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Campaigners swayed. Did the voters, too?

Campaigners swayed. Did the voters, too?

The Election Commission’s role came into harsh focus during the campaign and even before that. The Commission, whose duty it is to hold free and fair elections and who should act as a neutral umpire, was found wanting in many ways.

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Last Updated : 31 May 2024, 23:19 IST
Last Updated : 31 May 2024, 23:19 IST
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An extremely long campaign period in the country’s electoral history has ended and the world’s biggest polling exercise is set to conclude on Saturday. Campaigns usually give a sense of the mood of the voters because parties, candidates and their supporters try to tailor their themes, slogans and activities to what they perceive as the thinking and sentiments of the voters. This could be seen especially in long campaigns like the present one. While the BJP started the campaign on a confident note, projecting the achievements of the Narendra Modi government, the themes shifted as it progressed. The Prime Minister himself changed the gear and much of the campaign came to be dominated by vilification of the Opposition and an attack on the minorities, specifically the Muslims, expressed in various ways. The discourse deteriorated both in terms of what was said and how it was said. It might be facile, however, to conclude that the BJP changed its strategy because it sensed defeat or a major setback. The party may have decided to shift to surer ground in regions where divisive sentiments can evoke better responses. 

The Opposition did not consolidate its forces to put up a united fight, though there were moves for an all-India and all-party alliance last year. The I.N.D.I.A. grouping had an alliance among partner parties in some states but some member parties fought against each other in other states. Some important Opposition parties, such as the Trinamool Congress, fought their own battles with the BJP. The Opposition parties tried to focus on issues like inflation and unemployment and the authoritarian tendencies of the Modi government in their campaigns. But neither the ruling party’s nor the Opposition’s campaign seems to have created a perceptible wave among the voters. The low polling percentage in all phases of the elections till now may be a pointer to the absence of a dominant voter sentiment. But the Indian voter is not known to give himself away too easily, and so we will have to wait till June 4 to know their mind. 

The Election Commission’s role came into harsh focus during the campaign and even before that. The Commission, whose duty it is to hold free and fair elections and who should act as a neutral umpire, was found wanting in many ways. From scheduling a long-drawn out seven-phase election in hot summer to dillydallying on the publication of polling data to unwillingness to take action in cases of violation of the model code of conduct, including on the latest complaint about the Prime Minister’s meditation in Kanyakumari, the Commission has disappointed on many counts. Its credibility has taken a severe knock. 

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