The exit polls, which boosted the ruling combine, are now history. In preparation for the actual results on Thursday, both sides on the chessboard engaged in conspicuous actions on Tuesday. They aimed to keep the flock together and take steps to attract more regional parties to their side - principally YSR Congress, Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Biju Janata Dal, which are still technically unattached.
The BJP-NDA hosted a dinner in New Delhi to felicitate Prime Minister Narendra Modi's five years in office as the allies prepared to get down to work in government. The air was of an event being held after the real results. The participants vowed to make the NDA "stronger" which, at this point, can only mean moves to rope in more allies.
The Narendra Modi government's opponents, except a handful, couldn't come together as election allies. But after the polls, 22 parties as varied as the Trinamul Congress and the CPI(M) sat together with the Congress on Tuesday to present a case to the Election Commission on keeping the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that EVMs are not tampered with.
It has to be seen if these parties ("UPA Plus" in effect) can form a bloc to be counted together in opposition to the BJP-led NDA with the aim of trying to form the government if the NDA can't summon the numbers, or press to be called by Rashtrapati Bhavan ahead of the NDA if they have more seats in the 17th Lok Sabha than the NDA. Everything now depends on the actual results.
The task of the BJP's opponents is made complex by the fact that they must agree on a leader, but here too the results are of primary value. Their attitude to the Congress will bear watching if this party —in effect the fulcrum of the anti-BJP spirit in the country — can exceed its own expectations. If that doesn't happen, the BJP-NDA would appear to stand a better chance.
The BJP-NDA's opponents found an effective rallying point in the EVM issue, which is no doubt a very serious matter. Former President Pranab Mukherjee said it best in a statement on Tuesday: "The people's mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt. The onus of ensuring institutional integrity in this case lies with the Election Commission of India. They must put all the speculation to rest."
The EVM issue roared back to life with numerous instances in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar right after polling in which the Opposition parties questioned the arrangements made for the safe-keeping of vote machines, alleging attempts to benefit the BJP. They demanded that the EC count the VVPAT chits before tallying votes from the machine, and to count all VVPATs in an Assembly segment if irregularity is detected. In the end, it is their unity on the ground that will be watched....