The countdown has begun in India. As political pundits peer into their tea leaves before the results of another marathon election, the question on everybody’s lips is: will the Gandhi magic work again?
Exit polls show the coalition led by Sonia Gandhi will fall short of an outright majority, but her Congress party has a slight edge over its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
But then exit polls in India have been way off the mark in the past. Like the last election.
In the 2004 election, the Congress scored a shock victory over the BJP, which many said was a result of Sonia Gandhi’s tireless campaigning and, more importantly, the magic of the Gandhi name. Nobody, just about nobody, had expected the BJP to lose? Or the Congress to win. Not even the Congress itself.
But will Sonia Gandhi do it again this time? Will the Gandhi name work like a charm again? Nobody is willing to hazard a guess this time. Indian voters are known to throw up enormous surprises.
One of the biggest upsets in the history of post-colonial India was Indira Gandhi’s massive defeat in the 1977 election. Mrs Gandhi was considered so invincible that a slogan coined by one of her partymen — Indira is India, India is Indira — had become a household buzzword. She was almost like a Mother Goddess at the time.