Will BJP’s Narendra Modi be the new Indian prime minister?
On March 5, the Election Commission set the date for the polls. Which will stretch from April 7 to May 12 across the length and breadth of the country with 814 million people casting their ballots in what will undoubtedly be the biggest “democratic exercise on Earth”.
The votes will be counted on May 16, and the results to the 543-member parliament will be out within hours.
Most opinion polls say that the largest opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will win by a comfortable majority. Or, at least with the kind of numbers that will help the party form the federal government.
And BJP’s Narendra Modi – once not even given a visa to visit America, because of his yet-to-be-proved role in the 2002 Gujarat riots that left thousands of mostly Muslims dead – will be the prime minister.
The BJP victory seems a sure bet, given the anger of the people over the 10- year (which is two terms of five years each) Congress misrule – which saw a tsunami of scams.
In spite of all this, India has been a robust democracy, and elections here are generally non-violent, unlike in neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan. Even Sri Lanka.
And strangely with an undemocratic China in the north, and other problematic states around, Indian democracy has remained largely untarnished.
What is more, the transition of power from one party to another has always been peaceful, even when Indira Gandhi lost the elections after a short emergency that she imposed with draconian measures.
As much as the conduct of the polls by itself is predictable – that it will be largely according to the law – the outcome may not be so.
As the Economist wrote: “It is dangerous in Indian politics to offer strong predictions. The BJP was widely and confidently expected to do well in the previous two national polls, in 2004 and 2009, only to fall badly short both times, when votes and seats were counted. On those occasions opinion polls, plus the evidence from recent state elections, had seemed to point to BJP success. That is the case again today. Yet it looks very likely indeed that Congress will suffer a heavy defeat, while the BJP will enjoy a surge in its support”.
What is equally predictable is how the run up to the elections will be. There will be music and mirth, long speeches (which may well sound hagiographic), and huge rallies where politicians will spell out their manifestoes.
Also, the voter turnout will be impressive, because more and more men and women want to be part of the change.
And all these will be held in an atmosphere of celebration. Welcome to the great Indian carnival.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]