New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party is all set for a second consecutive term, with exit polls predicting a comfortable majority for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The Poll of Polls compiled by NDTV — an aggregation of all exit poll results released late Sunday evening — says the NDA is set to win 301 of the 543 seats, and the Congress and its allies 123.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP alone won a decisive mandate with 282 seats, while the NDA’s number was 330.
The seven-phase polls concluded Sunday after the fiercest, perhaps even the nastiest, campaign in recent times. The counting of votes will take place on 23 May.
The big picture
The aggregate of Sunday’s exit polls predicts that the BJP might lose seats in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to Parliament, but it will make up to some extent in newer territories like West Bengal, Odisha and the Northeast, while largely retaining ground in states like Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
In Punjab, where the BJP is in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Congress has been given a distinct edge, while in Chhattisgarh, where BJP was routed in the 2018 assembly polls, it is surprisingly a few seats ahead.
The exit polls do not project the rosiest of pictures for the Congress. In its worst-ever defeat at the national level, the Congress was reduced to a humiliating 44 seats in 2014. But going by the trends in these exit polls, the party’s gains will be minimal and not enough for it to celebrate or claim a resurrection.
However, it must be pointed out exit polls have been known to be way off the mark on several occasions.
The surveys released Sunday include those by Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat, CNN News 18-IPSOS, Aaj Tak/India Today-Axis, India TV-CNX, ABP News-CSDS, News24-Chanakya, Times Now-VMR and Republic TV-CVoter.
Among these, the numbers vary significantly: Chanakya is giving the NDA 340 and the UPA merely 70, and while ABP News-CSDS is pegging it at 267, 127 and 148 seats for the NDA, UPA and others respectively.
The polls, however, are unanimous in the trend predicted — an easy second shot at power for Modi.
They may seem relegated thanks to the use of a term like ‘others’, but political parties that fall in this category are key players — from the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in UP, to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress, K. Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, besides smaller parties and Independent candidates.
Together, as per the NDTV Poll of Polls, these parties will account for 120-odd seats.
Among these, while the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, the TDP and the TMC adopted clear anti-BJP lines, the others have maintained a safe distance from both the BJP and the Congress.
State of UP
The SP-BSP-RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh was touted as a game-changer, given the BJP alone had won 71 of the state’s 80 seats in 2014. The Congress, meanwhile, was left out of this grouping.
The gamble for the SP-BSP — arch rivals so far — may have paid off to some extent, with the BJP’s numbers going down significantly (50 as per the NDTV Poll of Polls), but the party still retaining its core vote and not being wiped out, as the alliance had hoped. The Congress, meanwhile, is expected to win just two seats here, with Gandhi family bastions Rae Bareli and Amethi being the easy guesses.
New territories for BJP
The polls also predict significant gains for BJP in new territories — West Bengal and Odisha — giving the ruling regional parties a run for their money. The poll of polls expects BJP to win around 14 of the 42 seats in Bengal, a massive gain from 2 seats in 2014, and 11 of the 21 in Odisha, where the party had just one MP in the outgoing Lok Sabha.
Both Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had made these states key targets, looking to expand the party’s political and electoral footprints. West Bengal became a bitter battleground, with violent street fights between BJP and TMC workers.
This also means the Congress is gradually ceding space in states where it had a significant presence, with the BJP taking over.
The only states Congress is expected to do well in are Punjab and Kerala, where it isn’t directly pitted against BJP and Modi but a regional outfit like the SAD and the Left respectively.
How alliances fared
For Congress, its alliance in Tamil Nadu with the DMK has come as a relief, with the alliance predicted to win over 25 of the 39 seats. However, the failure to seal an alliance in Delhi with the Aam Aadmi Party could prove to be a real dampener, with most polls predicting a BJP sweep in the seven seats.
The BJP, meanwhile, seems to have done well with its alliances in both Maharashtra and Bihar, with the Shiv Sena and the JD(U) respectively, surging ahead of its rival coalitions.
The Modi factor
If these figures do prove to be correct, at least in terms of the trends, it is clear that brand Modi has worked for the BJP, as has its carefully-crafted narrative — an overwhelming dose of national security, with a garnish of Hindutva, the promise of stability and good intent as well as the BJP government’s welfare initiatives.
This would also mean the opposition’s attempts to counter Modi, most notably through Congress’ “chowkidar chor hai” jibe, have not found much resonance on the ground.
The biggest losers
Besides the Congress, which the exit polls believe will put up yet another abysmal show, the Left and the Aam Aadmi Party have emerged as the big losers.
The Left seems set to be decimated in former bastion West Bengal, and is not looking great in Kerala either.
Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, which has consistently raised the pitch against the BJP, is predicted to win no seat at all in Delhi, the only state it is a real political force in.
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