Frankly, I am confused. With the exit polls predicting a near-unanimous NDA victory, the country had a day out of a slapstick comedy routine. The stock markets hit some impressive highs -- clearly some people made a lot of money. Mamata Didi went on the rampage asking us not to believe in idle gossip and that it is a premeditated crime (at some point we lost the plot on whether the crime was committed by the NDA or the TV channels or the stockmarkets or a combination of some of these). Our friends from the Left provided us a number of alternative explanations including faulty statistics, erroneous sampling, non-transparency of data and the like.
Shashi Tharoor went on to cite the famous Australia opinion polls which of course did not match the actual result (except that these were indeed opinion polls, Mr Tharoor, not exit polls)!
Meanwhile, the BJP has put on a show of studied calm and happy smiles, having calculated the angularity of graciousness that their cadre needs to display in what seems to be an inevitable result to them. I was surprised to see even children hooked onto the television as every one of our celebrity anchors declared the exit poll results almost as if they had all collectively won a secret jackpot lottery.
In all this, I will have to laud Mr Venkaiah Naidu’s speech at a recently concluded awards ceremony (the award, incidentally, was given to him) where he spoke of the abyss we have plunged into in terms of political rhetoric. The level of the discourse has indeed fallen steeply, with the Congress scion calling our PM a thief and the BJP retaliating by calling Rajiv Gandhi names.
And then we had Sadhvi Pragya valorizing Nathuram Godse. Imagine resurrecting this at election time – full marks to both Kamal Haasan and the Sadhvi, for ensuring that no stone was left unturned in our quest for political one-upmanship. While the Tamil actor-turned-politician used an opportune platform in Karur to play to the gallery, the Sadhvi’s motives to talk and then to keep silent are probably understood only by whichever deity she communicates with.
Is this the India that our forefathers envisaged when they wrote the constitution (which in itself is being threatened with a rewrite!)? One look at the regrettably dirty incident involving the pamphlet circulated about the AAP's Atishi in Delhi (the jury’s still out, Mr Gambhir!), or the equally gory scenes from Bengal in the past week between the TMC and the BJP reveal certain dark secrets worthy of a new Netflix crime drama. The country is no longer at war with any outside forces. It is imploding from within.
Within hours of the exit poll, I got a message forwarded to me about a “stock market” agent report that shows the reverse of what the various exit polls predicted. Rife alongside this is the notion that the stock market deliberately paid television channels in order to inflate the NDA results and effect the Big Short in the next few days of trading. Far fetched? The sad reality for India, today, is that anything is unfortunately believable.
So polarized is the atmosphere for dialogue in our country today that I have received various epithets and brickbats for even attempting to write a balanced viewpoint. Something that we were originally “educated” in school for. So much for maintaining sangfroid.
I had already written about my wishlist for the PM in case he is re-elected. I believe most of us agree with that wishlist, along with a few more demands. However, I spent the last 24 hours talking to some real people, the ones who toil in the sun and do dishes for a living, far away from the armchair psephologists and the Lutyens’ Laity.
The first is someone I know very well. Santhosh, our cook, hails from Northern Bihar. His simple prediction for Narendra Modi had to do with the setting up of bank accounts and the launch of the Vande Bharat Express, both of which have immediately improved his personal quality of life. Most of all, his belief was that Modi was essentially honest. Santhosh voted in Bihar and is confident that almost all his friends and relatives think alike on this.
Kanthamma, the lady who supplies us with mangoes and groundnuts, spoke highly of the Prime Minister based on his “Clean India (Swachh Bharat)” campaign and his earnest attempt to ferret out the terrorists and the black money launderers. She also spoke in favour of demonetization, perhaps a minority voice in this opinion-rich country of ours. Her simple logic was that a little discomfort is necessary to bring the real scum to task. I did not bother explaining macro-economic logic or the “what-really-happened” narrative. “Salus populi suprema lex esto” (the welfare of the people is the supreme law) as my dear father used to love quoting.
I have been greeted with several of these stories in the past month. Ultimately, I do believe that the BJP has the edge for a variety of reasons. Electrification, the LPG subsidy, the reasons given by the people I spoke to – take your pick. I also firmly believe that the BJP has the best campaign managers in the Modi-Shah partnership. Add to this an opposition that has demonstrated more rhetoric and infighting than substance and sensibility, and we have a pro-incumbency at the Centre.
But do the exit polls actually measure up to what may happen on the 23rd? I believe that the answer to this is our favourite word whenever confronted by such situations: “Depends”. There has been little transparency on the sampling method used, sample estimates collected, and whether or not the financing of such a mammoth operation was made from a truly independent source. There is also a tremendous fear of isolationism in the air that may have prevented any anti-incumbency voice from speaking out. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
For now, I believe that the best thing to do is to cut into the ripe mangoes in front of you, eat them just the way you like and calmly wait for the 23rd. And if your fancy should take you to eating it the way the PM says he does, I wouldn’t blame you. Some skills may be worth developing. And as always, ending this with a retro number:
Anil Srinivasan is a well-known musician, educator reaching over 3 lakh children, and an Associate Professor of Practice at KREA University