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Modi 3.0 or I.N.D.I.A Shining? Counting Today

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Elections for 543 seats of the Lok Sabha were held across seven phases. The majority mark is 272. Counting of votes for assembly elections in two states, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, will take place today too.
The BJP is expected to make further inroads into Bengal, Odisha and the southern states that would offset any loss it might suffer in the north. Besides Bengal, the key battleground states are expected to include Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka, and Telangana.
The campaign has been long-drawn and the mood of the voters especially difficult to read in this election. But at the end of it, three exit polls predicted a 400-plus score for the NDA. The rest differed only in terms of the margin of the NDA victory — conclusions the Opposition has trashed. Exit polls don’t always get it right.
As with every election, the BJP unleashed its formidable election machinery early on, and launched a star-studded campaign that focussed on development, economy and a vision for 100 years of Independence. Backing it up were the promises met — scrapping of Article 370 and the long awaited construction and consecration of the Ayodhya Ram temple.
The big difference was the Opposition act, which came a long way from the lack of cohesiveness of 2019, mounting a bulwark against the march of the ruling coalition.
While the beginning was shaky and in parts, patchy — like the Congress versus Trinamool contest in Bengal and Congress versus AAP in Punjab — its palpable mark of success was the narrative on a change in constitution and scrapping of reservation. In the eyeball-to-eyeball contest, the BJP blinked, with PM Modi and his ministers issuing denials.
Compared to 2019, the line-ups of the two sides have also changed, Maharashtra being the epicentre of the shake-up. NDA ally Shiv Sena had walked out of the alliance and joined the Opposition ranks, splitting a few years later. The Maharashtra powerhouse, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, split too and the Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar factions became part of NDA.
The election is being held in the shadow of allegations about the Central investigative agencies being used to target key leaders of the Opposition. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, arrested in the liquor policy case and out to campaign on interim bail, returned to jail yesterday.
This year’s election has also bucked the trend of the last 10 years, owing to an absence of wave or public anger. What has hit the country instead is a sense of discontent, and more than national issues, local issues including unemployment and inflation have taken centrestage.
Electronic Voting Machines, a key grouse of the Opposition, have received full support from the Supreme Court, which said a firm no to a return to ballot papers. The Opposition has questioned the security at EVM storage units. Amid polls, Opposition leader Supriya Sule alleged that CCTV cameras at an EVM strongroom in Maharashtra was temporarily switched off. This evening, the Congress alleged a mismatch of numbers on EVM units in Chhattisgarh.
 A historic third term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi or a roadblock by a resurgent Opposition — the mandate in the 2024 general election will be revealed today. The counting of votes, beginning at 8 am, is expected to run till midnight.    

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