India Elections 2024 (Part VI) – OpEd


Unrelenting heat fails to dim heightened election frenzy as high-stake 5th phase polling draws closer

Even the unrelenting summer heat has failed to dim the extraordinary excitement that surrounds the fifth phase of ongoing general elections in India, scheduled on May 20th, the day on which the electorally most significant state of Uttar Pradesh goes to poll. Voting will also take place on the same day in Maharashtra, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Ladakh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In this phase of elections, the fate of 695 candidates including some prominent ministers and members of Parliament will be sealed when people from 49 constituencies across six states and two union territories vote.

Uttar Pradesh, considered electorally the most important state in the country accounting for 80 members in the Lok Sabha, the highest of all states, is attracting the maximum media and public attention as it is expected to pull in its largest-ever tally of votes for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Some of the political heavyweights who are contesting from UP include Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani and Lallu Singh. 

A blitzkrieg of roadshows with star campaigners including union ministers Smriti Irani, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mohan Yadav, and Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma, BJP President JP Nadda along with several other chief ministers and former chief ministers has been carefully strategized to attract mammoth crowds. Each of these campaigns by top BJP leaders is being trailed by national print and television media houses which are using smartly-painted DSNG vans to carry full live telecasts. In what is being seen as an unprecedented trend, some of the national satellite TV channels have collaborated with corporate houses to use choppers painted in bright colors and are trailing these politicians even in the skies. 

The last roadshow held in the pilgrimage city of Ayodhya (where the famous Shri Ram temple consecration took place on January 22nd this year bringing the most revered Hindu God out of exile after 500 years), in which Narendra Modi was traveling in an open-top vehicle, drew an overwhelming response with locals lining up both sides of the streets flooded with flowers  and raising full-throttle chants of ‘Modi, Modi’.

This visit marked PM Modi’s third in six months to Ayodhya. Earlier, on December 30 last year, he gifted to the people of Ayodhya development projects worth thirty two thousand crores. He was back in the city again on January 22, this year, presiding over the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ of Ram Lalla at his majestic abode. 

As election campaigning heats up, Modi has been hitting out like never before at the Opposition-led INDIA bloc and has alleged that it is duping the public, as it wants to make five prime ministers in five years. Modi claimed that the opposition alliance will disintegrate after June 4 when results are announced.

One of the most powerful and vocal leaders of the ruling party, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also lashed out against the Congress saying that the country had faced an identity crisis while every citizen’s security was under threat during the previous Congress-led regime at the Centre.

Labeling the opposition parties as anti-national, Modi has been alleging that terrorists had always got special treatment under Congress and regional party rule. He said that in West Bengal, chief minister Mamta Banerjee was only doing “politics of appeasement, calling Ram temple impure, sheltering Bangladeshi intruders, and calling out for vote jihad”

Home Minister and right hand man of Modi, Amit Shah, made waves when he said,  “Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is an integral part of India, and we will take it back at any cost.” Shah also said that “ensuring security along the India-Nepal border will be Modi govt’s top priority in the third term”. 

On the Opposition’s charge of polarizing the nation by taking a Hindu hardliner stance, Modi said the charge is baseless because it is the Congress party led by the Gandhi family that has “played this game of Hindu-Muslim for 70 long years”. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar went to the extent of saying that this wrong image of the ruling party of being communal has been built systematically in the last few months by the foreign press which has joined hands with an international lobby that wants to ensure Modi’s ouster.

Interestingly, while elections are still underway, the Modi government has started granting citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act. “It is time to undo the wrongs that have taken place. The work of giving refugees citizenship under the CAA has already started. These are those people who have been living in our country for a long time as refugees and were victims of partition which had been done on the basis of religion”, Modi said at a recent rally.

Meanwhile, the national capital city of Delhi goes to polls on May 25 to elect seven MPs. Campaigning here is all set to reach a feverish pitch with Narendra Modi and former Congress president,Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi commencing their campaigns. Amit Shah, JP Nadda, Yogi Adityanath, and other senior BJP leaders will also hold rallies and roadshows. The Congress, too, is leaving no stone unturned with Priyanka Gandhi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge spearheading rallies across Delhi. Most significantly, Delhi chief minister, who is out of jail on interim bail, is holding endless corner meetings one after the other, giving no breathing time to his party workers. He is also planning a whirlwind tour in the state of Punjab, where his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power in 2022. Voting for all 13 seats in Punjab will take place in a single phase, which is the seventh and final phase slated to take place on June 1.

With only three more phases of the elections left, estimates by political pundits are being revised on a daily basis. The first four phases of elections have seen polls conclude in 379 of the 543 seats, constituting about 70 per cent of the total seats. Factoring in the polling percentage dip seen in comparison to the 2019 election, keen observers of Indian politics have revised their estimates for BJP to lower than the tally of 303 in the 2019 polls. They reckon that the ruling party will not do a ‘400 paar’(four hundred plus) in the 543-member Lok Sabha in the ongoing elections, and will probably have to settle around 270-290 for itself and around 300-320 or so for the NDA. Quite obviously, whatever be the actual numbers, there is no difference of opinion that Modi will make a grand comeback!

Manoranjana Gupta

Manoranjana Gupta is a Journalist, TV opinion leader, and a Special Advisor for GDKP in India, at the Center for Digital Future, Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism under the University of Southern California.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *