Searching for a wave: On the general election so far  

The campaign is degenerating into hate speeches and false accusations 

May 08, 2024 12:20 am | Updated 07:27 am IST

In the third round of polling for the 18th Lok Sabha on Tuesday, over 1,300 candidates were in the fray in 93 Lok Sabha constituencies across 12 States and Union Territories. With this phase, voting is complete in more than half of the constituencies — 283 out of 543 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate in Surat, Gujarat, was declared elected unopposed, after all his opponents, including the Congress candidate, withdrew under dubious circumstances. The next four phases of the general election will be on May 13, 20, and 25 and June 1. Counting is scheduled for June 4. Of the 93 seats on Tuesday, 71 were won in 2019 by BJP candidates, while four went to the Congress. In Gujarat, the BJP had won all 26 seats in the last two elections. One of the most watched battles was in Baramati, Maharashtra, between veteran Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and Sunetra Pawar, wife of his estranged nephew and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. The first two phases had registered a dip in voter turnout, compared to 2019, and the Opposition had questioned the inordinate delay by the Election Commission of India in the publication of the cumulative figures.

The BJP and the Congress-led alliance have crossed swords over the issue of reservation, offering their respective, conflicting interpretations of constitutionalism in the process. The Opposition has accused the BJP of a conspiracy to end reservation by amending the Constitution, while offering to amend the Constitution to remove the 50% ceiling on reservation. Unused to being on the defensive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has alleged a conspiracy by the Congress and its partners to give away the reservation meant for Hindu subalterns to Muslims. While the Congress and its partners are aiming at a Hindu subaltern consolidation against the BJP in their favour, the ruling BJP’s focus is on consolidating its Hindu base by constantly targeting Muslims. Serious charges of sexual crimes against Prajwal Revanna, the grandson of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, have put the BJP on the defensive. Mr. Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) and the BJP are allies in Karnataka where the BJP had won 25 of 28 seats in 2019. The allegations against Mr. Prajwal, a sitting JD(S) MP, raise serious questions about the functioning of the JD(S). The Congress is counting on women voters of the State consolidating behind it. With no overwhelming wave of any kind apparent, the principal rivals are struggling to create one in their favour, often with means less than honourable.

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