Monday, 28 November, 2022
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2019 Lok Sabha elections more polarising than 1977, which saw the fall of Indira Gandhi

From corporate rooms to drawing rooms, there is heated speculation about the numbers BJP-led alliance and opposition would get on 23 May.

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The 2019 Lok Sabha elections are proving to be truly momentous. Many commentators would say that even in 1977 and 1991 or 1998 and 2004, the tension was palpable. But I do not remember any election being as polarising as this one. Not even 1977, which ended the Emergency and Indira Gandhi’s reign.

The spectre of democratically elected authoritarian-style rule or parliamentary chaos has begun to haunt several political leaders and intellectuals. Communal confrontations or collapse of order is feared in West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir.

The veneer of normalcy is deceptive. I have been covering elections since 1971 and have not been as stumped as I am today.

Interaction with various sections of people in different parts of the country reveals dormant angst and anxiety. Even a simple list of options that emerges from these discussions show the complexity of the situation.

The big question playing on everyone’s mind is: Who will be sworn in as the Prime Minister in the last week of May, and will Narendra Modi get majority on his own? What will happen if the BJP gets 60-80 seats less than the 282 it won in 2014? Will he then resign on moral or political grounds or will the BJP replace him, citing lack of confidence? Will he be replaced by Nitin Gadkari or Rajnath Singh or someone else? Will the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) recommend Nitish Kumar as PM if it fails to get enough post-poll allies?

Also read: For voters this election, Rahul Gandhi didn’t start the fire. That’s the problem

Similar questions are being posed about the future of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Who will be the likely consensus candidate for PM if UPA manages majority in Lok Sabha? Will it be Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, Naveen Patnaik, Ashok Gehlot or someone else?

Titanic fights are taking place in this high-stakes election battle. It’s Rahul Gandhi vs Smriti Irani in Amethi, Digvijaya Singh vs Pragya Singh Thakur in Bhopal, Nitin Gadkari vs Nana Patole in Nagpur, Sushil Kumar Shinde vs Prakash Ambedkar in Solapur, and Rajnath Singh vs Poonam Sinha vs Acharya Pramod Krishnam in Lucknow. Some long-distance runners are clearly facing a tough challenge from their opponents.

The TINA argument

Political tension is building up across the country, and election forecasts have reached a feverish pitch. From corporate rooms to family drawing rooms, press clubs to marriage ceremonies, there is heated speculation about the numbers the BJP-led alliance and the opposition would get this election season.

I wonder how the anchors, commentators and panelists embedded by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in TV studios would conduct debates if the BJP fails to get 200 seats. They could still argue that the party is single-largest in the House and Modi should be called to form the government even if the opposition parties together have more numbers.

Also read: What do Modi haters say when confronted with the TINA factor?

Give him a chance and enough time to establish majority, would be their argument. A similar situation had reportedly emerged in Karnataka recently and in Goa in 2017 where after the election results, frantic efforts were made to cobble together the numbers.

The embedded media would, of course, be euphoric if Rahul Gandhi is defeated, the Congress’ seat tally remains below 100, and the opposition fails to get majority in Lok Sabha. This would give them yet another opportunity to say ‘There Is No Alternative to Modi’.

Argumentative Indians

During this election, not just the media, many people from the legal fraternity, some retired generals, professors and other such ‘educated experts’ from the upper middle class have become dedicated ‘alter-egos’ of Narendra Modi. Their so-called arguments at home or in offices are essentially ego clashes.

India hasn’t seen such ego investment in any election or in any leader as in Modi. There are heated arguments but no dialogue, there are high-decibel fights but no conversations around Modi. These are the new ‘argumentative Indians’ who cannot listen to any counter-point or argument.

When the results are declared on 23 May, hundreds and thousands of egos are going to get deflated. If Modi cannot get majority or is not able to form the government, there could be a parliamentary gridlock or a constitutional breakdown.

Also read: The 2019 election is just about Narendra Modi, not BJP, Sangh or even opposition

In the next few weeks, we will know if this is just a hyperbolic apprehension or the political system has degenerated to unrescuable levels.

The author is a former editor and Congress member of Rajya Sabha. Views are personal.

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  1. “When the results are declared on 23 May, hundreds and thousands of egos are going to get deflated”

    Seems like Mr Ketkar seems to know something that others don’t! Going by the earlier part of the article, where he claimed that only those supporting NDA/Modi have ego’s, he seems to be indirectly projecting that NDA will not get majority.

    If that turns out to be true, he is a damn good psephologist.

    India is a democracy and a noisy one too. I am confident that whatever be the outcome, people & politicians, (even with those alleged to be having extreme views), will find a way to work together, for the betterment of the country and its people

    Nothing is more important than improving economy, finding jobs for the teeming millions. On the global scale, we have very few avenues to improve economy, competing with giants like China, at every step of the way. It needs a razor sharp focused approach and the need is for the best minds in India to come together to improve India’s economy.

    I wish that after the cacophony of the election process ends, the best minds in India come together to find common ground and agree on a set of policies that benefit India in the long run for a sustainable economy.

    Whoever gets to rule, please make the effort to reach across the aisle and rope in best minds on economy, and drive consensus, so that there is certainty in government policies.

    Whoever is defeated, please be graceful in defeat, and kindly work together with the government as responsible opposition, instead of being resentful and obstructive, and egoistic about procedures etc..

    The GST roll out is a classic example of how best minds could have co-operated to have prevented some of the early mistakes fostered on the people, by the bureaucrats.

    For the crucial ministries of Finance / commerce, bureaucrats alone cannot drive change, given that in India most bureaucrats are generalists. We need an action oriented Japanese MITI/Singapore EDB style ministry. This is a crying need for our country, and we also need certainty in policies

    We need an eminent advisory panel on economy with past and present stalwarts participating to contribute, in the interest of the nation, putting aside egos.

    Last, but not the least, please be magnanimous in Victory or defeat. India needs to come together for the sake of our country.

    The sooner we complete the process and get down to the job of focusing on economy and jobs, and alleviate the living conditions for the poor, the better it would be for India.

  2. One thing is absolutely certain. This is one very unique election where, from the forenoon onwards on the 23rd May, EVERY single psephologist, TV anchor, newspaper editor and armchair political commentator is going to say “I told you so”. Everyone is forecasting freely but hedging their bets with sufficient built in generalities and caveats/ riders to claim that THEY got it right, or nearly right. And, no one will be wrong as about twenty different outcomes have been foretold with as many PMs in waiting. At least one of them is likely to be somewhere near the bull’s eye. But some indications are likely to emerge from the plethora of ‘Exit Polls’ and ‘Poll of Polls’ that will be unveiled when the ban is lifted after the 19th May, the last day of polling. By the way, for once the writer should be complimented for not falling a prey to this temptation and predict a dire defeat for Modi. ( He must have found it very hard to avoid it).

  3. Kumar is again at it, writing irrelevant article and the print giving him space. He hopes all the time that somehow Modi will be defeated but is not sure and he goes around listing all possibilities. This election is as usual, nothing polarizing in unprecedented manner but thanks to social and electronic media, there is lot of noise. This noise by itself does not mean much. Modi appears to have under delivered in the background of huge hopes from him. In the process, people forget what is possible from the government in a realistic sense and what he could achieve. At the minimum and which itself is a great achievement, Modi had a non corrupt government for 5 years. Everyone berates him for unemployment and lack of growth, without realising that such summary assessment is difficult and country is doing well though there will always be major issues. Had it been the case that all issues can be sorted for ever, countries like USA and UK etc would be without any issues today!

  4. The concept of Single Largest Party passed into history with Vajpayeeji’s 13 day government in 1996. Signed letters of support. A lot of skulduggery happens in the Raj Bhavans, not in Rashtrapati Bhavan. 2. CM KCR has started his forays. Unless the Congress comes up with unexpectedly strong numbers, the regional parties will take the initiative. It is their turn now to lead.

  5. You fit in your own description of an “argumentative Indian” ketkar ji, only difference being that you are battling it out for the other side.

  6. Just to throw mud on Modi, Kumar Ketker has not hesitated to drag Indira Gandhi and her emergency both belonging to Congress legacy. Is he helping or damaging anti Modi forces. Often Modi haters look confused and give argument that damages more the help Congress.

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