In India, psephology is a young science. Despite this, psephologists, from time to time, have been able to rather accurately predict the outcome of the national and state elections. But in 2004, psephology failed miserably and both the BJP-NDA and Congress UPA were shell-shocked with the final outcome - the former for being ousted from office and the other for being offered the unexpected opportunity to form the government!
A decade later, opinion polls accurately indicated a clear groundswell in favour of Narendra Modi and the BJP. And the prediction of a full majority for the BJP by one psephologist raised the bar then, and now once again in the current round of assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana. Exit polls for both states indicate a clear and unambiguous preference for the BJP - some say the party will get the most seats, others say it will get an outright majority.
That development for the BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana obviously has massive political implications. In Haryana, the BJP for several decades has been on the political fringe and numerically benefited only from political alliances. To grow from four seats in the 90-seat assembly in 2009 to above the halfway mark is a growth rate that is mind-boggling. The same holds true in Maharashtra, particularly in light of the end of a 25-year-old alliance with the Shiv Sena.
Yet indications for such a positive result for the BJP should really not come as a complete surprise. There are several parallels between the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and this current round of state elections.
As in the parliamentary elections, the incumbent Congress government in both states (with the NCP in Maharashtra) has been unable to offer any credible explanation for a long tenure of poor governance. Maharashtra has been dominated by massive corruption and irrigation scams, poor infrastructure and farmer suicides. Unparliamentary and shockingly insensitive utterances on rape and irrigation issues by senior leaders of the NCP have hardly helped improve the image of an incompetent and insensitive state government. The Congress, on its part, changed the Chief Minister at regular intervals, almost suggesting they were playing some internal game of political musical chairs.
The Mumbai Metro Rail project summarizes what governance and development have been reduced to. It took the Congress-NCP government a decade to build the 11 km first phase of the project. That's approximately a kilometre a year! During the same period, an eight-year-old child in 2004 has become a young voter in 2014. And obviously, this young and aspirational Indian voter has no patience for never-ending excuses.
In Haryana, land from being a state subject seems to have become a family subject! The Change of Land Use policy appeared to have assumed industrial proportions even as industry was showing signs of desiring to shift elsewhere. And internally, the Congress party's state branch was at war with itself to such an extent that one wondered if there was any real requirement for an opposition party in the state. It should therefore come as no surprise that development and governance took a complete backseat for Haryana.
Obviously, with an appalling track record that could not be offered to voters, the Congress, NCP and others preferred to focus their campaign on attacking the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the star campaigner in both states. His popularity was evident from the massive crowd response that one saw in the 27 rallies he addressed in Maharashtra and 11 in Haryana, including in areas that are considered strongholds of the Congress and other parties. Given the goodwill of the central government under Prime Minister Modi, one is tempted to question the political prudence of attacking his leadership for votes. Or perhaps desperate times called for desperate efforts?
Both in Maharashtra and Haryana, in some senses, it's almost a feeling of deja vu. The Congress appears to have forgotten that a decade is a long time in politics. Non-performing governments run out of excuses. And voters lose their patience too. This is what happened in the Lok Sabha elections.
If the Lok Sabha results of 2014 mark a paradigm shift in Indian politics, this round of state elections hold the same potential. A full majority for a single party is a distinct reality that could be the new norm once again.
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