The exit polls may have given opposition parties a major shock ahead of counting day, but Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has refused to budge from her position that the country's next government will not be headed by the BJP.
"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," the West Bengal Chief Minister tweeted soon after post-poll predictions for the Lok Sabha elections were released after 6 pm on Sunday.
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— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) May 19, 2019
The poll of polls, an aggregate of exit polls, has predicted that the National Democratic Alliance will sweep over 300 of the country's 543 parliamentary seats while the Congress and its allies manage around 120. It also showed the BJP making deep inroads into Mamata Banerjee's home state, winning 13 of its 42 seats, and making big gains in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh despite surprise losses in last year's assembly elections. The BJP had won just two seats in her state five years ago.
The West Bengal Chief Minister has long supported unity among diverse political parties to defeat the Narendra Modi-led BJP at the centre. Chandrababu Naidu, Telugu Desam Party chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, has also been holding hectic negotiations with like-minded parties to explore the possibility of a united anti-BJP front in the event of a hung parliament.
Mamata Banerjee's claim about the unreliability of exit polls finds some backing in predictions made in previous electoral contests, specifically the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Although most of the exit polls back then had predicted that BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would win close to 250 seats (a couple even claimed that it would win a majority on its own), the final results presented a completely different outcome. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) stormed to power with 335 seats, sailing past the halfway mark of 272.
While the exit polls managed to broadly predict a victory for the NDA in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, they were unable to foresee the ferocity with which it would wrest the popular mandate from the Congress-led front. Only the News 24-Chanakya exit poll was able to predict that the NDA would clinch around 336 seats -- reducing the UPA to just 59.
Exit Poll— Rashtriya Janata Dal (@RJDforIndia) May 19, 2019
Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, which was also shown to be trailing behind the ruling BJP-Janata Dal (United) combine in Bihar by most exit polls, also made light of the post-election predictions. "Exit polls happen. It is a business decision by news channels to show exit polls that favour the party favoured by its consumers. People will turn their teleivison sets off in disappointment if that doesn't happen, and then the TRPs (television rating points) will plummet. This is also the reason why they are so excited by the exit polls," it said in a tweet.
The results of the Lok Sabha elections will be declared on May 23.
(With inputs from Agencies)