Sunday, July 21, 2024

Modi eyes record third term; Opp bloc hopes for rebound


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NEW DELHI, June 3: Prime Minister Narendra Modi eyes a record-equalling third straight term in power amid the INDIA 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.
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 crossing even the 180 mark, one-third of the total number of seats.
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).
In the run-up to the counting, the campaign acrimony between the two battling camps has spilled 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”.
INDIA bloc leaders, who have been raising doubts over the EVMs, have accused the prime minister of sending a signal to the bureaucracy through these “fantasy” exit polls and marched to the EC, urging the poll watchdog to follow the counting guidelines.
In its counter-attack, the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Always confident of his return to power, Prime Minister Modi has already penned an article about his vision for the country, posted on X about people’s support to 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. (PTI)


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