Most exit polls on Sunday predicted a landslide for the BJP-led NDA, which capitalised on the division of votes among the opposition parties. Estimates for the NDA’s tally vary from 242 (NewsX-Neta) to 306 (Times Now-VMR).
India's grand old party has suffered a huge setback. According to the News 18-Ipsos exit poll, the Congress is projected to win 32-37 seats. This figure is worse than its lowest-ever tally in 2014. The UPA is likely to get 62-72 seats.According to many exit polls, the SP-BSP alliance has not made a huge dent in the bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP had made a near-complete sweep five years ago. Times Now-VMR estimates that the BJP will get 58 seats, while the SP-BSP combine lagged behind with 20 seats. UPA’s tally stands at a dismal two. However, Nielsen predicts 22 seats for NDA and 56 for others.
The NDA is expected to sweep Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh among other states. In Karnataka, it is projected to get 20-25 seats, while the Congress-JD(S) combine lags behind with 3-6 seats. In the capital, where Congress and AAP could not form a pre-poll alliance, India Today-Axis projects the BJP will win all of the seven seats. The party, however, is unlikely to make a mark in Kerala, where it is likely to get 0-1 seats.
Mamata Bannerjee tweeted after the predictions, “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.”
However, other politicians had a different take. Omar Abdullah said, “Every exit poll can’t be wrong. Time to switch off the TV, log out of social media and wait to see if the world is still spinning on its axis on the 23rd.”
Results of the staggered and winding elections—spread over seven phases and—will be announced on May 23. A party or alliance will need at least 272 seats to form the next government.
A win for Modi will be seen by the RSS-led Sangh Parivar as the people’s endorsement of its brand of political narrative spun around nationalism and national security. Departing from his 2014 agenda of development and promise of “achche din” (better days), Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made his government’s muscular policy on national security the abiding theme of his campaign. He had repeatedly cited the recent air attack on terrorist camps at Balakot in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as proof.Exit polls in India have been largely off the mark, sometimes by huge margins, like in 2004 when most pollsters had given a massive mandate for the BJP. Instead, the Congress returned to power with support from the Left.
The exit polls were announced after the end of the last phase of polling held in 59 parliamentary constituencies—including Modi’s seat Varanasi—spread across eight states. When the curtains came down on the polls, it marked the end of the gigantic democratic process, once described by the Economist as a “lumbering elephant embarking on an epic trek”.
In 2014, most polls had predicted a BJP win amid a Modi wave in the country. The BJP had also become the first party in several decades to win a simple majority in the 543-seat Lower House.
The Congress had hoped to translate recent assembly polls successes in the federal elections. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had launched a fierce attack on the Modi government’s “failed policies”, including demonetisation and GST, which he said had crippled the economy and triggered an agrarian crisis.