Modi throws a fit, then meditates for two days in last phase of polls

Published June 1, 2024
Himachal Pradesh: Officials put up an election poster outside a remote polling station, on Friday.—Reuters
Himachal Pradesh: Officials put up an election poster outside a remote polling station, on Friday.—Reuters

NEW DELHI: The last vote in the seven phase elections is being cast today and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be waking from his two-day deep meditation to catch the exit polls in the evening, which the opposition assert would be falsely flagging victory for him.

The heavily guarded seclusion on the southernmost tip of India follows a spate of angry curses the prime minister unleashed on his opponents during election speeches in Bihar and Punjab.

The exit polls are expected after the last voting machine is sealed for the counting of the votes on June 4, and Mr Modi would have to wait for that many days for official endorsement or, not entirely unexpected, rejection of his victory claim.

Neither Mr Modi nor his ministers have minced words about a landslide victory they foresee, crossing even Rajiv Gandhi’s 400 plus, but opposition parties and well-regarded pollsters claim the outcome is likely to spell serious loss of seats for the BJP, which had a tally of 303 in the last polls.

Indians to cast vote for 57 seats in final phase today

The battleground states where Mr Modi has faced a discernible challenge are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Reports from the widely trusted betting markets say the BJP would get a comfortable 330 seats on its own, a majority not different from those forecast persistently by TV channels before the polls began.

The characteristically publicised meditation spurred a massive security drill involving speedboats and drones with a complete ban on tourists to visit the fabled rock by the sea at Kanyakumari. Swami Vivekanand, a celebrated Hindu seer and religious revivalist sat in silence there in 1893. He left for Chicago from there on May 31.

Worry has been expressed about national security during the meditation as the PM holds the nuclear command. When former prime minister Manmohan Singh had surgery that required general anesthesia, he deputed his defence minister to stand in for him. That doesn’t seem to have happened here.

The last phase involves 57 seats of the 543 that make up the Lok Sabha. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has called a meeting of alliance leaders on Saturday to set up the post poll arrangement for transparent counting of votes. Informed sources said the alliance could also discuss the likely threat from horse-trading they fear from the cash-rich ruling party should its alliance fall short.

The din and clamour of the election is discernible on both sides. The TV channels see a clear victory for Mr Modi. A bevy of YouTube-based channels see a net loss for the BJP.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav asked his party workers and candidates to remain vigilant. In an appeal on X, Mr Yadav wrote, “All of you should remain fully alert, vigilant, and cautious during the voting on Saturday and also in the days after the voting, till the counting of votes is over and you receive the certificate of victory. Do not get misled by the BJP.”

In the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections, polling will be held in 13 Lok Sabha seats of Uttar Pradesh.

Mr Modi has also been lampooned by Priyanka Gandhi and other leaders for claiming that the Congress would steal one of two buffaloes and the mangalsutra of Hindu women to give them to Muslims. He has described the Con­gress manifesto as a Muslim League document without explai­ning the charge.

In his last outing in Hoshiarpur in Punjab, where all 13 seats are to be decided in the last phase, Mr Modi threatened to expose the opposition leaders if they didn’t stop targeting him. “Don’t mess with Modi,” he shouted, hours before flying off to Kanyakumari.

Earlier, in Bihar, he openly threatened to jail 24-year-old cha­llenger Tejashvi Yadav, who has been drawing massive crowds without troubling his father Lalu Yadav to campaign in the searing heat. Lawyers said it was an open signal that Mr Modi controlled the federal agencies though he denies it.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2024

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