EXIT POLLS aired by major television networks for the five states where Assembly elections were held this month on Thursday predicted that the Congress could retain power in Chhattisgarh and oust the BRS in Telangana. While most of the polls gave a clear edge to the BJP in Madhya Pradeshthey differed in the outcome for Rajasthanwhile predicting that Mizoram could be headed for a hung Assembly.
In a major setback for the K Chandrasekhar Rao-led BRS, which has been in power in Telangana since the formation of the state in 2014, all the exit polls predicted a Congress sweep. They differed only on the scale of the Congress victory.
If the exit polls turn out to be true, it will be a huge morale booster for the Congress in southern India, months ahead of Lok Sabha elections. The party had ousted the BJP from power in Karnataka earlier this year.
BRS working president K T Rama Rao, son of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, dismissed the exit poll results, which were announced hours after polling concluded in the state. “I promise you, for those of you who are friends of BRS and want KCR to come back from the state. I promise you on December 3 we are coming back. We are coming back anywhere between 70+ seats (out of the total 119 segments),” he told reporters.
For Chhattisgarh, almost all the polls predicted a clear edge for the Congress, although not a sweep. The Congress was a divided house in Chhattisgarh till some time ago but it tried to paper over the differences by elevating state minister T S Singh Deo, the main challenger to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, as the Deputy Chief Minister in June this year. The BJP, on the other hand, went into the election without a clear face.
While the party had won 68 seats in the 90-member House in 2018, the polls suggested that it could retain the state but with a lesser number of seats this time. Baghel, however, stuck to his party’s claim that it will win 75 out of the 90 seats. When asked by reporters about a survey giving it 57 seats, he said, “That 57 will be interchanged to 75.”
On whether he anticipates poaching attempts by the BJP, the Chief Minister said, “There will be no need for it and they will not be able to do it. We believe in our hard work and have faith in the public.”
In Madhya Pradesh, most of the polls gave an edge to the ruling BJP while one poll projected a Congress victory.
While the India Today-Axis My India poll gave a clear majority to the BJP in the state, saying it could win between 140 and 162 seats in the 230-member House, the ABP C-Voter survey said the Congress could bag between 113 and 137 seats and the BJP could get between 88 and 112 seats. The Times Now ETG Research poll gave a slight edge to the Congress – 109-125 seats as against the BJP’s 105-117 seats.
The News24-Chanakya and India TV CNX polls gave a clear majority to the BJP and so did the survey by Republic TV. India TV CNX gave a landslide to the BJP, pegging its seats at 140-159 and 70-89 seats to the Congress. Today’s Chanakya forecast that the BJP would get 151 (plus-minus 12 seats) and the Congress 74 (plus-minus 12 seats).
The BJP had projected a collective leadership model in Madhya Pradesh, fielding as many as seven MPs, including Union ministers like Narendra Singh Tomar and Prahlad Patel, apart from general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya to tide over what it felt was voter fatigue against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The Congress, on the other hand, placed its bets once again on the veteran Kamal Nath-Digvijaya Singh duo.
Expressing confidence that the BJP will win, Chouhan said, “I have always said that there is no competition in Madhya Pradesh and BJP is going to get a clear majority. The love and guidance of PM Modi, the strategies of Amit Shah, the leadership of J P Nadda, the efforts of our workers and the schemes of our government made it clear that BJP is getting a majority in the state.”
In Rajasthan too, the polls were divided. While the India Today, New-24 Chanakya and India TV polls projected an edge for the Congress, the ABP-C Voter survey predicted an advantage for the BJP with 94-114 seats in the 200-member house. The Times Now-ETG survey gave the BJP 108-128 seats as against 56-72 for the Congress. The Republic TV poll too gave the BJP a lead. Rajasthan has a three-decade-old tradition of voting out the incumbent and the Congress will create history if it manages to retain power.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told reporters in Delhi“Congress government will be formed (in Rajasthan). In all five states, I feel that BJP is not going to form the government. Exit polls may say something, surveys might suggest something, but based on the feedback of people in the cities and villages, I feel that our government should come.”
The outcome of the elections in the heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are being keenly watched since the three states account for 65 Lok Sabha seats of which the BJP had won 62 last time and the Congress only three (two in Chhattisgarh, one in Madhya Pradesh). Like last time, the face-off in the three states was directly between the Congress and the BJP.
In Mizoram, almost all the polls predicted a hung Assembly as they predicted that the ruling Mizo National Front, which had won 27 of the 40 seats last time, may not cross the halfway mark this time and nor will its main challenger the Zoram People’s Movement. The polls predicted that the Congress could emerge victorious in around half a dozen seats, which could put it in the kingmaker’s position.
The five-state elections are billed as the semi-final for the 2024 Lok Sabha battle and both the BJP and the Congress had framed issues with the general elections in mind. Both parties had put a premium on welfare schemes, which could be a template for their Lok Sabha manifestos. The BJP, which had last year won Gujarat and Tripura but suffered defeats in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, needs victories under its belt to build momentum in its favour in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress, on the other hand, is desperate to win a couple of states which it hopes would give it an upper hand in seat sharing talks with allies of the INDIA bloc.