The biggest democratic exercise of the year got over last week, and the Assembly poll verdict is all set to be declared today. A lot is at stake for both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Opposition Congress and the alliance led by it, as also the non-BJP and non-Congress front testing the waters, as the counting of votes for the 2018 Assembly elections in five states will hold key to their immediate future ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Five states — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Telangana and Rajasthan – went to polls between November 12 and 7 December. While Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Telangana and Rajasthan had single-phase polling, the Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh went to polls in two phases. The turnout had been encouraging at all the places, including the Maoist-affected belts, even as news of irregularities, and allegations too, with regard to electronic voting machines (EVMs) dominated the narrative throughout.
Most of the exit polls have given the Congress an edge in four states, and predicted loss for it in Mizoram, the last bastion of the grand old party in the Northeast. The Congress, which would previously dismiss unfavourable exit polls, appears happy with the results this time, though it has been raising the EVM issue alleging that BJP might tamper with them to tweak results in its favour.
The allegations pertaining to EVM irregularities are not entirely unfounded, though. An EVM ballot unit was found suspiciously lying in the middle of the road in Shahabad area of Kishanganj Assembly Constituency in Rajasthan’s Baran on December 7. Two officials have been suspended on grounds of negligence in this regard. Earlier, there were allegations in MP that attempts might have been made to rig the EVMs after a power cut at a Bhopal strongroom. EC has dismissed any such fear.
The Congress has had great hopes from these elections and its president Rahul Gandhi hopes his party will wrest a few states from the BJP this time around.
The BJP on the other hand is unfazed by the exit poll results and the chief ministers of all three BJP-rules states — Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, MP — are confident of making a comeback.
If the BJP actually manages to retain the three states of MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, or any two of them or even one, the Congress and other Opposition parties will definitely raise the EVM issue. It is to be seen now what will the Congress say about the EVMs if it emerges victorious, instead.
We should get the answer by the end of the day, unless the states throw up a Karnataka-like situation, which no one is ruling out at the moment.