Multiple exit polls on Friday left Indian voters, analysts and political parties confused by predicting conflicting assembly election results but close fight in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress.
In the newly carved southern state of Telangana, the provincial party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, is projected to retain power while in Mizoram, the last bastion of Congress in north-east, a hung assembly is likely.
The counting of votes and declaration of results will take place on Dec 11.
National parties and media are seeing the recent assembly elections to the five states as a test run to the general elections early next year.
Congress, which has been losing election after election, was cheered by the exit polls and saw it as a good sign ahead of national polls.
However, most exit polls on Friday made the projections based on the anti-incumbency factor and intrastate issues affecting various groups.
National elections, on the other hand, are fought over macro-level issues. Voters participating in parliamentary elections will look for a leader who commands global respect and can run a stable government.
In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the BJP governments led by Shivraj Singh Chauhan, above right, and Raman Singh respectively are seeking the fourth consecutive term in office while in Rajasthan, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia is eyeing the second term.
If the governments of Chauhan and Singh are able to retain power despite anti-incumbency, it will be no small achievement.
Most exit polls predicted victory for Congress in Rajasthan without considering the swing votes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the election campaign a bit late last week.
Since exit polls indicate a tight race, smaller party leaders like Ajit Jogi of Janta Congress Chhattisgarh and Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party may emerge as kingmakers after the votes are counted.
Congress is confident of victory in the Hindi heartland of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. They believe the Modi charisma is waning. Youths have no jobs and farmers do not get fair prices for their products, they say. Small traders and businessmen are upset over the federal government’s demonetisation drive and good and services tax. According to them, the swelling anger of voters over these issues will be reflected in the election results on Dec 11.
BJP is confident of retaining power in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. They say exit polls often go wrong and cite predictions made on Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly elections last year. None of the poll surveys were able to foresee the party’s towering wave set to sweep the nation’s largest state. One survey even predicted a hung parliament in UP because of what it called the Modi government’s “anti-people” demonetisation move. BJP surprised all by capturing 324 seats.
The saffron party may not be able to spring a UP-style surprise this time. But it may be able to make it 3-0 on Dec 11.