The exit polls on Monday put BJP leader Narendra Modi on course to be India’s prime minister, with his BJP-led NDA predicted to get past the 272-mark — the simple majority needed in the 543-member lower house to form the government. The Congress was looking at its worst tally of below 100.
A supporter of Bharatiya Janata Party holds up a cutout of the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi during an election campaign rally in Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh. (AP Photo)
Most polls showed the BJP’s gain in seats rode on a rising vote share, overtaking that of the Congress for the first time. For instance, the CNN-IBN poll put the BJP’s vote share at 34%, up 20 percentage points, against Congress’ 25.5%.
As soon as the voting ended for a staggered 2014 Lok Sabha elections on Monday evening, the longest in India’s history, feverish exit polls played out on nearly half-a-dozen TV networks, but forecasts varied greatly.
The Congress was shown to be staring at its worst-ever performance, not even managing 100 seats. The grand old party’s poorest showing, so far, has been in 1999 when it managed just 114 seats.
Exit polls – or survey of voters as they come out of polling booths to find out whom they voted — have a mixed track record, given the diversity of India’s electorate, with predictions going awry at times. In 2004, pollsters had wrongly predicted an NDA win.
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The ABP-AC Nielsen poll gave NDA 281, but TimesNow predicted 249 for the centreright coalition, while pollster Chanakya foresaw a decisive 340 seats. Another poll, by Cicero for the India Today group, showed the NDA gathering between 261 and 283 seats.
The Aam Aadmi Party, whose chief Arvind Kejriwal electrified the contest by challenging Modi in Varanasi, could bag up to seven seats, according to CNNIBN-CSDS Lokniti prediction.
The ABP-Nielsen survey gave AAP, which made a sensational poll debut in Delhi last year, three seats — one in Maharashtra and two in the Capital.
Modi has charged up these elections with a stirring hightech campaign, promising to get India’s slowing economy up and running. It was difficult to say if there was a “Modi wave” unless the actual disaggregated results were out, said Praveen Rai, a psephologist with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the think-tank which conducted the survey for CNNIBN.
If the polls are correct, the BJP is poised for major gains in some battleground states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even in Assam. The TimesNow polls showed the BJP winning eight seats, up from four, even though the northeastern state was considered one of the bastions of the Congress.
In West Bengal, where chief minister Mamata Banerjee was locked in a bitter verbal war with Modi, CNN-IBN predicted the BJP would win 15% of the votes, taking home one to three seats.
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Karnataka, with 28 seats, could be one of the few places where the Congress could better the BJP. The CNN-IBN poll gave the party 12-16 seats and the BJP 10-14.
The polls predicted a BJP landslide in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state that sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha. TimesNow poll gave the BJP and allies 52 seats against Congress’ 10, down from 21 in 2009. CNNIBN showed BJP cornering up to 53 seats, while Chanakya gave it 70.
In Bihar, too, the ABP-Nielsen poll said the BJP was likely to win 19 of the 40 seats. However, TimesNow gave the BJP-Lok Janshakti Party alliance 27 seats.
For Maharashtra’s 48 seats, TimesNow predicted a near neck-and-neck contest between the BJP and Congress: 27 and 21. ABP News-AC Nielsen gave the BJP 21.
In Punjab, CNN-IBN gave the BJP and ally the Shiromani Akali Dal six to nine seats out of thirteen. The AlADMK, according to CNN-IBN, is likely to get up to 28 of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, giving chief minister J Jayalalithaa a possible say in government formation.