On December 11, 2018, 678 seats of the five states will have their fate sealed and the political discourse will be reduced to a simple 'number' equation as the day progresses. While the exit polls coming across from different sources anticipate Congress' triumph over the dominant BJP in two very crucial states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the fact that Raman Singh's government in Chhattisgarh might just face the axe is also picking up pace in the political domain.
No matter which way these states swing, there will certainly be a message being delivered by the electorate to the winners and the losers at the end.
Since PM Modi government came into power in 2014, the BJP has not lost a state election because of anti-incumbency against it. It retained Goa and it retained Gujarat and picked up a spree of Congress-ruled states across the country. Even if BJP loses grip of 1 of the 3 states, it will mark the first defeat of the party due to anti-incumbency since the coming of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
For both sides, the Mahagatbandhan is on test. If it works, the BJP will have to think of a strategy to counter it beyond rhetoric and a dismissive attitude. If it backfires, then the Opposition has to think of going beyond anti-Modi motto as their binding factor.
December 11 is all about who is getting the 2019 momentum certificate. It is difficult to determine whether the momentum certificate has any bearing on the result of 2019 but the fact of the matter is that in terms of election momentum-- this stands as the last chance for both sides. Therefore:
If the BJP lose big then does it take the party right back to 2015 after they lost to Nitish Kumar in Bihar and were seen as a beatable electoral force overnight? Is it undeniable that it took big wins in UP, Assam, Himachal, Uttarakhand and Gujarat to get the pan-India electoral invincibility tag back? Should they lose big today in the Hindi speaking belt, where is the incubation and second shot to earn it back before 2019?
If the Opposition loses big or wins half heartedly even, is Rahul Gandhi going to be counting and pinning his hopes on anti-incumbency alone instead of being convinced of his own story or what he’s promising? Can Rahul Gandhi go on to 2019 assuring himself and the electorate that he has anything but anti-incumbency to ride on?
Whichever way you look at it, the fact of the matter is that whoever will fail to gather votes and whatever may be the reason for loss-- the implication will be pinned on the national leadership since both sides have staked it all across the states with their national level leaders going into the states and campaigning their heart out
In terms of this campaign, it was a race to polarise on both sides. If the Opposition had Owaisi, the BJP had Yogi Adityanath, if the Opposition was sending Rahul Gandhi to temples, the BJP was raising Ram Mandir in campaign speeches, if the Opposition was playing the 90% Muslim votes card, the BJP was playing Ali VS Bajrang Bali politics.