xit polls are not the last word. Yet, it might be worth a look at. Several television channels and tracking or survey agencies linked to them are projecting a repeat of the BJP-led victory in the Lok Sabha polls this time. Granted that the nation will have to wait until May 23 to get at the correct figures and positions vis-a-vis the present polls, the hints from the exit polls is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have the last laugh, and the principal Opposition, the Congress party, will fail to win the trust of the people. It may not be forgotten that in the past, exit polls have mostly failed to project the correct picture; rarely have some been close.
According to the present projections, even the Hindi belt states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, as also Delhi, are turning pro-BJP in this round of polls. Too much of optimism or pessimism on either side at this juncture is unwarranted, as the true mind of the approximately 910 million voters is yet to be discovered.
With the campaigning closing last Friday and voting Sunday, three more days are left for the actual results to stream in on what will also be a celebration of the success of India’s democracy or People’s Raj over a span of seven decades. Lies, promises, violence, huge bribes and intolerance were the highlights of this, probably biggest, democratic exercise of the world. The effective end of the five-year term of the 16th Lok Sabha and of course of Prime Minister Narendara Modi also occasioned the symbolic break of a tradition he had set — of avoiding press conferences altogether. It saw the PM showed up for a press conference called by the BJP, but did not answer any question at all, and left it to party chief Amit Shah to ‘handle’ the assembled media. This might signify the last shot by the PM to belittle the media. Both the PM and Shah sounded optimistic about a win for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, and Shah was confident that the ruling alliance, if not the BJP, will return with a tally of 300 seats — 41 seats less than what the BJP-led NDA got in the 2014 polls. The exit polls in general seem to project a similar scenario.
Notably, the PM’s optimism had not been shared by the principal opposition, the Congress party. Its president Rahul Gandhi was quick to take on the PM, again, and say that his claim was hollow; and that the people have “rejected” both Modi and the BJP in this polls. While it is natural for parties to make tall claims before results are out, the over two-months-long campaign left the people in serious doubt about the acceptability of the claims and counter-claims from rival sides. With several agencies vying for attention to predict election outcome, varying claims are but natural at this pre-results stage.
The Congress as also its allies were hopeful of a clear win this time, and the shuttle diplomacy undertaken by Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu in the past two days demonstrated as much. The Congress and its allies were taking the challenge seriously, as was also evident from the convening of a meeting by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on May 23, evening, to take stock of the situation and make quick moves to outwit the BJP and somehow clear the way for formation of an anti-BJP government. Quick handling of the post-poll situation helped the Congress and other non-BJP groups in Karnataka to take the wind out of the BJP’s sails and form a government there. A similar situation could arise this time too, these parties hoped. They may have apprehension about President Ram Nath Kovind and his impartiality.
Exit polls apart, it was clear that the Congress party had lost some confidence in the last lap of the campaign, as was evident from a statement by senior leader Gulam Nabi Azad that the party would not insist on having the PM post and is ready for a consensus so as to attain the party’s main goal of ousting the BJP from power. Two developments at the fag end of the campaign spree were the foothold that the BJP appears to have made in West Bengal and Odisha and the shaky nature of the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh. The lack of any perceptible wave in the elections is interpreted to mean an under-current of anti-incumbency sentiments, which could work against the BJP.
The incidents of violence in West Bengal, culminating in the events that marred BJP chief Amit Shah’s road show in Kolkata, were exceptions. Overall, the campaign across the country was not so orderly, and yet this is proof again of the success of the world’s largest democratic exercise. A clear verdict is all what one can hope for now.