Votes are being counted today to call the world’s largest and longest democratic exercise, the India elections.
It has been a seven-phase polling from April 11 to May 19 with leaders stomping all over the country, holding rallies and enthusing people to vote.
As many as five exit polls on Sunday projected that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is all set to retain power at the Centre, riding yet another ‘Narendra Modi wave’.
This, despite the Congress-led Opposition making frenetic efforts to dent the Modi citadel by raising issues like corruption, unemployment, demonetisation and inflation.
Exit polls that predicted that NDA may fall short of majority numbers were in a poor minority.
Voting for the marathon seven-phase elections logged a record final turnout of 67.37 per cent in 542 Parliamentary constituencies. There was an increase of 1.3 per cent in overall voting turnout this time. Even Mumbai, known to be a laggard at voting, showcased its best performance in three decades at 55 per cent.
The average turnout over nine phases in 2014 was 66 per cent, the highest ever in the history of Indian general elections. Over 8,000 candidates were in fray this time.
It has been a hotly contested campaign trail, with virulent rhetoric and mudslinging marking speeches.
The ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, particularly top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stuck to a robust nationalism script, peddling surgical strikes, national security and an anti-terror, anti-Pakistan stance as the backbone of its campaign. They shredded the Opposition to pieces on issues of corruption and financial improbity. Modi called himself the ‘chowkidar’ of the country.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s voice was equally stringent, largely concentrating on Modi, his promises and his alleged failures. ‘Chowkidar chor hai’ was Congress boss Rahul Gandhi’s abiding refrain in his speeches, and in one he went overboard and attributed it to the Supreme Court. He had to unconditionally apologise.
The Congress also intermittently flirted with soft Hindutva – saadhus came out in support of Congress candidate and top leader Digvijaya Singh – to offset the aggressive tone on the other side.
This was also the election that saw Priyanka Gandhi end all speculation and jump into the thick of it all, crowned the party’s general secretary and given charge of East Uttar Pradesh.
Regional party chiefs also played a prominent role in the run-up keeping hopes alive of a Third Front — with or without the Congress — if NDA failed to get the numbers.
Over 900 million Indians were eligible to vote in the elections to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha.
State elections were simultaneously held in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Sikkim.
In 2014, the BJP got an absolute majority, winning 282 seats – 166 more than the previous term. Congress had managed 44.