Exit polls pre­dict a photo fin­ish

Ra­jasthan called in favour of Congress; C’garh, MP see tight race; TRS ex­pected to bag Te­lan­gana and MNF Mi­zo­ram

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - News - HT Cor­re­spon­dents let­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com ■

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 spec­tac­u­larly 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.

“The anger was very pal­pa­ble against the BJP in these elec­tions and peo­ple were will­ing and happy to ac­cept the blue­print given by the Congress,” said se­nior Congress leader Sachin Pilot, who is also the party’s con­tender for the top post in Ra­jasthan. “Peo­ple want an­swers for ques­tions which they have avoided for the last five years as prices rise, farm­ers are in dis­tress and the econ­omy is col­laps­ing.”

He added: “It is very easy to see that the BJP is on the back­foot in all these five state as­sem­bly polls and the Congress is giv­ing an al­ter­na­tive which most peo­ple are en­dors­ing and that is the take away from these exit polls.”

A bet­ter re­sult for the Congress will be a morale booster for the op­po­si­tion party and Gandhi, after a se­ries of de­ba­cles in state elec­tions since the 2014 gen­eral elec­tions. Ear­lier this year, the party formed a post-poll al­liance with the Janata Dal (Sec­u­lar) to re­tain power in Kar­nataka, where the BJP emerged as the sin­gle largest party.

BJP spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao said: “The Congress can gloat over exit poll re­sults, but this happy feel­ing would be short-lived.”

The TRS, which spear­headed the Te­lan­gana state­hood cam­paign that cul­mi­nated in the cre­ation of In­dia’s youngest state out of Andhra Pradesh in June 2014, took a gam­ble in Septem­ber when it opted for early elec­tions and CM Rao, bet­ter known as KCR, dis­solved the as­sem­bly.

KCR is fac­ing a united chal­lenge from the Congress, the Tel­ugu De­sam Party (TDP) and the Left that have formed a ‘ma­hakootami’ (grand al­liance) to un­seat the TRS.

The Congress could win any­where be­tween 101 and 145 seats in Ra­jasthan, ac­cord­ing to sep­a­rate exit polls con­ducted by ABP-CSDS Lokniti, In­dia To­day-Axis, Repub­lic C-Voter and Times Now-CNX. They pre­dicted that the BJP might win 52-85 seats in the 200-mem­ber as­sem­bly; vot­ing took place in 199 con­stituen­cies.

In Mad­hya Pradesh, three of these exit polls pre­dicted an ad­van­tage for the Congress. Times Now-CNX pre­dicted a BJP ma­jor­ity, and ABP-CSDS Lokniti fore­cast a Congress win. In­dia To­day-Axis and Repub­lic-C Voter sug­gested the Congress might emerge as the sin­gle largest party in the 230-mem­ber House but fall short of the ma­jor­ity mark.

Pro­jec­tions for Ch­hat­tis­garh, where chief min­is­ter Ra­man Singh of the BJP aims to hold on to his bas­tion, were split. In­dia To­day-Axis pre­dicted a com­fort­able victory for the Congress and ABP-CSDS Lokniti for the BJP in the state with a 90-mem­ber as­sem­bly. Times Now-CNX and Repub­lic C-Voter fore­cast a tight race.

To­day’s Chanakya, which pre­dicted PM Modi’s win in the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tions, re­leased its es­ti­mates for Mad­hya Pradesh, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Ra­jasthan, giv­ing an edge to the Congress in all three states.

Mad­hya Pradesh (29), Ra­jasthan (25) and Ch­hat­tis­garh (11) ac­count for a to­tal 65 Lok Sabha seats. In 2014, the BJP won 60 seats from these three states.

In­cum­bent TRS seemed to have an ad­van­tage in Te­lan­gana, with In­dia To­day-Axis and Times Now-CNX pre­dict­ing a clear victory for the party. Repub­lic C-Voter fore­cast a close con­test in the state, which has 119 as­sem­bly seg­ments.

In Mi­zo­ram, which has 40 seats, Repub­lic C-Voter gave the MNF an up­per hand against a Congress led by chief min­is­ter Lal Than­hawla in a tight race. Times Now-CNX and In­dia To­day-Axis, too, said the MNF had an ad­van­tage in the north­east­ern state.

AP

■ A man shows his inked fin­ger after vot­ing in Hyderabad, Te­lan­gana; 119 con­stituen­cies from the state went to polls.

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