Updated June 3rd, 2024 at 21:40 IST

Moment Of Reckoning As The World Awaits Most Consequential Election Results In India

It's decision time for the world's largest election process in India. Counting of 640 million votes will decide which way has India voted.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Edited by: Himanshu Shekhar
Moment Of Reckoning As The World Awaits Most Consequential Election Results In India | Image:Republic
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New Delhi: Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be, American journalist Sydney J. Harris once famously wrote of elections. As the world's largest election in India draws to a close,  we are hours away from knowing whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi - who is up against a broad alliance of opposition parties (INDI) - will storm back to power with a stronger mandate or there's some surprise in store. If the exit poll results are anything to go by, Modi 3.0 is an inevitability as the Opposition has largely played a catch-up. But, exit polls have not always got it right. The counting of votes is set to begin at 8 am on June 4 (Tuesday) with results expected to be declared the same day.

Like almost all elections, the 2024 election campaign saw a pitched battle between two camps - NDA and INDI. There is hardly any sign that the verdict will be met with some acceptance and the matter is unlikely to draw to a close as the INDI leaders have threatened.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi eyes a record-equalling third straight term in power amid the INDI opposition bloc's hope of springing a surprise as the counting of votes for the Lok Sabha election is set for Tuesday, bringing an end to a marathon polling exercise stretching over 80 days.

While most experts have long seen the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as the favourite in the polls, a lot is at stake for the ruling combine in terms of the scale of victory it can pull off and new territories it can conquer. The opposition's stakes are higher still amid its reducing national footprint.

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Exit polls have been, however, unanimous in their prediction that the NDA is closer to realising Modi's ambitious target of "400 paar" for his alliance than the INDIA bloc is to cross even the 180 mark, one-third of the total number of seats. Rahul Gandhi on the other hand has maintained the INDI would be doing much better than expected and refused to accept exit poll results. Rahul quoted Siddhu Moosewala's song "295" when probed about INDI's expected tally.

Though electoral verdicts have historically been accepted, even though grudgingly, by all parties, there has been a sharper edge to the questions being raised by opposition parties this time over the polling process, including the Election Commission (EC).

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In the run-up to the counting, the campaign acrimony between the two battling camps spilt over into the post-poll trading of accusations after the exit polls predicted a massive win for the incumbent alliance, a forecast summarily dismissed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as "Modi media poll".

In its counter-attack, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused its rivals of trying to undermine the integrity of India's electoral process and asked the EC to prevent any attempt of "violence and unrest" during the counting of votes.

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Modi framed the BJP's campaign around the opposition's "appeasement politics", accusing the Congress and its allies of handing over a chunk of the reservation meant for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) to Muslims and allegedly eying people's family assets to further its "redistribution of wealth" agenda.

The issues of national and cultural pride, the government's welfare schemes and the overall political stability and economic growth also figured prominently in the speeches of BJP leaders, even though they were accused by the opposition of running a divisive and communal campaign to polarise votes.

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EC Dismisses Opposition's Charges

The EC has dismissed the opposition's attack on its conduct of polls, with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar daring it on Monday to share evidence of attempts to influence the polling process.

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The results will show if the Congress has it in its organisation and leadership to challenge the BJP amid its reducing footprint across the country since 2014. It has failed to get even the main opposition party status in two consecutive Lok Sabha polls and has been reduced to a pale shadow of itself in a number of states, especially in the Hindi heartland.

Its leaders, including president Mallikarjun Kharge and principal campaigner Rahul Gandhi, have claimed that their alliance will get 295 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, marking an end of the Modi era.

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INDIA bloc leaders believe that their alliance has been able to shape the poll narrative around its planks of welfarism and an alleged threat to the Constitution from an all-powerful saffron onslaught, and will get popular support.

Will PM Modi Script History?

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Modi will equal the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's record of leading his party to three straight electoral victories if the BJP retains power.

An uncertain future also hangs over the fate of the Left, besides many regional parties including the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and YSR Congress, which are in power in West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh respectively.

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Modi has spearheaded a concerted BJP push to gain strength in the two eastern states, where the party surprised everyone by emerging as the powerful second force in 2019, and the exit polls have suggested that it may topple the two regional parties from the top position in these polls.

Odisha & Andhra Assembly Election Results

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Assembly polls were held in Odisha alongside the national election and the BJP and the BJD, which have been in power in the state since 2000 under Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's leadership, are locked in a fierce battle for power. Assembly polls were also held simultaneously in the YSRCP-ruled Andhra Pradesh.

NDA's South Ascent

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Another issue that has drawn the limelight is whether the BJP will be able to emerge as a strong force in Tamil Nadu and the Left-ruled Kerala, two states where it has currently no seats but is predicted to win a few this time.

A poor show by the Left will further darken its prospects nationwide as Kerala is the only state where it remains a strong force after being knocked off the reckoning in its former strongholds of Bengal and Tripura.

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Always confident of his return to power, Modi has already penned an article about his vision for the country, posted on X about people's support for the NDA and rejection of the opposition, and held a meeting with top officials on the "new government's agenda" for the first 100 days.

Decisive Result For Regional Leaders

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The results are also expected to spell out the people's verdict on the fate of regional stalwarts like Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, whose parties have joined hands with the BJP and who have run an intense campaign to win over people's support for their factions.

Key Leaders In Fray

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The verdict will also be out on several Union ministers, including Piyush Goyal, Bhupender Yadav, Sarbananda Sonowal and Dharmendra Pradhan, all Rajya Sabha members asked by the BJP to contest the polls, and former chief ministers, such as the BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Basavaraj Bommai, Trivendra Singh Rawat and the Congress's Digvijay Singh and Bhupesh Baghel.

Besides Modi, who contested the election from Varanasi for a third straight term, senior members of his cabinet, such as Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, are in the fray, and the margins of their win will also be watched out for.

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Time to Bridge The Divided House

The elections were held to choose 543 members for the Lok Sabha (lower house) of Parliament for a five-year term. Votes were cast at more than a million polling stations. Each of the seven voting phases lasted a single day with several constituencies across multiple states voting that day. The staggered polling allowed the government to transport election officials and voting machines and deploy tens of thousands of troops to prevent violence. Candidates crisscrossed the country, poll workers hiked to remote villages, and voters lined up for hours in sweltering heat. However, the result would mean curtains on the world's biggest election process with both camps going all out against each other. However, it's time all the parties and their workers, voters wait for the decision.

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Republic Media Network will bring you the fastest and the most accurate results as our rolling broadcast begins at 6 am with Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami leading the decisive coverage. Follow Republic Digital for the most precise election results and fastest trends from counting centres across India. You can also follow the latest election results on X, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media by following #June4WithArnab.

 

(Inputs from PTI & Associated Press)

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Published June 3rd, 2024 at 21:16 IST