Exit poll: It’s not voter choice, but popular perception of voter choice

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Exit poll: It's not voter choice, but popular perception of voter choice
Exit poll: It's not voter choice, but popular perception of voter choice

Predictions by various exit polls announced on Sunday evening indicate a sweeping victory for the BJP, including in three Congress-ruled states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where the latter had won in the Assembly elections held toward the end of 2018.

But, there’s a caveat. The exit polls predictions are based on sample surveys done by various agencies and are not the final outcome, which will be announced on 23 May.

According to News 18-IPSOS survey, in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP may win 24 to 27 seats out of 29 seats and Congress two to four. Similarly, in Chhattisgarh, out of 11 BJP is expected to get seven to nine seats and Congress two to four. In Rajasthan out of 25 seats, the BJP-led alliance NDA may win 22 to 23 seats and Congress two to three.

The India Today-Axis survey predicts 26 to 28 seats for BJP and one to three for Congress in Madhya Pradesh. In Chhattisgarh, the saffron party may bag seven to eight seats and Congress three to four. Similarly in Rajasthan, BJP is predicted to win 23 to 25 seats and Congress zero to two.

Chanakya’s exit poll predicted a clean sweep for the BJP and its allies in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. According to the poll survey, the Congress may be limited to just two seats in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and may not win even a single seat in Rajasthan.

Scenario 2014 Lok Sabha election

In 2014 Lok Sabha Election, BJP had won 27 of the 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh. Congress won Guna and Chhindwara seats of Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath, respectively. However, in 2015 bypolls, Congress won the Ratlam seat as Kantilal Bhuria won from this seat, after the death of a BJP MP.

 Exit poll projections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan indicate Congress failure to leverage gains from 2018 Assembly election win

Rahul Gandhi greets people during a roadshow in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. PTI

Similarly in Chhattisgarh, out of 11 seats, the BJP had won 10 seats and Congress had to be content with one. In Rajasthan, BJP had won all the 25 seats.

Has Congress failed to leverage its Assembly polls victory?

Public anger against the ruling BJP government in three Hindi heartland states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan had helped Congress to emerge victorious in these three states in the Assembly elections in 2018.

Out of these three states, Chhattisgarh emerged as a winning template for the Congress party, as it swept the assembly election last year by winning 68 seats in the 90-seat assembly and restricted the BJP to15 seats. It was a phenomenal victory for Congress. The anger against Raman Singh government got translated into votes against the ruling dispensation.

While in Madhya Pradesh, out of 230 seats, the Congress bagged 114 seats and the BJP 109. It was a tough fight between the two. The BSP and independent candidates helped the Congress to form the government.

Both in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, three-term governments of the BJP came to an end. In Rajasthan, out of 199 seats, the Congress won 99 and the BJP 73.

However, as the exit polls show, BJP will gain in all these three Congress-ruled states like in 2014.

It would be too early to draw any conclusion as it will be speculating needlessly from the exit poll results, which is just an indication and not the final results which are due on 23 May (Thursday). But even if these trends are to be believed, the ruling Congress in these three states would fail to leverage from its victory.

Going by the predictions of the exit polls, the three states may not turn victories in its favours as in the case of Punjab, with a strong regional leader Captain Amarinder Singh. The exit polls for Punjab show Congress may win 10 seats out of 13; whereas the NDA two and AAP may get one seat.

In Chhattisgarh, it was expected that the Congress would win 8 to 9 seats (initially the party claimed of winning 10), but News18-IPSOS predicted two to four and India Today-Axis gave three to four. That’s minimum 2 and maximum 4 — the only relief is that the Congress will improve its tally from its present one seat.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress may improve its tally marginally — from the present three seats to four (as per News18-IPSOS). The seats of Scindia and Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath are a sure shot win. As Kamal Nath vacated his parliamentary seat and contested in assembly bye-poll from Chhindwara, his son contested as Congress candidate.

In addition, it may win the tribal seat of Ratlam as sitting MP Kantilal Bhuria has been consistently winning from this constituency.

However, all eyes are set on high-profile Bhopal constituency from where former two-term CM Digvijay Singh from Congress contested against BJP’s candidate and Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur. Amid controversies and rumours, this much-talked-about the seat is a BJP bastion for three decades. Breaching Bhopal fortress is a big challenge for the Congress party.

In the case of Rajasthan, as the exit polls predict, if the Congress fails to win a single seat, the party may have to go for deep introspection as despite having two strong leaders like Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, it would have failed in Lok Sabha polls.

But as of now, it’s all speculation. Exit polls only give an indication of a trend — in some cases, the predictions are right, and sometime they are totally off the mark. Like Congress leader Sashi Tharoor said in a tweet:

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