Exit polls give UPA an edge; markets jittery

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: May 14 2009, 06:29am hrs
Exit poll data
Exit polls on Wednesday gave the incumbent UPA a thin edge over rival NDA, but they projected the closest contest ever between the two major political formations, underlining the uncertainty that could follow over government formation once results are declared on Saturday.

The Congress-led UPA was projected to win 199 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats in a Star News-Nielson exit poll, which gave the BJP-led NDA just eight fewer seats with an overall tally of 191. The Third Front, comprising Left parties, was projected to win 104 seats.

At the time of going to press, the results of various surveys and projections by other television channels was not very different, with Headlines Today giving the Congress and its allies 191 seats, against 180 for the BJP and its flock. The Left parties, which played a crucial role in the outgoing Lok Sabha with 60 seats, was projected to get just 38, while others, including the BSP, were given a tally of 134.

India TV said the UPA would get 195 seats, while giving the NDA 189 and the Third Front 113. However, it said the UPA could reach the crucial 227 figure if the RJD, LJP and SP tally was added to the UPAs total.

An analysis of the projections suggests that while there has been some variation in the overall figures, the Third Front could play a crucial role in government formation. However, exit polls were way off the mark in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, when most of them projected a BJP-led NDA win.

Ultimately, it was the Congress and its pre-poll allies that secured 216 seats, compared with the projection of 200 seats, and formed the government. The BJP-led NDA had secured 187 seats against projections of 240-250 seats.

Earlier in the day, dealers said there was intense selling as investors awaited the election results on May 16. The 30-share BSE Sensex lost 138.38 points, or 1.14%, to close at 12,019.65 points. The broader S&P CNX Nifty of the NSE ended at 3,635.25 points, down by 45.85 points, or 1.25%.

Agencies add: Indian stocks dropped in US trading after exit polls showed the ruling Congress party-led coalition may have won the most seats in elections without securing enough votes to form a government.

ICICI Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd, Indias second- and third-largest lenders, fell at least 1.6% on the New York Stock Exchange. Infosys Technologies Ltd led a decline among computer software companies. The CHIndia index, which includes Indian American depositary receipts, dropped 2.4%.

It is not clear that the exit polls truly reflect the reality, said Samir Arora, who oversees an India-focused hedge fund at Helios Capital Management Pte in Singapore. Although today something will come out, God knows what will happen on Saturday.