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Mainstream, VOL LII No 19; May 3, 2014

Far Beyond the Media Hype

Monday 5 May 2014, by SC


with yesterday’s polling, when voters in 89 constituencies spread over nine States and Union Territories exercised their franchise, the seventh phase of the 16th Lok Sabha elections is over. Two more rounds of polling remain—on May 7 and 12—before the counting of votes begins and ends on May 16 to record the final outcome of these polls. As many as 44.28 crore voters out of the country’s 81.45 crore electorate have already voted in 438 Lok Sabha seats. In the remaining two phases 105 constituencies are to go to polls.

Giving details of the April 30 polling the Election Commission Director disclosed before journalists yesterday:

The overall voter turnout for this Lok Sabha election now stands at 66.25 per cent, significantly higher than the 57.61 per cent turnout in these seats in the 2009 general elections.

He further stated that of the 28 States and UTs where polls have been completed so far, as many as 26 have recorded a voter turnout higher than in the last parliamentary elections while “in 14 of these 28 States and UTs, the voter turnout has been the highest ever”. Experts and close observers of the electoral scene feel that this high voter turnout despite intense and scorching heat in large parts of India is reflective of the electorate’s renewed interest in the electoral process (the AAP effect?) that had begun to wane in the recent past and this could result in a qualitative change in the political landscape.

The most striking development of the day was, of course, what The Indian Express described as “Modi’s selfie-goal: FIR filed for ‘flouting’ EC code”—Narendra Modi, the principal Opposition party’s prime ministerial candidate, deliberately courted trouble by displaying his party’s symbol and delivering a political speech before mediapersons outside the polling booth in Ahmedabad after he had cast his vote in the morning. This amounted to violation of the Commission’s rules for which an FIR was filed against him under the EC’s orders.

In the foregoing one used the word ‘deliberate’ in the context of Modi’s conduct. That was qite evident from the manner in which he used the opportunity to lash out at the Congress for being instrumental in getting the FIR filed—the first such FIR he had experienced in his life. In his words,

One can understand if someone points a knife, a pistol or a gun. But do you know why the FIR was registered against me? Because I showed a lotus to the people.

Additionally, to gain more political mileage he said with biting sarcasm that the Congress was behind the mischief since “it was worried that ‘a person who (once) eked out his living by selling tea’ was challenging it,” as The Times of India reported.

Despite all such attempts to get public sympathy, politically the so-called ‘Modi-wave’ (it is absent in large swathes of the Hindi heartland including big chunks of UP and Bihar and is visible only in the States of Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) is not helping Modi to crose the magic half-way mark of 272, regardless of the BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant’s assertion that his party and alliance will touch 300+. That is precisely because of the general unfavourable impression among Muslims about him—they consider him a polarising force and are going for bulk voting against the BJP on strategic or tactical lines; a similar move is afoot among the Dalits in eastern UP as well.

That Modi’s surge towards 300+ is a myth notwithstanding what his been conveyed by the corporate-funded and manipulated opinion polls is available from The Times of India’s editorials hinting at the possibility of the Congress seriously examining the prospects of forging understanding with regional forces to form the next government and alternatively Modi being compelled to seek such tie-ups with the regional leaders for the same purpose.

One has to look at the wider perspective far beyond the media hype for a genuine compre-hension of the ground reality.

May 1 S.C.