Exit polls place BJP ahead at 4-0, Aam Aadmi Party set to impress, Congress in for drubbing

Written by Express news service | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 5 2013, 17:23pm hrs
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seemed set to make an impressive debut in the Delhi Assembly election, which saw a record voter turnout, even as exit polls indicated that the BJP would easily win Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and possibly Delhi too, with Chhattisgarh being a close call.

An exit poll by CNN-IBN said the BJP was set to win 45-55 seats in Chhattisgarh compared with 50 in 2008, while the Congress would get 32-40 versus 38. It said the BJP would win 136-146 in Madhya Pradesh against 143 and the Congress would get 67-77 compared with 71.

In Rajasthan, it said BJP would come back to power with 126-136 seats compared with 78 in the last polls while the Congress would get 49-57, down from 96.

Delhi registered a record 65% voter turnout on Wednesday and the number looked set to touch 70% as thousands waited in long lines to vote in the Assembly elections past the deadline of 5 pm, forcing the Election Commission to extend polling hours.

While the all-time high turnout could spell trouble for the Sheila Dikshit government, it would also send ominous signals for the UPA government.

Unlike the other four states where local issues dominated the elections, the Delhi results will be seen as a barometer of the anti-incumbency sentiment as much against Dikshit as against the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre.

It could also boost the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), whose aggressive and innovative campaign strategy was believed to be mainly responsible for the high turnout as it had devised its campaign around issues concerning both the state and the central governments.

The anti-corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare in Delhi, which led to the emergence of the AAP, was targeted at the UPA government before Arvind Kejriwal entered politics and diverted focus to the omissions and commissions of the Delhi government.

Delhi saw large turnouts in middle-class and upper-middle-class constituencies where the policy paralysis of the UPA government has been a major cause of concern, reportedly leading to their alienation from the Congress.

The provisional turnout figure of 65% has been the highest for Delhi. In the first Assembly elections in Delhi, it was 61.75%, which came down to 48.99% in 1998 when the Congress came to power.

Contrary to common perception about high voter turnout in Delhi reflecting strong anti-incumbency, the ruling Congress gave a different spin saying the increased numbers would help it.

Whenever polling percentage has increased in Delhi, the Congress has won. It was 48% in 1998 and the Congress won. It went up to 54% in 2003 and we won and we won again in 2008 when the polling percentage was 58%, AICC general secretary in charge of Delhi, Shakeel Ahmed, said.

Given the fact that exit poll results were unanimous in giving the BJP a big lead in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Congress camp would obviously be jittery about the general elections due barely five months later.

The ruling party at the Centre was hoping to wrest Chhattisgarh from the BJP and probably spring a surprise in Madhya Pradesh. It was equally sanguine about beating anti-incumbency in Rajasthan and Delhi.

If results in these states on December 8 are even close to the exit poll predictions, it would be a big blow to the Congress that was hoping that the Assembly election results would puncture what it termed as media-created hype around BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Given that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had overseen the party's strategy and also extensively campaigned in these Assembly elections, a washout would put a big question mark on his ability to revive the sagging fortunes of the Congress.