The NDA is heading for a massive victory in the 17th Lok Sabha election, if exit polls are to be believed. The numbers may vary but the exit polls are all showing a similar trend. Perhaps for the first time in India, all polls are showing one mood across the nation.
Going by this trend, it is possible that the BJP on its own could win over 300 seats and the NDA, nearly 350. The pollsters' figures are between 277 to 352. There is unanimity in exit polls on the prospects of the Congress as well. All of them indicate that Rahul Gandhi's party may not cross a hundred mark. The BJP is projected to gain big in eastern India. Another significant aspect is that the Left Front in India will, for the first time, get less than 10 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Another interesting feature of these polls is that they are discordant on the Uttar Pradesh scenario. But all are unanimous about a BJP sweep in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. They also see the BJP making big gains in Bengal and Odisha. Generally, regional parties are on the decline.
Unlike previously, there is no split verdict or predictions of a hung house. Usually such exit polls used to give ample scope for crystal gazing and endless media debates until counting day.
The trend, if proved correct, means Narendra Modi will touch the zenith. It is only twice in history that the electorate in India has reelected an incumbent Prime Minister for a second term. Modi has been the driving force and his popularity and the voters' undiminished faith in him are instrumental, if the NDA wins.
Narendra Modi's sterling performance as Prime Minister assured the NDA's easy going in the polls. He single handedly steered the campaign and the 2019 election seemed all about Modi.
But exit polls are exit polls and we have to take them with a pinch of salt. At best, they are an indicator of the trend or the way the political winds are blowing. They have seldom been accurate on numbers; at best they pass the probability factor.
We have before us a dozen polls, and to see which is closer to reality, we have to wait till May 23 evening. The combination and permutation theorists will have a busy time in the next three days. Reading between the lines, I am convinced that the verdict is clear and Narendra Modi is winning a massive win hands down. This has been the perception I gathered after visiting major states from south to north and east to west, where the only concern of the voter was "who else but Modi". For any unbiased observer, the pro-incumbency wave was unmistakable. The image of Modi as a clean, efficient and deeply committed administrator was etched in granite even more strongly than in 2014. In the last five years, Modi has won over more territories and sections of people.
Exit polls are often more misleading and promote wishful thinking. Remember the December 2018 exit polls after the assembly polls in Telangana, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh? No exit poll was right on Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Most had predicted a BJP win in at least two of them. Only on Rajasthan was there clarity that anti-incumbency was working against the Vasundhara Raje government. But both in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the BJP vote share was high. It was similar to Karnataka in the June 2018 assembly polls. The exit polls only increased the confusion.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, no exit poll had predicted a clear win either for the BJP or the NDA. All pollsters had predicted a hung house. The highest predicted for the NDA was 250 seats. Most pollsters were unanimous that the trend was against the UPA. But nobody could forecast the decimation the Congress suffered in the 16th Lok Sabha.
We have to understand the present from the past. Here, most agree that Modi is the front-runner. No other leader stood anywhere near him in mass appeal and charisma. Now, unlike in 2014, all agree that the NDA is the clear winner.
According to all these polls the BJP and the NDA have significantly increased their vote share as compared to 2014. The BJP vote share rose from 31 per cent to 35 and the NDA from 39 to 42. The surveys clearly point to a Modi wave across the country. The final verdict is "Phir Ek Bar Modi Sarkar".
(Dr R. Balashankar is Member, BJP Central Committee on Training, and Committee on Publications and former Convener BJP National Intellectual Cell and former Editor Organiser.)
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