BJP seen gaining ground in Bengal, not to do badly in UP either
As voting concluded for the last of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections 2019, a series of exit polls predicted a clear majority for the BJP-led NDA but indicated a slump in the ruling party’s own tally. Over five exit polls estimated that the NDA government would return to power after a bitterly fought elections, with an overall tally ranging from 267-350 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. They predicted that the Congress, which had registered its worst performance in 2014 with 44 seats, would improve its tally to near the 100-mark overall, but fail to counter the BJP in states where it’s in a straight fight with it.
In the key state of UP, with 80 seats, the hyped SP-BSP-RLD gathbandhan could bring down the BJP’s all-time-high tally of 72 to less than 50, the polls show. They also indicate that the BJP and its allies would not do so well in the southern states, except in Karnataka.
None of the polls suggested that the BJP, which won 282 seats in the 2014 elections, would claim a majority of its own this time. Similarly, most of the polls indicated the Congress winning less than 100 seats. The NDA was projected to get 287 by Republic-C Voter survey, 242 by Neta-NewsX, 306 by Times Now-VMR and 282-290 by News Nation. These polls gave the Congress-led UPA 128, 164, 142, 118-126 seats, respectively.
In Bengal, the polls showed that the TMC would have to concede some ground to the BJP this time. In Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where the Congress won the Assembly elections six months ago, the polls indicate that the party has not able to retain its ground. They also signal a difference in voting pattern between the Assembly polls and the Parliamentary elections.
Exit polls have been reasonably accurate in the past, especially in 2014 when they projected a broad swing towards the BJP-led NDA. However, they have gone wrong, too, most notably in 2004 when they suggested that the BJP-led NDA under AB Vajpayee would return to power. On Sunday evening, as television channels began to broadcast the survey results, West Bengal chief minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee expressed lack of trust in the exercise. “I don’t trust Exit poll gossip. The game plan is to manipulate or replace thousands of EVMs through this gossip. I appeal to all Opposition parties to be united, strong and bold. We will fight this battle together,” Banerjee tweeted. West Bengal has witnessed a violent election campaign as the TMC and the BJP fought for ground bitterly.
In Karnataka, the only southern state where the BJP has a strong foothold, the party is predicted to win 18-20 seats. In other southern states, the regional parties appear to be continuing their dominance in the electoral field. In Telangana, the TRS is projected to win a majority of seats while the TDP and the YSRCP seem to be engaged in a neck-and-neck fight in Andhra Pradesh.
The Congress is projected to do well in Punjab and Kerala but the News 18-IPSOS survey said the party-led UDF is behind the CPM-led LDF in Kerala where Congress president Rahul Gandhi had contested from Wayanad. Many surveys predicted no seat for the BJP or NDA in Kerala, except for Neta-NewsX, which said the BJP could win one seat in the state.
The April-May election was expected to be a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five-year government, but the focus of the BJP’s campaign was national security, following the Pulwama terror attack in February and India’s air strike on Pakistan’s Balakot.
Meanwhile, nearly 64% turnout was recorded in the last phase of polls in 59 seats, which also featured the PM’s constituency, Varanasi. In the 2014 general elections, the highest ever voter turnout of 66.40% was recorded.
Over 8,000 candidates were in fray for 542 Lok Sabha seats across the country this year. Polling in Vellore seat in Tamil Nadu was deferred due to excessive use of cash.An average of 66.88% voters exercised their franchise in the last six phases and the entire polls were spread over 38 days. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23.
Incidents of violence in West Bengal and clashes in Punjab were reported on Sunday in the last phase which also saw EVM glitches and poll boycott at some booths. The fate of 918 candidates was decided in this phase.
With inputs from PTI