Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan results are witnessing a direct contest between BJP and the Congress.
Politicians across India are facing the wrath of the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. The uncertainty over their prospects and the staggered nature of Assembly elections across five States makes all contestants nervous.
The Election Commission, manned by retired bureaucrats, has often exercised unchallenged authority for long durations in the garb of holding polls in multiple phases spread over several weeks. The polling for the current round began on November 12 and would end on December 7, with results on December 11.
Contrast this with the trend three decades ago when the country faced its most agonizing moments following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and unprecedented riots in several States of North India. The general elections to elect the new Lok Sabha, the lower House of Parliament, were held through the length and breadth of the country on December 24, 27 and 28, 1984. Voting, however, did not take place in Assam and Punjab due to unrest. Counting of paper ballot papers began on December 29 and final results were known within 24 hours.
In such uncertain times, every fear and phobia comes into full play. The prospects of tampering of electronic voting machines (EVM) have become a pet peeve. Every movement of EVMs is suspect, justifiably or unjustifiably. Adding to the current mood are the high stakes involved in the elections, which many views as the biggest survey of the people's mood before the general elections early next year. The results would give all major parties an idea of their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan results are witnessing a direct contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the principal opposition, the Congress. The BJP faces voter fatigue in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, being in office for the past 15 years. Rajasthan has a track record of voting out incumbent government every five years.
The unusually high voting percentage in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has turned all conventional wisdom on its head. In as many as 76 Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, the voting percentage is five percent or more than the votes cast in 2008 and 2013. Similarly, in Chhattisgarh, voting in excess of five percentage points of the past two State Assembly elections has occurred in 12 constituencies. The trend has confounded even die-hard politicians, who are suddenly unsure of their prospects.
A BJP win in the three States would imply that it is the frontrunner for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. On the other hand, a Congress win would rejuvenate the grand old party and enable it to demand a sizeable number of seats from regional parties in any alliance. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party, which have been unwilling to concede any sizeable number of seats to the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, would be compelled to go back to the drawing board.
The Telangana Rashtriya Samiti leader and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao's gamble of going for elections eight months ahead of schedule seem to have run into rough weather. The grand alliance of the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party, the Communist Party of India and the Telangana Jana Samithi appears to be a formidable challenger. A win for the grand alliance will firm up several alliances in the South for the Congress.
In Mizoram, the Congress faces a decade of anti-incumbency and a resurgent Mizo National Front. A defeat in Mizoram will signal an end to Congress rule in the Northeast, while a win would give it a tonic in the region.
The picture will be clear on December 11. Till then we can live in interesting times - maybe after that too!