OPN_190510  Indian Voting1_P1-1557492659031
Indian voters flashes their voter identity as they stand in queue to cast their votes at Podra in Howrah , India, Monday, May 6, 2019. With 900 million of India's 1.3 billion people registered to vote, the Indian national election is the world's largest democratic exercise. Image Credit: AP

The fifth and the most crucial phase of India’s parliamentary elections has concluded. There are two more rounds to go and May 19 is the last segment. Counting starts on May 23 and the results will begin to roll out immediately. The great Indian circus will by then have played itself out; the largest election in history will have come to an end and the greatest show on earth pulled down its shutters.

But by then, like trapeze artists on the trampoline, twisting one way then the other, and circus clowns and contortionists doing double flips, one would have seen astounding displays by these acrobats. For some of the most prominent political names are artists first and politicians later, and they will have taken up political stands that are wildly inconsistent purely in the pursuit of power.

That is the nature of the beast, but all this presumes that the ruling BJP will not command an overwhelming majority. The broad consensus now is that Modi and the BJP are facing strong headwinds.

At this late stage in the election cycle the reader is however interested in specifics, he wants to know who will form the next government. Will Modi be unseated and can the impossible happen? Can Rahul become Prime Minister? The bookies are saying, 245 to BJP and 77 to the Congress. Mr Gandhi it would seem has to wait! At least that is what the bookies are signalling.

That said, how do the numbers stack up on the ground? Like IPL (cricket) that is keeping many of us sleepless these days, the wild gyrations, the fluctuating fortunes of the different political outfits are compelling.

The last over, and the last ball, is make or break, and as we enter the fifth phase (strategic timeout) suddenly the BJP looks vulnerable and its chances to form a government in coalition are in doubt. That was not the case some weeks ago, but like Dhoni and his helicopter shot, Modi may yet deliver a devastating counter-punch and snatch a victory for the BJP.

BJP’s worst fears

The Wire is viscerally anti-Modi. A recent headline read ‘Elections 2019: BJP could lose 75 Seats in six Hindi heartland States … and analysis shows the loss in terms of seats is likely to be more dramatic than the loss in vote share’.

This article is extremely well researched and goes on to say with charts and graphs that the worst fears of the BJP are about to happen. It makes a distinction in trends between UP and the rest of the Hindi heartland. And it emphasises the regional parties’ important role in these elections. They — the regional parties — indeed are the king makers (more than ever before) and if you move away from the Hindi heartland to the ‘South’ their crucial role in this game of thrones is self-evident.

The Wire’s story adds, ‘In UP, the formation of the grand coalition has nullified to BJP’s advantage as a national party. The agrarian crisis, the negative shock of demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, and lacklustre growth of employment opportunities have not been dealt with … and if these were the factors that prompted BJP’s poor electoral showing in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh four months ago, then they are likely to have an impact on the Lok Sabha election results too’.

Given these inputs, the number being touted around for the BJP is as low as 140 and a max of 180. Some say more than 200, but that seems to be a tough task now. Next, though Rahul Gandhi and the Congress have not been spectacularly impressive at the hustings, they have a deeper bench strength (sticking with IPL) when it comes to allies. The BJP’s NDA is shakier and more brittle than the Congress’s UPA. Whether this will lead to Rahul Gandhi becoming Prime Minister is another matter, it could be Mayawati, Mamata or even KCR who recently rushed to meet Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief Stalin. In the latest episodes of the hugely popular series Game of Thrones, the body count keeps mounting alarmingly and who will finally get to sit on the Iron Throne is tantalisingly unknown.

What about the Delhi throne?

Unpredictable, but this much is certain, Modi and Amit Shah have a fight on their hands; the greasy pole just got greasier. The momentum has inexorably shifted. And Chinese whispers doing the rounds say the RSS may push for Nitin Gadkari as a compromise candidate for PM.

But ‘the old lady sings, It ain’t over till (or until) the fat lady sings’.

Ravi Menon is a Dubai-based writer, working on a series of essays on India and on a public service initiative called India Talks.