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
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 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.
India Today-axis, too, said the MNF had an advantage in the northeastern state.
A man shows his inked finger after voting in Hyderabad, Telangana; 119 constituencies from the state went to polls.