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Karnataka Election 2018: 'Katl Ki Raat', the Night That Can Make or Mar Political Fortunes

Empirical evidence suggest developments in the last 48 hours ahead of the polling at times is the difference between a victory and defeat. Especially, in multipolar elections in a first past the post system.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:May 11, 2018, 8:55 AM IST
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Karnataka Election 2018: 'Katl Ki Raat', the Night That Can Make or Mar Political Fortunes
Mir Suhail/ News18 Creatives.
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New Delhi: What is the most crucial phase in an election campaign? Ask any neta from the Hindi heartland, the answer would the same — ‘katl ki raat’. That is the night before polling.

How and when the diabolical phrase found its way into political lexicon is not known. May be someone thought he ran a brilliant campaign, but was done in by inimical forces in the darkest of hours when the trumpets had fallen silent and all about thought the battle was already won.

But most politicians are on their toes and never lower their guard in the interregnum between polling and end of the campaign.

Empirical evidence from India also suggest developments in the last 48 hours ahead of the polling at times is the difference between a victory and defeat. Especially, in multipolar elections in a first past the post system.

Three communication researchers during the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections attempted to find out at what point in time during a poll campaign the electorate decides which party to vote for.

In a research paper published later that year, Tabrez Ahmed Neyazi, Holli A Semantko and Anup Kumar showed that 59% of the respondents in their survey decided their voting preference just days before the polling. Nearly a quarter of the respondents made up their mind after the campaigning had stopped, out which about 11% decided on the day of polling.

11% in an elections is not just the difference between victory and defeat. A 10% or more difference between the winner and the runners up is the difference between a defeat and a two-thirds majority.

Thus, who so ever coined the phrase ‘katl ki raat’ is not really off the mark. If the elections are a matter of life and death for some, then developments in the darkest of hour, when the world sleeps ahead of the polling can tilt the scales away from the jaws of victory. Or a ministership. Or even chief ministership. As probably Congress leader CP Joshi realised after losing Rajasthan Assembly polls by just one vote in 2008!

It is not without purpose that big leaders who campaign all about the state or country reserve the last two days of campaigning for their own constituencies.

No surprises therefore that all key players are pulling all stops in Karnataka as campaign reaches a feverish pitch ahead of the May 12 polling. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to address more rallies. Rahul Gandhi is riding a bicycle in Kolar, Siddaramaiah has decided to sue the PM and BS Yeddyurappa for defamation.

This election is being contested to the last mile. No one is conceding an inch. That Congress unlike in other states is being led by an old socialist brought up in the rough and the tumble of hinterland politics makes this evident.

Come Thursday evening and the Election Commission will blow the bugle for the political parties to wind up the campaign. As in the battles of the yore, key campaigners will return to their respective marquees to rest and take stock of the ground situation.

In the pregnant silence over the next 40 hours, a large section of the electorate will mull over the available choices as they walk up to the polling booth to exercise their franchise.
| Edited by: Mayur Borah
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