Exit poll 2019 analysis: East seen making up for NDA's losses in UP, South

UP CM Yogi Adityanath, West Bengal CM and TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh after casting their vote in the seventh and last phase of 2019 elections on Sunday Photo: PTI
With most polls giving the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) around 300 seats and the BJP an average of 230, there seemed hardly any doubt that at least exit polls expect Narendra Modi to become the prime minister again. However, the most interesting figure in the opinion polls is the figure of “others” — the parties which are opposed to both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The collective number of these parties is so high that both the NDA and the UPA might have to scramble, willy-nilly to quickly, include these parties in their respective alliances to prevent the other from poaching.

The figures, it seems are not unexpected for the BJP. In Odisha, for instance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had bitterly attacked BJD leader and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik when he campaigned through the state, charging it with being the most ineffectual, anti-poor government in India. However, when the cyclone hit Odisha, at a press conference, Modi hailed the Odisha government's efficiency and the pro-active performance of the Chief Minister. Much to the rage of neighbouring West Bengal Chief MInister Mamata Banerjee, the PM also compared favourably Odisha to West Bengal. The body language spoke a lot: Modi personally escorted the Chief MInister to the podium and waited for him to sit down before seating himself. The significance of all this was lost on no one, especially as Odisha held assembly polls, along with the Lok Sabha.

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Chief MInister Chandrababu Naidu, whose state government is also in contention, was in Delhi to frantically stitch up alliances with national parties in case a BJP proxy got a chance to form a government in the state.

In Tamil Nadu, a crucial state from the point of view of the NDA, a massive upset was predicted by the exit polls. In the last Lok Sabha, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) represented a solid NDA phalanx. This time, with most exit polls putting the AIADMK seats at barely reaching double digits, the NDA numbers will be badly cut. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is solidly behind the UPA and has rejected blandishments from the so-called Federal Front to join it. DMK leader Stalin was the first leader to declare that Rahul Gandhi would be the UPA’s choice for Prime Minister.

The turnout figures, usually not an accurate indication of a voting trend, however, are validated in some states. India has 50 Lok Sabha seats where tribal population dominates. In all these seats, turnout figures were significantly higher than 2014. In states where tribal seats dominate, such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the BJP seats have gone up significantly.

The Lok Sabha results, according to exit polls, also show a dramatic overturning of the assembly election result in the polls held in 2018, reinforcing a hypothesis — that assembly election results cannot ever be extrapolated to the Lok Sabha elections. In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the exit polls predict far higher numbers for the BJP than the Congress, reversing the assembly outcome. In Maharashtra, it seems that the role of Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Aghaadi and other Dalit groups has resulted in cutting the votes of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). 

The role of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)’s top leader Raj Thackeray validates a truth that the Congress-Nationalist Congress alliance has been grappling with for some time: that they need a strong and vocal speaker for their alliance to make a dent and match the BJP and Shiv Sena alliance. As state elections in Maharashtra are due at the end of the year, the opposition would be well advised to address this problem as soon as possible.The exit polls represent a big shock for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), despite the extensive social development work done by the party in Delhi where it is in power.

The exit polls see BJP likely to win 12 to 14 seats in Assam, despite the violence and controversy over the National Citizenship Registry and the anti-incumbency factor. The party is also likely to sweep Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura — holding two seats each in the Lower House.

Congress is likely to retain control over the Nagaland and Mizoram seats. It may also get one seat in Meghalaya. The regional parties are likely to score the other seat in Meghalaya and the lone seat in Sikkim, dethroning SDF. If it can do that, it will be a major shot in the arm for the Congress.

One thing seems clear: all exit polls have belied the BJP’s expectation (and boast) that the BJP would get upwards of 300 seats on its own and in Uttar Pradesh, would cross 74-plus, its 2014 tally.