Watch Nidhi Razdan: Will the BJP get the numbers to form govt in India? Video Credit: Gulf News

More than halfway through India’s marathon general election, something has changed in the air. Before the polls, a massive BJP victory and third term for Narendra Modi were almost a given, at least if you read the commentary in the mainstream press and social media.

Suddenly, the buzz is that things are not looking like a cakewalk for the saffron party. The betting market is now not so sure of an emphatic Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win, the stock markets have been shaky for the same reason. But is this election really turning away from the ruling BJP?

I will state straight off the bat that anyone who says they can predict what will happen on June 4 (the day of the results) is talking through their hat.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

I would not hazard a guess but there are some key takeaways from the last few weeks which point to a jittery BJP camp:

1) A waveless election: Unlike 2014 and 2019, where the BJP came to power with a huge mandate, 2024 is an election without a wave. 2014 was all about the rise of Narendra Modi and 2019 was dominated by the discourse on national security in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the Indian government’s move to retaliate.

This election does not have a single big issue on which the Prime Minister is reaching out to voters. And that may explain why the overall voter turnout so far has been below the 2019 figures. Senior BJP leaders are worried that a less than enthusiastic cadre, which has taken a Modi victory for granted, is not pulling out all the stops this time.

2) The Prime Minister’s speeches: Election time in India has increasingly become a race to the bottom of the barrel. The uncivilised language that is used, the below-the- belt attacks on opponents, are unfortunately, all too common. This time, the Prime Minister’s comments on India’s minorities made headlines. Frankly, if the election was going so well for the BJP, why say this at all? Since then, Mr. Modi has back-pedalled on those comments.

Read more by Nidhi Razdan

3) BJP responding to the opposition: while the INDIA bloc started out as a mess of an alliance among opposition parties, over the course of the last few weeks, they seem to have the BJP on the defensive. First came the opposition’s charge that the BJP would change the constitution if voted back to power i.e. they will do away with reservations for backward castes.

This appears to have resonated on the ground among Dalit groups which is why we have seen the BJP top leadership hit back and deny they will change anything and instead accuse the Congress of wanting to give a piece of the backward quota to minorities. So back to polarisation.

4) Arvind Kejriwal’s release: The Delhi Chief Minister’s release from jail to campaign could not be worse news for the BJP which wanted him behind bars to hobble his party. And Kejriwal has hit the ground running. Within 24 hours of his release, the BJP was scrambling to clarify that only Modi would be Prime Minister if the BJP won.

Expect more fireworks

Kejriwal had cleverly reminded voters that the BJP had announced a 75 year age retirement ceiling from important posts and that that would mean Amit Shah would take over as Prime Minister within Modi’s next term. Expect more fireworks from Kejriwal.

There is still some way to go for this election but the BJP faces other challenges too. Like in the crucial states of Maharashtra and Bihar, and even in some of the Hindi heartland states where it maxed out last time.

There is also some disquiet within the party over the move to welcome opposition leaders blindly into the BJP fold. Leaders once described as corrupt have been given party tickets as soon as they switched sides.

Finally, many BJP leaders are worried that the Ram temple in Ayodhya alone may not see them through to a big mandate. A long drawn out election was once Modi’s trump card. Has it backfired this time? Its hard to tell.

BJP may still be the front-runner but it may not get the huge 400 plus target that the PM had originally set.