Move over, Netflix. This is what India is getting ready to binge-watch
Data: Election Commission of India
Early morning tomorrow, most of India will be glued to a TV set, watching anchors build up the anticipation about who will become India’s next Prime Minister. The election campaign will be re-hashed in painful detail. Experts will sit on panels and debate the endless possibilities centred around trends that the exit polls have thrown up.
On social media, #AayegaTohModiHi and #ModiAaGaya have become anthems of sorts. So, TV channels and news websites, therefore, are now analysing: will Modi return? And with what type of a margin.
Never before in recent memory has a nation inched towards deciding its future in such a long-drawn-out election. It has been more than two months since the Election Commission of India first announced the dates of the general elections. We are the world’s largest democracy, so this kind of preparation is warranted for the scale involved.
Polling was spread across seven phases over 38 days. Nearly six weeks of loud, no-holds-barred campaigning. Six weeks of politicians (and potential leaders) indulging in unabashed and unapologetic opponent-bashing. Six weeks of nothing else on the news or on WhatsApp groups (limited forwards notwithstanding). Weeks where thousands of regular folks were chased by journalists and TV crews asking for their opinion (and sometimes their caste and religion – because some things never change).
An election rally in Vadodra. (Image: Shutterstock)
Six weeks where political parties spent more than Rs 53 crore on digital ads alone. Where the taxpayers of India footed the bill for a staggering Rs 50,000 crore, or $7 billion, required to conduct the polling exercise. (Source: Centre for Media Studies. This is more than the $6 billion spent on the last US presidential elections.)
Six weeks of suspense that will culminate in a verdict in a matter of hours. In an age where a wink can go viral in minutes, six weeks is a lifetime.
But what we’ve accomplished is actually a big deal.
“On May 23, their Indian counterparts will be tallying ballots from up to 900 million voters,” it pointed out.
Let the scale of that task sink in.
- 11 million election workers
- 1.72 million voting machines
- 8,000+ candidates for 543 seats
- 2,400 political parties
- 850 million voters
With an average 67 percent turnout, we are looking at about 600 million votes to be counted, double-checked and the results announced, all before the folks on television lose their voice by the end of the day.
For a cricket-crazy nation, it’s like the Ashes, the IPL, and the World Cup all rolled into one.
A grand festival to be celebrated
Foreign media has likened the elections to a festival. The Election Commission too calls it ‘mahotsav’ (grand festival). So, it wasn’t surprising that YourStory discovered quite a few people who are planning to binge-watch the results as they come in. It’s a working day, so they plan to either call in sick or ‘work from home’.
Srinivasa Rao, who owns and runs a manufacturing unit in an industrial suburb of Bengaluru, is planning to stay home to watch the results as they emerge. Joining him are two of his friends who plan to apply for leave. Speaking to YourStory, he said,
“This will be a landmark verdict for India. It is something worth celebrating, and I plan to do it at home.”
So, what can we expect as the day closes? India is staring at three possible outcomes, based on the exit polls.
- The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) returns to power with more seats than in 2014, with the BJP alone still getting more than the 272 seats it needs for a clear majority.
- The NDA returns to power but with a reduced majority, including a lower seat count for the BJP.
While exit polls have often been directionally correct, they sometimes go very wrong in terms of the numbers they come up with. So, the possibility of a fractured verdict cannot be ruled out.
A fractured verdict, where the NDA falls short of the 272-mark, would likely lead to horse-trading, but more disastrously, could set us up for a series of short-lived governments.
The fear of a fractured verdict is real. Markets, which thrive on stability, soared following the exit polls predicting the return of the NDA.
Morgan Stanley Equity Strategist Ridham Desai wrote in a research note to clients,
"If the exit polls are right, Indian equities should stage a robust rally. For the broad market, the chances are further skewed to an upward move. Of course, if the actual results are a fragmented verdict where the largest party in the House has fewer than 160 seats, equities could take a meaningful hit."
Equity Strategists at UBS, including Gautam Chhaochharia, echoed this sentiment, saying,
"If exit polls are right, a BJP single party majority may result in an up-move of 5-10 percent of the Nifty in the near term. However, a non-NDA government may lead to a 10-15 percent correction in Nifty, if we go by market reactions in 2004 and 2009 to big surprises. The reality check of fiscal slippage and/or a negative growth surprise, awaits markets post this binary event though.”
Tomorrow, India – and the world – will know what to expect in the next five years. When the last of the little VVPAT slips are counted, what we look forward to is whether or not India has voted in the government that it deserves. Because India needs a strong leader. More importantly, it deserves a strong and intelligent Opposition to make sure that we rise to our full potential as a socio-economic powerhouse in the grandest sense of the word.
We’ve always been tempted to know what lies in our future.
That’s what at stake today. Our future. Our chance to be a big player in the ‘Asian century’. Our chance to make India the powerhouse it can be.
(With inputs from Tenzin Pema.)