The Lok Sabha elections – one of the most bitterly fought of all times – drew a close after seven rounds of polling which went on for 38 days.
While the opposition – expecting a hung Parliament – was stepping up efforts to form post-poll grand alliance to keep the BJP out of power, the exit polls have cast a shadow on their ambitions.
A poll of exit polls has predicted 310 seats for the NDA – a clear majority for the ruling party and a return of Narendra Modi as the prime minister.
If the results turn out anywhere close to the predictions, not only the opposition’s efforts will go in vain but will also put in jeopardy the political ambitions of several regional leaders who aim at making it to the national politics.
Let’s take a look at what can be the forthcoming prospects for some top regional bigshots after the May 23 verdict:
The Lok Sabha 2019 election results will play a key role in deciding the future course for Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, whose prime ministerial ambitions were seen as a roadblock in the opposition’s attempts to forge the ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance).
The 2014 general elections did not turn out fruitful for the BSP chief as her party failed to win a single seat in the Lok Sabha, down from a record high of 21 seats it had won in 2009.
Expanding over the years, the BSP contested as many as over 500 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 and 503 in 201, but failed to get even a single one in its kitty. A major reason for this could have been a sharp fall in BSP’s share of votes among the Scheduled Castes and a consolidation of the Hindu vote by the BJP.
Joining hands with her once arch-rival Samajwadi Party shows the immense pressure Mayawati is facing from her voters and also the need to revive her party’s lost ground.
If the BJP fails to garner majority, which may be unlikely owing to the exit polls which have predicted over 300 seats for the NDA, Mayawati could play a pivotal role in forging an anti-BJP front.
However, if the Modi government retains another term in office, regaining its lost ground on the state as well as national level will turn out to be a Herculian task for Mayawati.
The Samajwadi Party’s performance in the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections has been disappointing. It won only five of the 80 seats in the 2014 general elections, and also did badly in the last two consecutive Assembly elections.
The party has been facing downfall ever since former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav dethroned his own father Mulayam Singh Yadav and snatched the party organisation from his powerful uncle Shivpal Yadav.
Akhilesh is among those regional leaders who are not vying for the prime ministerial post. His eyes are on the chief minister’s chair in Uttar Pradesh, but for that he will have to wait till 2022.
After joining hands with Mayawati’s BSP, Akhilesh has accepted the former as the taller leader. The alliance was a much-needed requirement for his party, which has been seeking revival in the politically crucial state.
If the SP-BSP alliance managed to trounce the BJP, it would not only benefit Mayawati but also give Akhilesh a chance to improve his party’s footsteps at the national level, which increasing chances of him aiming at the CM post in 2022 Assembly polls.
However, in case the ‘bua-bhatija’ bonhomie fails to make difference to BJP’s prospects in UP, Akhilesh would find the ground slipping beneath his feet.
No state has seen an election campaign so acerbic as West Bengal. The exit polls have given advantage to the BJP’s strategy of aggressive outreach, and have predicted 13 of the 42 seats going in saffron party’s kitty.
According to the India Today-Axis My India exit poll, the BJP is expected to secure as many as 23 out of 42 seats in the state. The growth is especially noteworthy because the saffron party had won only two seats in the 2014 elections, when a Modi wave had swept the entire nation.
Mamata’s alleged “minority appeasement” has been the main issue in the BJP’s campaigning in West Bengal.
If the Narendra Modi government retains power at the Centre, not only will Banerjee’s unrealistic prime ministerial ambitions take a hit, the BJP will vigorously reinforce its strategy in Bengal and prep for the assembly elections.
Moreover, experts believe that Banerjee and the TMC will be pushed into a vulnerable zone if the BJP manages to notch up a double-digit tally from its current meagre two seats out of a total of 42.
Most of the exit polls have predicted a clean sweep for the BJP in the national capital. The news is a big reason to worry for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
If the party draws a blank – a repeat of its 2014 performance – its future prospects would be severely damaged.
According to Praveen Rai of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, such an outcome “will have an adverse impact on AAP as hordes of its cadres and MLAs will dump the party for greener pastures.”
Days ago, Kejriwal seemed to hint that the Aam Aadmi Party could lose in Delhi. The chief minister claimed on May 18 that the city’s Muslim vote, which his party had been banking on, shifted to the Congress at the last moment.
M K Stalin
This is Stalin’s first Lok Sabha election as party supremo and the DMK will naturally put everything it has into it.
The DMK, along with its allies the Congress and the Left parties, hopes to make big gains in Tamil Nadu as the AIADMK faces anti-incumbency after wins in the 2011 Assembly polls and 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
If the DMK under Stalin is unable to do well in the Lok Sabha elections, his personal and political standing in the party will be threatened. But if the party does well, Stalin could be the next kingmaker to watch out for.
Naidu, who parted ways with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in March last year over the Centre’s refusal to grant special status to Andhra Pradesh, joined hands with the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls.
A rival of the Grand Old Party for over three decades, Naidu termed his decision to reach out to the Congress a “democratic compulsion”.
Of late, he has been playing the role of a “facilitator” to bring together all opposition parties to stop the BJP juggernaut in the 2019 general elections. However, the attempts failed owing to the national ambitions of several regional leaders like Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee.
The News Nation Exit Poll has predicted 16 seats for Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and eight seats for the TDP.
While Naidu has refused to accept the exit polls’ data, if Naidu loses the polls in Andhra Pradesh, he may not sit as leader of the opposition in the Assembly, where Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy is sitting as the chief minister.
K Chandrashekhar Rao
Exit polls predicting an absolute majority for the BJP-led NDA alliance have dashed hopes of Rao’s dream of playing kingmakers in the event of a hung Parliament.
He wanted to find a national role for himself by being in the central government and transfer power in the state to his son and party working president K T Rama Rao. Rao had sought for an early Assembly election to execute these political plans.
The predictions come short of TRS's own expectations as he wanted to bag all the 16 seats, leaving one seat to his political ally and MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi.
In the recent days, KCR has been meeting leaders of non-NDA parties to get them on board with his idea of a non-BJP, non-Congress federal front. While his attempts make his political ambitions obvious, the case of TRS failing in the Lok Sabha polls would hit him hard.
The BJP's focus on Odisha as a new expansion ground seems to be paying off. While at least two exit polls predict that the BJD will get a clear majority and retain power for a fifth straight term in the 147-member Assembly, at least three others are giving BJP more Lok Sabha seats than the BJD.
While Patnaik is predicted to return to power, his party's seat share may drop. The poll of polls has projected 85 seats for the Biju Janata Dal, a drop of 32 seats from the 2014 Odisha Assembly election result. On the other hand, the BJP is set to witness a jump to 26 seats from its previous tally of 10.
While Naveen is predicted to return to power, a reduced strength of BJD in the Lower House may affect its bargaining powers with the Centre and cut short his stated ambition of playing an important role in government formation in New Delhi.
Similarly, BJP’s failure to dislodge Naveen in the state will also prove wrong PM Modi’s prediction of a Tripura-like sweep by the by the BJP in Odisha Assembly.
Once seen as the anti-BJP opposition’s prime ministerial face, Natioaluist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar announced in March that he will not contest the Lok Sabha polls, making away way for his grand nephew to fight the polls.
The exit polls that gave NCP-Congress alliance just 11 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra have been described by Pawar as "nautanki" or drama. The poll of polls gave 36 seats to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, which is a five-seat drop from their 2014 tally of 41.
If the results turn out anywhere close to the exit polls, it will virtually draw a close to 78-year-old Pawar’s political ambitions.
While the BJP has managed to keep its ally Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) intact in Bihar, the latter’s recent criticism of the Modi dispensation over Pragya Singh Thakur's controversial remark describing Nathuram Godse as "patriot” and questioning the Election Commission’s rationale for carrying out elections for so long assume significance.
Of late, he has been showing signs of unhappiness for being treated as second-fiddle to PM Modi. Political experts believe that the Kumar’s criticism of the Centre is a calculated move to earn him space to operate in the post-results scenario.
If the NDA fails to perform, Kumar may lose much of his bargaining position. If JD(U) wins fewer seats than the BJP it would get even more problematic for the Bihar CM.
Both the allies are contesting 17 seats each this time and it is imperative for JD(U), which had won just two seats in the Modi wave in 2014, to not just dramatically improve its tally but also to win more seats than the BJP.
If NDA fails to come to power at the Centre and Janata Dal United manages to get even one Lok Sabha seat less than the BJP, it would be a personal setback for Nitish Kumar.