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What the exit poll predictions mean for Modi

Narendra Modi gets a boost ahead of 2014 elections but the emergence of Shivraj Chouhan as consensus candidate is not a distinct possibility

Shantanu Bhattacharji  |  New Delhi 

If the for four state are an accurate reflection of the overall trend, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate should be in a position to form the government at the Centre in 2014. If these results are confirmed, on Sunday, when the results are unveiled, it will give the a major boost and help bury internal differences to mount a credible challenge to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

Also, the post-poll survey results are likely to lift the stature of Modi as the and other parties have often attacked him saying the saffron party lost wherever he campaigned in the past. The had suffered back-to-back defeats in the 2004 and 2009 general The state elections, held in recent weeks, are considered a barometer for the general that are scheduled to be held before the end of May.

The initial results showed the Grand Old Party’s campaign in four states, led by vice-president Rahul Gandhi, have failed to impress voters. As far as the party is concerned, the ruling party’s humiliation is believed to be a direct result of inflation, corruption, misgovernance and the weakest economic growth in a decade among other issues.

The big question is whether the under Modi will be able to win more seats in state polls than it did in 2008, at the last state elections. If the margin is significantly wider, it would give a clear signal that Modi’s stock is quite high and people look at him as somebody with proven track record in governance and are looking for a decisive leadership quality, analysts said during a televised debate on the exit-poll results. The Gujarat Chief Minister is projecting his record of governance and stronger-than-average economic growth in the state he has ruled since 2001 in an attempt to propel his party to power.

According to that have had a mixed record in the past, if the BJP emerges a clear winner in this round of elections to the legislative assemblies, it can hope to reinforce its claims of being a natural alternative to the Congress for regional players to consider as an ally. The party also hopes victory will dilute Modi's ‘pariah’ tag with regard to the 2002 Gujarat riots.

There is one school of thought that argues that if the final tally comes close to the exit poll projections, the BJP’s claim about Modi’s urban appeal could be dented because the Capital is supposed to represent rising India’s youthful aspirations and youths are a constituency that the Hindutva mascot has been targeting the past few years. It would certainly hint at the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) potential to take away Modi’s youth voters. Quoting eminent sociologist and political analyst Dipankar Gupta, The Economic Times reported that for the Modi wave to be real, the BJP needs a higher vote share as well.

But there are also other dark horses in the BJP who may spoil Modi's ambitions in case the saffron party fails to win at least 180 seats on its own. This would mean bringing in more allies into the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) who would seek a non-divisive leader with a wider appeal as the Prime Minister. and Raman Singh, the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh chief ministers, will enter the league of Modi, who draws part of his cachet from having won Gujarat thrice, if exit poll results released on Wednesday are to be believed.

The results are also likely to again stir organisational debates in the BJP. If Chouhan manages an impressive third term in Madhya Pradesh, detractors of the Gujarat Chief Minister could project Chouhan as an alternative. Modi's star appeal convinced the BJP to pick him as its prime ministerial candidate in September. But his rise came only after a power struggle in the party.

The state elections, termed as the ‘semi-finals’ to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, were also seen as a ‘referendum’ on the ‘Modi effect’ and the leadership of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. These polls were crucial for the big parties — the Congress and the BJP — as it was a direct fight in these four States — Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and For the BJP, victory in these four states, which account for 72 of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats, would strengthen Modi’s bid to bring the saffron party back to power at the Centre after 10 years.

The results pointed to a vote of no confidence for the Congress and also cast doubt on the ruling party's prospects for national elections. It is clear that the Congress is suffering the effects of a factional organisational set up and a serious leadership deficit: For, it has been unable to dislodge the BJP in Madhya Pradesh. Most exit polls say the BJP’s vote share in Madhya Pradesh will rise between 2 and 5%, suggesting it will beat anti-incumbency. Similarly, in Chhattisgarh, too, there is hardly any dent in BJP’s vote share.

In the final analysis, NaMo may not have conquered the whole of India yet but his conquest of the BJP is complete.

First Published: Thu, December 05 2013. 15:12 IST