Exit Polls Show Modi Winning, But Gujarat Should Worry Him

Published: December 14, 2017 20:23 IST
So the Bharatiya Janata Party has won all the exit polls for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Well, no surprises there - the BJP always wins every exit poll.

But exit polls are notorious for going wrong and should be always taken with a statutory health warning. While it is not a political analyst's business to predict election results - we are not astrologers - the Himachal exit polls which predict a BJP sweep are not likely to surprise anyone. Even before the first vote was cast, the state, which always swings between the two main parties, giving them alternative terms, was due to choose the BJP this time.

The big mama of all battles was Gujarat which both sides fought hard, pulling no punches in what was possibly one of India's most vituperative and shrill campaigns led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Vote share estimates of every major poll shows a clear lead for the BJP: CSDS/ABP 9 percent, Axis/India Today 5 percent, MVR/Times Now 6 percent. The seats predicted for the BJP range from 99 to 135 (this 135 number comes from Chanakya which predicted the UP result correctly). An aggregate of the exit polls shows that the BJP will win Gujarat with 116 of 182 seats.

While exit polls are conservative in numbers, it's tough to believe that the BJP in Gujarat will come anywhere near its stated aim of "Mission 150", declared by the all-conquering BJP president Amit Shah as tribute to his "Saheb", Modi.

Those who say that anything less than Mission 150 is something to be sneered at are living in denial. A win is a win in the first-past- the-post system. And if the exit polls are accurate, Rahul Gandhi will start his tenure as Congress President with two more losses to his record of 29 defeats. While Gandhi did put in huge effort and focus completely on the campaign, possibly for the first time, a loss in Gujarat, may further erode any faith placed in him by the Congress, its allies and the public.

The reasoning maybe that Gandhi at his best, working flat out, staying on message, taking tough action in expelling Mani Shankar Aiyar, may be still no match for Modi who does not care what institutional damage he does as he lunges for victory after victory.

But warning bells are already going off loudly for the Shah-Modi duo. An election that was considered done and dusted, another notch on Shah's belt, had Modi flying in on a sea plane in a rescue mission. Modi parked himself in Gujarat and addressed more rallies than Rahul Gandhi eventually. All talk of "Vikas" and the "Gujarat Model" was abandoned and he delivered an emotional performance that sought "revenge for insults heaped on the Gujarati by the Congress."

To win the battle for Gujarat, Modi came up with rather incredible conspiracy theories involving old dog-whistle Pakistan and proffered a theory which involved casting former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Vice President Hamid Ansari and former Army Chief Deepak Kapoor as "traitors" plotting with Pakistan to get senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel installed as Chief Minister of Gujarat. This is an old theme for Modi - conflating Pakistan with Muslims and the Congress, which has always paid him rich dividends in the terms he served as Gujarat Chief Minister. 

An irate Dr Singh took offence and demanded an apology and called Modi a "liar", possibly the first time that a former PM has called his successor such a thing. An analyst says that Aiyar's "neech" remark which Modi latched on to as manna from heaven did ensure some loss of votes for the Congress despite Gandhi's prompt damage control.

With the unprecedented attacks, the unexplainable glitches in the EVMs in both rounds of polling also took away from the sanctity of the elections. The Election Commission needs to as a priority restore its image - conspiracy theories floated by the opposition don't seem so unbelievable now, a very worrying development. The Congress made a huge issue of the partisan behaviour displayed by the Election Commission in turning a blind eye to the BJP and Modi's alleged violations of the model code while registering FIRs in the case of Rahul Gandhi. RS Surjewala went to the extent of saying that "Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti who was Modi's private secretary for five years in Gujarat needs to stop acting like it now". The "sore losers" retort as dismissal of malfunctioning EVMs is finding fewer takers than it used to.

The Gujarat campaign has left the country poorer. The BJP and Modi may win both states on Monday, but the gravitas of the PM's office has been depleted. And Gandhi has definitely found his voice whether that translates into electoral gain or not.

Finally, brace yourself for 2019 - it's going to be very ugly. A safer prediction than most exit polls.

(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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