After weeks of intense, bitter and at times vicious campaigning the moment of truth is at hand. Or, to be more accurate, the caption should read “hours” ~ if predictions about the time likely to be taken tallying the recordings of the EVMs/VVPATs hold true, it could be late on Thursday night (maybe even the wee hours of Friday) before the completion of that critical process of number-crunching.

Of course the trends in the counting ~ more authentic indicators than exit polls ~ ought to have by then given the voter a fair picture of the outcome of the world’s most exhaustive democratic exercise. The numbers could determine the future course of Indian democracy, more than just a matter of winners and losers. If the exit polls and most journalistic projections remain valid, there could be more at stake for the losers than what the winners will gain.

Regardless of all the pre-poll rhetoric, for the NDA winning a second consecutive term ~ some would prefer replacing NDA with Mr Narendra Modi since this election has mainly been about him ~ might essentially mean a lot if it improves upon its 2014 performance.

Yet for the Congress, another defeat might mean that the curtain will be dropping, at least on the Rahul Gandhi era now that Sonia is taking a back seat. There will be a special focus on whether Priyanka can revive the party’s fortunes in eastern UP, perhaps beyond, but if she flops the days of the family could be drawing to a close.

Sure the party has others with potential, but they will have a fight seeking to hog the limelight after Rahul had fallen into the trap of making the poll so personality-oriented and trying to redeem the family image by hoping Rafale would sway the voters as Bofors had against his father.

The impact of the BSP-SP tie-up in UP will also be closely monitored; opinion is divided on whether it has the allure to attract the voters presumably disenchanted with Yogi Adityanath. The tussle in Andhra/Telangana has a dynamic of its own, and this will be the first DMK-AIADMK slugfest without Tamil Nadu stalwarts Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha. And then there is West Bengal, where the feisty Mamata Banerjee has proved she is as affective a street-fighter as the Modi-Shah duo.

On the sidelines, and hoping that the exit polls are way off-target is Chandrababu Naidu; has he risked his “throne” in Andhra by hoping to play kingmaker in the Capital? No pre-poll arrangement materialised. These are only some of the queries the numbers-game will answer.

The future of EVMs is a stake, the EC seems on the verge of an implosion, and the minority communities are apprehensive of an NDA III. To revert to the cliché, we must wait and watch… One former CEC said Indian elections were a mela: of late they have been incorrectly likened to a dangal ~ a mistake because wrestlers, unlike politicians, adhere to some rules.