Chhattisgarh, where opinion polls raised expectations of a fourth term for the government of Raman Singh, may deliver a rather different verdict, exit polls have predicted. An aggregate of 10 exit polls have predicted a hung assembly, where the BJP, with 41 seats, would fall behind the Congress, which will get 43 seats. Neither though, will touch the majority mark, which lies at 46. The Ajit Jogi-Mayawati combine, expected to win four seats, is likely to turn kingmaker.
Six out of 10 exit polls expect the BJP to fall short of majority in the 90-member assembly. Only two - ABP News-CSDS and Times Now CNX -- have given it a clear majority. Three exit polls -- by Times Now-Chanakya, News 24-Pace Media and India Today-Axis My India -- have given a clear majority to the Congress.
Exit polls are known to get it wrong.
But given the prospect of a hung verdict, the role of the Mayawati-Ajit Jogi alliance becomes crucial for government formation in the state.
Asked about such an eventuality, Ajit Jogi, a former Chief Minister of the state, had refused to make his preference clear. He, however, had not ruled out an alliance with the BJP, telling NDTV's Prannoy Roy, "In politics you can't rule out anything. So anything can happen".
Later, in presence of Mayawati, he hit rewind, saying he had been "misquoted" on the matter and would sit in the opposition rather than ally with the BJP. Mayawati - who turned to Ajit Jogi after seat sharing talks with the Congress failed - seconded it. Speaking of the BJP and the Congress, she said both parties were akin to "snakes". Maywati, however, had not shut the door to a collaborating with the Congress in the larger interest of taking on the BJP in the next year's national elections.
The results of this election will have other ramifications for national elections as well. Since 2003, the results of assembly polls in the heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have been a good benchmark for the general elections. The winning party had gone onto win in the national elections too usually performing better.