Exit polls predict a photo finish
STATE ELECTIONS Rajasthan called in favour of Congress; C’garh, MP see tight race; TRS expected to bag Telangana and MNF Mizoram
NEW DELHI: The electoral race is tantalisingly poised in the politically crucial Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are locked in a neck-and-neck contest, with the latter having the edge in Rajasthan, according to exit polls published on Friday after the conclusion of voting in the last round of state elections before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has an advantage in Telangana in the south, and Zoramthanga’s opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) may edge past the Congress in Christian-majority Mizoram, showed the polls published after voting drew to a close on Friday in Telangana and Rajasthan.
Exit polls are conducted just after a voter walks out of the polling booth after casting his or her vote. They are aimed at predicting the result of an election on the basis of information collected from voters. To be sure, results of elections in India can be extremely hard to predict and there have been instances where pollsters have been spectacu--
larly off the mark in making the treacherous conversion from projected vote share to seat share numbers.
Assembly polls to these five states — billed as the semi-finals ahead of next year’s general elections — were held in a nearly month-long cycle beginning on November 12. The results will be announced after the votes are counted on December 11.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which had Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah at the vanguard of its campaign,is trying to win power for a fourth straight term in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and trying to retain Rajasthan.
Rajasthan has a tradition of alternating between the ruling party and the main opposition, which this time is the Congress.
The Congress, whose campaign was spearheaded in all states by party president Rahul Gandhi, is hoping to benefit from an anti-incumbency vote in Rajasthan against the government of chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
JAIPUR: Rajasthan saw 74.05% turnout for the assembly elections on Friday as sporadic incidents of violence and some incidents of malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVM) marred polling in some areas.
Voting started at 8 am for 199 of 200 seats as election to the Ramgarh assembly seat in Alwar was countermanded after death of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Laxman Singh. Votes will be counted on December 11.
State chief electoral officer Anand Kumar said the polling percentage recorded till 5 pm was 72.69%, less than the 75.23% percent recorded in 2013. He added that the percentage was likely to increase as people already inside polling stations before 5 pm were allowed to vote. He said postal ballots and service votes would also add to the poll percentage.
Stray incidents of violence were reported from Alwar, Bharatpur, Churu, Sikar Bikaner and Jaisalmer districts. Reports of EVM glitches came in from Jaipur Sikar, Kota and Sardarpura.
Chief minister Vasundhara Raje voted at a so-called pink booth manned by women staff in Jhalawar while former chief minister Ashok Gehlot exercised his franchise in Sardarpura. State Congress president Sachin Pilot cast his vote at a polling booth in Jalupura, Jaipur.
Leaders of both the parties claimed victory after the polling got over. Pilot said that the party will sweep the polls and Raje expressed confidence of winning the polls. “Public has done their job, now big responsibility to those who win and other have to introspect,” Pilot said.
“People have voted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision and good governance, national party president Amit Shah’s leadership and state government’s development,” Raje said.
There were 51,687 polling centres in 199 assembly constituencies. Webcasting was done from 3,078 critical polling booths in Rajasthan. A total of 2,274 candidates were seeking the votes of 47 million voters, of which 24.5 million were men and 22.5 million women. There were also two million first-time voters.
The election in Rajasthan is a primarily bipolar affair between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress contested on 195 seats and gave five seats to its allies --- two each to Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, and one to Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The BJP is contesting on its own in all seats. Hanuman Beniwal’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Party and Bharatya Tribal Party have put candidates in several segments and may impact a few seats in their areas of influence.
The campaign for 200-member assembly was intense with issues of farm and water crisis, jobs, reservation to certain castes coming under the focus. In 2013, the BJP got 163 seats and vote share of 46.03%, a jump of about eight percentage points since 2008.
The Congress bagged 21 seats with vote share of 34.27%, a fall of two percentage points. The state has never returned a party to power in 26 years.
Later in the day, a sealed reserve EVM was found on National Highway in Shahabad in Baran. District collector SP Singh said that the EVM slipped from a truck. “Two polling officers were suspended for negligence.” The EVMs were taken into custody by the police. Reserve EVM means an unused EVM.
A man shows his inked finger after voting in Hyderabad, Telangana; 119 constituencies from the state went to polls.
■ Girdhar Vyas, who claims to sport the longest moustache in the world, after casting his vote in assembly elections, in Bikaner, Rajasthan, on Friday.