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Newspapers headline TV exit polls ‘huge’ Modi victory but say wait for 23 May

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The results of the many exit poll give newspapers the opportunity to go for sweeping, banner headlines this morning. All mainstream newspapers reflect the unanimous poll verdict that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will win the elections.

However, the headlines do not reflect the enormity of victory in the exit polls which range from 339-365 (India Today-Axis) to 242 (News X-Neta): “Exit polls predict second term for Modi’’ (The Hindu), “Exit polls predict victory for NDA: over to May 23” (Hindustan Times), “Exit polls predict another huge Modi win’’ (Times of India), “All exit polls point to return of NDA” (The Indian Express).

“The only resistance, if the polls are to be believed, is in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Punjab,” writes The Times of India. It doesn’t comment on the other southern states believed to resist the BJP. (btw)

The Telegraph concedes in its half page lead, “Bengal drives Modi comeback: Polls”, that the BJP seems to have made “big gains in Bengal and Odisha that will help tide it over losses in Uttar Pradesh”, adding, “If there is one region where the BJP is projected not to have made inroads, it is the south”.

Express says that while the exit polls “show that TMC would have to concede come ground to the BJP this time”, “there is a wide difference across exit polls on the tallies, with BJP expected to win between 4 and 22 of the seats out of 42”. It adds in ‘Explained’ that UP and West Bengal, where exit polls “differ widely”, “could be the X factor” in the results.

HT’s report looks forward to government formation: “if the exit poll numbers are credible, they throw up four different scenarios” — the BJP emerges victorious in all four. “The first is of Modi’s return as PM with the BJP having a majority on its own…” it writes, “The second is of Modi coming back as PM with the BJP as the single largest party and the NDA winning a majority.”

“The third scenario… BJP as the single largest party comfortably above 200 seats and the NDA as the single largest prepoll formation,” it writes, adding “None of the polls predict specifically such a scenario, although some are in the vicinity.”

“The fourth is of the BJP as the single largest party but at around 200 seats, making a second term for Modi difficult and opening the doors for a broad Opposition alliance anchored, but not necessarily led, by the Congress,” it concludes, citing ‘NewsX-Neta’ data.

It is also the only paper to caution: “A caveat is essential here. These are exit polls, and exit polls have had a history of being inaccurate in terms of exact seat predictions.”

The Hindu looks back at the issues that dominated the campaign in “Jobs were less of a concern during elections”. “Economic issues, including “unemployment”, were less salient in determining voter choice over the course of the election,” it finds, adding, “The post-poll survey also found that while awareness of the Congress’s flagship minimum income promise, the NYAY scheme, had increased over the course of the election, a significant section of the poor — the targeted recipients — had yet to learn about it.”

The Express and HT report on tensions in polling areas. Express found that in Basirhat in West Bengal “communal fault lines ran deep” due to the spat between BJP and TMC. HT’s second lead found “Violence in W Bengal, Punjab as voting ends”.

Voter turnout: The Express and TOI disagree on overall turnout: While TOI says “The overall turnout of 64.2% was 2 percentage points lower than in 2014”, Express says the turnout stood at 67%, “marginally higher than the 66.44% turnout in 2014”.

Both agree, however, that “polling for the 17th Lok Sabha saw many more women casting their votes” (TOI). The Express notes that an “additional 4.1 crore women had voted” this time,” “virtually closing the gender gap in voting”.

Nitish on Pragya

TOI, Express, and HT give space to Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) supremo Nitish Kumar’s “condemnation” of Pragya Singh Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot. Thakur had made headlines last week for saying Godse “was, is, and will always be a patriot”.

Opinion

Among mainstream newspapers, HT alone comments on the exit poll predictions.

In “Prime Minster Modi 2.0?”, it writes that projected numbers for NDA, “are based on an exceptional performance by the Bharatiya Janata Party across north, west, central and east India”. However, exit polls have had “a chequered history” — in 2004, they got the direction of the outcome “wrong”.

If accurate, three features will stand out in the elections: Modi’s success in converting the Lok Sabha polls into a “referendum about himself” — voters have voted for Modi, not their MP. Two, despite a “more focused Rahul Gandhi”, Congress has failed to challenge BJP in direct contests. Finally, it shows north and south “are now thinking differently” with BJP competitive only in Karnataka.

TOI in “BJP’s self goal” assails the party on Pragya Singh Thakur. Although Modi and the party have criticised her comments, “there’s a larger problem here”. It say she holds radical views and is a terror suspect. She had also made “egregious’’ comments on Nathuram Godse, and the killing of police officer Hemant Karkare in 26/11 terrorist attacks. Therefore, it is “untenable” for BJP president Amit Shah to defend her Bhopal candidature as a “satyagraha”. “BJP must make a clear choice between Gandhi and Godse” — the two are “incompatible’’, it writes.

In “Monitor’s test”, Express say differences within the Election Commission — with Ashok Lavasa recusing himself from hearing complaints on violations of the Model Code of Conduct after he opposed a clean chit to Modi and Shah — threaten to damage its “formidable and hard won reputation as an impartial and effective poll monitor”.

The Express says the EC’s “public turmoil” is part of a “disquieting pattern” featuring the Supreme Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Last January, four judges had spoken up for the independence and integrity of the court questioning the then Chief Justice of India’s allocation of cases; CBI saw its two top officers face off in an unseemly confrontation, and RBI had a governor “exit” after differences with the government on its “autonomy”. EC must address charges of “institutional weakening” and address gaps in the laws governing its conduct.

Prime Time

Exit polls and poll of polls were the only topic across all news channels. Each one had its own take on the 23 May result. Channels like Republic, Times Now, News X went out at 6.30 pm with their nation-wide poll results while channels like ABP, India TodayAaj Tak, India TV and others went either phase by phase (ABP) or state by state.

By 10 pm it was all over but for the expert opinions on why Congress was in complete disarray and the BJP on the ascendancy.

With inputs from Shailaja Bajpai.

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