Since it is a long-drawn election, the ruling NDA and the Opposition will have to strive to retain focus on their pet themes and campaign messaging.
Analysts were divided on the schedule drawn up by the Election Commission for the Lok Sabha polls, but all largely agreed that the NDA’s campaign push would be to retain an overarching all-India appeal on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image and attendant issues such as national security, while the Opposition will focus on local issues.
Sanjay Kumar, Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) said the schedule, despite having fewer phases than 2014, appeared to be one that would not encourage a high turnout.
‘Lower turnout likely’
“If you look at the dates carefully, there are two Sundays and Mondays. Generally off days and holidays see a lower turnout. I am not saying there is a causal relationship but this is what is usually observed. Similarly, polling dates on Monday could be taken as extended weekend,” Professor Kumar said.
He said the States such as West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh would see many phases. “EC rules mandate that campaign should end 48 hours before polling. But such a schedule will ensure that even if a constituency is voting, campaigning will go on in the neighbouring ones,” he said.
“The voter will not get time to think carefully as the noise of campaigning will be very much there.”
Professor Kumar’s views were discounted by Centre for Policy Research (CPR) fellow Rahul Verma, who felt that the pattern of dates followed the 2014 polls, despite the reduction by two phases. He said, however, that the BJP’s attempt through the long campaign would be to sustain a larger pan- India rhetoric on national security and other issues.
“The BJP’s attempt will be to focus on national issues, and while it will be difficult for the party to repeat its 2014 performance, given the current situation, the NDA appears close to getting a majority mark,” he said.
Narendra Pani of the National Institute for Advanced Studies felt that the schedule for the elections would not have much of an impact on issues. While he agreed that the BJP’s focus may be to keep the election focussed on national issues, “in the end, elections are fought constituency to constituency,” he said.
“Issues on the ground do not change too much, unless you have a very untoward unusual occurrence such as the Rajiv Gandhi assassination (in the middle of the 1991 election) where phases of the poll before and after such an event show a difference. If the Opposition keeps the focus on local issues, they may be able to get an advantage,” he said.