Opinion and exit polls were of one voice about the outcome of the Assembly elections that concluded on Thursday with the last phase of polling in West Bengal: The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is heading for a Tamil Nadu sweep; the NR Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will likely form the government in Puducherry; the BJP will retain Assam; and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) will return to power in Kerala.
The exception was West Bengal. While some exit polls gave an edge to the Trinamool Congress (TMC), led by Mamata Banerjee, others said the BJP was heading towards power in the state. However, it is clear that the BJP is set to make historic gains in Bengal, both in terms of vote share and the number of seats. The growth is clearly at the expense of the TMC, which is expected to drop anything between 30 and 50 seats.
The Congress’s gains by tying up with the Bodo People’s Front (an erstwhile BJP alliance partner) and the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) appear to have been marginal.
In Kerala, in a major departure from the past, the LDF is headed for a second term, possibly a reward for its delivery of social services. Issues of corruption and smuggling, in which the chief minister’s office is currently facing an inquiry, seem to have mattered little to voters.
In Tamil Nadu, despite the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) managing to provide credible governance and holding together after the death of J Jayalalithaa (soon after the government was formed), opinion polls predict it will get a thrashing. The BJP, which was hoping to advance its political agenda by holding on to the AIADMK’s coat tails and made many political interventions to keep the government going, may be disappointed, the polls show.
The BJP has reason to celebrate its stupendous victory in Bengal. But its performance, according to the polls, is going to be disappointing in Kerala, though further analysis would depend on the vote share the party is able to get.
The management of the Covid-19 pandemic was hardly an issue in the Assembly elections. But now that they are over, and with the BJP’s stellar performance in Bengal, a bitter warfare should be expected between the TMC (if it manages to form the government) and the Centre, and the governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the Centre.
Some polls are predicting the defeat of Mamata Banerjee in her constituency, Nandigram. If that happens, the TMC will need to do a reality check on its inability to halt the charge of the BJP in a state where it posted only a marginal presence in the 2016 Assembly election.