The Bharatiya Janata Party (BIP) is set to make a formidable debut in the northeast by trouncing the ruling Congress in Assam, according to exit polls on Monday that also predicted powershift in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
West Bengal is the only state likely to buck the trend with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress poised to retain power, the polls say.
Opinion and exit polls in India have a chequered history but if Monday’s forecast comes true on May 19 --- the result day --- it will have significant implications for both politics and governance at the Centre.
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After a historic triumph in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP’s winning streak continued in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls. The general elections gave a clear majority to a single party after 30 years
But the party hit a trough in 2015, losing badly in the Delhi and Bihar polls.
The debacles were interpreted by the BJP’s political adversaries as a sign of growing public disillusionment with the Narendra Modi government as well as the saffron party that had set out in 2014 with the slogan of “Congress-mukt Bharat” or Congress-free India.
A good show this election will set the stage for the BJP to go for the jugular in next year’s crucial state polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Gujarat and Goa. It will be booster shot too for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.
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Hamstrung by a lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha, the Modi government has been unable to push major economic reforms requiring legislative approval.
Sensing a slide in the BJP’s popular base because of its electoral debacles in 2015, the Congress sought to become a pivot for anti-BJP parties to rally around and has stalled the government’s move to pass important bills — such as the goods and services tax for a uniform market.
If Monday’s exit polls hold true, it will give enough political heft and manoeuvring space to the ruling NDA to split the Opposition parties in Parliament and outside. Also, the Congress could be the biggest loser in these elections. It is predicted to lose power in Assam and Kerala, leaving it to rule only six states.
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It was exactly two years ago, on May 16, that the Modi-led BJP swept the Lok Sabha polls. The Prime Minister had, in his election speeches, spoken of bringing a second “Green Revolution” in Assam.
The exit polls predicted a saffron revolution in the northeastern state by dethroning the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government that has been ruling the state for the past 15 years, or three consecutive terms.
BJP president Amit Shah’s gambit of making illegal immigration the party’s central plank, which reportedly resulted in polarisation along communal lines in a state with one-third Muslim population, seems to have paid off.
The CPI(M) strategy to go with arch-rival Congress in West Bengal was expected to damage its prospects in Kerala where the Left parties were ranged against the Congress-led ruling coalition. But exit polls predicted a victory for the Left-led front.
The CPI(M)’s attempt to dislodge Mamata Banerjee might not fructify but the Left party might not be disappointed if it returns to power in Kerala.
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In Tamil Nadu, voters had a choice between nonagenarian M Karunanidhi of the DMK and chief minister J Jayalalithaa whose ill health restricted her movement during the campaign.
Her offer of freebies to voters might not make up for her frequent and prolonged retreats and failure to respond to last year’s Chennai floods. The Congress might get some solace from the Tamil Nadu poll predictions as its strategy to ride the DMK bandwagon could pay off.
But, it might not inspire much confidence in the party’s rank and file as the grand old party shows little signs of recovery from a series of electoral debacle that started in 2014.
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