Polling for the seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha (LS) elections 2019 ended on Sunday evening, with most exit polls predicting the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) phir ek baar Modi sarkar, or ‘once more Modi government’ slogan likely to get vindicated on the counting day on Thursday (May 23).
Most of the polls predicted a return of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). They said the BJP would either repeat its 2014 performance of achieving a simple majority on its own, or at worst, along with its NDA allies, and might not need to look beyond its current allies to achieve the majority mark of 271 seats.
Only one exit poll, NewsX-Neta, predicted a hung Parliament, with the BJP likely to suffer a loss of 80 seats, from its 2014 tally of 282 seats, and NDA with 242 seats, needing 30 more to get to the majority mark. Initially, ABP News–Nielsen also showed NDA failing marginally short of the majority mark, but later revised its figures.
Most exit polls said the BJP was losing marginally in states it had performed well in 2014, and compensating some of these losses in the Hindi heartland from its improved performance in West Bengal and Odisha.
Today’s Chanakya, the pollster that had come closest to predicting the BJP and NDA tally in 2014 LS polls, again forecast the BJP would cross the simple majority mark, as did CNN News18–IPSOS, while India Today–My Axis and Republic-CVoter predicted that the BJP would need its current NDA constituents to cross the majority mark.
The only resistance the BJP, according to exit polls, has faced in the current polls was from the mahagathbandhan, or grand alliance, of Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and Rashtriya Lok Dal, in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress is set to double its seats, from 44 to twice as many, the exit polls predicted.
According to most exit polls, YSR Congress Party was set to win the Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh. However, the more interesting prediction came from Odisha, where most exit polls said Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal was set to win the Assembly polls, but some said the BJP could win a majority of the Odisha’s 21 LS seats.
Exit polls predicted the BJP would retain its support and number of seats in Maharashtra and Gujarat, and recover from its recent losses in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh by winning two-thirds of the seats in these three states.
The BJP-led alliance, the exit polls said, would also do well in Bihar and improve significantly from the two seats it had won in West Bengal in 2014 and the one seat it had won in Odisha in 2014.
In Tamil Nadu, several exit polls suggested the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led alliance could sweep the 39 seats.
BJP allies like Janata Dal (United) spokesperson Pavan Varma said the allies would expect the BJP would follow the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s example of running the next coalition government with a ‘coalition dharma’.
The exit polls, however, haven’t seemed to have dampened the enthusiasm of the Opposition parties. They continued with their parleys to reach a common strategy on the day of counting. Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu was in the national Capital and met several Opposition leaders. Naidu, who is also the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, met United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, and Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury. On Saturday, Naidu was in Lucknow and met BSP chief Mayawati and SP President Akhilesh Yadav.
Elections concluded for 542 of the 543 seats, including 59 seats that went to the polls on Sunday. The Election Commission (EC) said the voting percentage was nearly 62 per cent at 7 pm for the last phase. Congress President Rahul Gandhi criticised the EC’s ‘capitulation’ before Prime Minister Modi.
“From electoral bonds and electronic voting machines to manipulating the election schedule, NaMo TV, ‘Modi’s Army’ and now the drama in Kedarnath; the EC’s capitulation before Mr Modi & his gang is obvious to all Indians. The EC used to be feared and respected. Not anymore,” Rahul tweeted.
After the exit polls were released on Sunday evening, BJP sources said the NDA constituents will meet in New Delhi on Tuesday. They were earlier scheduled to meet after the election results on Thursday.