Towards the endgame: on the fourth phase of the general election

Opposition parties are getting better with their tactics 

Updated - May 14, 2024 02:30 pm IST

Published - May 14, 2024 12:20 am IST

In the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha election 2024, 96 constituencies voted on Monday. With this, the voting process in 23 States and Union Territories has been completed. So far, 379 constituencies have voted, which include all 25 seats in Andhra Pradesh and all 17 seats in Telangana on Monday. Polls were also held in the simultaneous Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, for all 175 seats and in Odisha, in 28 of 147. In these States, the BJP has had a blow hot, blow cold rivalry with ruling regional parties — the YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh and BJD in Odisha, in its elaborate plans to make some gains. Of the 96 seats up for the take in this phase, the BJP had won 42 in 2019, while the YSR Congress had won 22 in Andhra Pradesh, and the BRS nine in Telangana. The Congress held six. With no overarching theme defining the ongoing campaign in this general election, parties and leaders have been testing various slogans to rally voters around. Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the principal Opposition party had an unsavoury exchange. Responding to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s questioning of the delay in the release of voter turnout data, the ECI said people held such doubts in “contempt”. Mr. Kharge hit back saying it was “puzzling” that the ECI was not acting on “communal and casteist” statements by the Prime Minister and the BJP.

The BJP and the Congress have continued to mobilise voters largely around questions of religious and caste identities, respectively. A mischievous presentation of the demographic trends in the country by a government adviser came in handy for the BJP to make insinuations about Muslims with the aim of polarisation. The BJP continued to accuse the Congress of favouring Muslims. The Congress created trouble for itself as one of its advisers used racist vocabulary to describe India’s diversity. While aspersions against Muslims by the BJP about their population share were dressed up as a concern for their well-being, the Congress’s proclamation about diversity landed as racism. The interim bail given to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal by the Supreme Court of India facilitated his return to the campaign trail. Quick on his feet, Mr. Kejriwal has dragged the BJP into explaining that Narendra Modi would remain the PM even after completing 75 years of age in September next year. Mr. Kejriwal has claimed for himself the central position in the Opposition beyond the 2024 election, by putting forth a list of nationwide welfare guarantees. This has added to the tensions in the Opposition space, where a delicate, dynamic equilibrium holds together ideologically disparate forces.

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