. This is precisely the reason why, these elections have been the dullest elections in a long time, devoid of any possible excitement or anticipations.
The citizens, even the ones supporting the opposition or the regional parties had known the result of the elections even before the first phase began. The citizens’ expectations, the exit polls and the election results have all tallied with one another with little or no modifications. Several reasons can be attributed to the clockwork unfolding of the elections.
The fractured Opposition and the one-sided contest
In the country, coalition politics have been the norm since 1989 which had led to the practice of forming coalition governments as the mandate used to be fractured with each party securing 20-30 percent of the votes. Thus, the elections became focused on garnering the support of powerful allies as the parties, believing it to be impossible, never aimed to get full majority. This practice came to an effective end in 2014, when BJP secured 282 seats. This formidable front was continued in 2019 and in a striking yet unsurprising contrast, the opposition was scattered around, with no common ideology or unification factor other than the need to dismantle the Modi government. Moreover, the parties weren’t even willing to unify as each of the opposition leaders, including, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, BSP leader Mayawati, TMC leader Mamata Banerjee, and TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu were aiming for the Prime Ministerial post. The opposition parties, between their Prime Ministerial ambitions and meager electorate support, had led to a one-sided contest for the Modi government.
The issues and the campaign
Two of the core issues of Indian elections, corruption, and inflation, were completely missing from public discourse. The clean governance by Modi government and the efficient administration of the economy had ensured that even if opposition leaders tried they could not make corruption and inflation an issue. Rahul Gandhi had tried to drive a corruption based narrative based on the Rafale deal, coining slogans such as “Chowkidar Chor Hai”, but he grossly miscalculated, as this wasn’t an issue for the people at all. All that the Rafale hype has brought him is a criminal case of defamation. Besides that, the inflation under PM Modi has been at an all time low, averaging at 4.8 percent since 2014, as opposed to more than 10 percent during 2009-13; a piece of information that the opposition would try to keep as far away as possible. Having failed at the crux issues, a majority of the campaign was focused on issues such as ‘intolerance’ and ‘destruction of institution’, all which again seemed like conspiracy theories without valid evidence, and made little difference to the citizens.
Rahul Gandhi and the opposition never displayed the confidence that they will form the government. The aim was to ensure that BJP does not get the majority, rather than get a majority for themselves and so; they were simply immersed in cutting the “vote share” of BJP. The Gandhi siblings had on many occasions said that their candidates are simply aimed at cutting the BJP vote share. Besides, there was a lot of disgruntlement within the party itself with leaders quitting the party of refusing to participate in the elections.
The lack of confidence was to such an extent that the Chairman of the Congress’ Data Analytics department, Praveen Chakravarty had stated that his party would triple its 2014 tally, implying that the party is going to win 132 seats, which is barely enough to form a coalition government, at best. With such an unspirited campaign, devoid of any enthusiasm or determination, there weren’t many expectations from the opposition.
Visible from the on-going trends, it had seemed clear that BJP led NDA is coming for a 2nd term. The oppositions’ campaign and stand had made them a very weak challenger, having no chance against the united and formidable NDA. Coupled with this, the people had overall (barring a little dissatisfaction, but that’s only natural), been happy with BJP’s government. Apart from the anticipation of results, the actions of the opposition in the run up to the elections had done away with all surprises, the major of them being, Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad indicating that Amethi will no longer be a family bastion after the results. BJP victory was so foregone a conclusion, that there had been little excitement for the exit polls results or even the result day.
To add to the obviousness of the elections had been the result day, which had been a mere formality. The result day is quite exciting usually, as the early trends have been unreliable in gauging the eventual results. During the recent Vidhan Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, the early trends had been fluctuating between the major competitors of BJP and Congress. However, this time around, trends had been clear within half an hour that BJP is taking a lead in most of the constituencies, and that was held throughout the day, with just the vote difference fluctuating. Along with the victory, looking at the narrative prevailing in the nation, it had been clear that the dynasts would be ousted and that happened. So all in all, there were rarely any big moments and all those candidates who were expected to win; registered a victory and who were expected to lose, lost handsomely.
With such obvious expected results, the 2019 elections lacked the previous years’ excitement and obscurity. The expectations and the results have exactly been in sync with one another and that is what made the elections so mundane.