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Opinion: Elections 2024: Two Key Trends Exit Polls Point To

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The exit polls have given their verdict. This will be a hot topic of discussion till the actual results emerge soon. While one may have differences with what the exit polls are saying and one can debate the numbers, the direction of all seems similar. The difference lies in the intensity of victory they are projecting for both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Among the important projections, the range varies from 353 (the lower end of C-Voter) to 415 (projected by Today's Chanakya). The lower end of the band is closer to where the BJP/NDA was after the 2019 polls. The higher end of the band indicates a major increase in the rise of seats, especially for the BJP and not necessarily for its NDA partners. June 4 would of course indicate whether it is a repeat of 2019 or a better performance for the BJP. The exit polls do not project a slide backwards for the BJP, though that too has been the focus of debate.

In the midst of all the 'ifs' and 'buts' linked to the exit polls, the general direction of the surveys indicates two important trends. Firstly, the BJP appears to be holding on to its past stellar performance in North, West, Central and Northeast India. In each of these regions, there may be a marginal fall of seats (Haryana, Rajasthan, mainly) with a possible make-up in other seats in the region (Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh). Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will be closely watched. While exit polls are projecting that the BJP may hold on to its tally in Bihar and Maharashtra, its allies may see a marginal dip. The battle in Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for large numbers, could well decide which end of the spectrum would the parties and alliances finally be at.

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The big stories flowing from the exit polls are in South and Eastern India. The polls are projecting that the BJP will hold on to its Karnataka tally (some anticipating a small decline – the BJP won 25 seats and its ally JD(S) won one seat in 2019) and emerge as a gainer in Telangana. If the Karnataka numbers of the exit poll hold, it implies that the past trends in Karnataka (2013/2014 and 2018/2019) of voters favouring one party in assembly polls and another in Lok Sabha elections is repeated this time around too. In Telangana on the other hand, the BJP would be the beneficiary of the retreat of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRA), if the exit poll numbers hold. The BJP's being part of the TDP-Jana Sena alliance in Andhra Pradesh seems to have brought it an advantage. The alliance it leads in Tamil Nadu may well emerge as the second-largest player in the state. Some are even projecting an account opening in Kerala. This trend indicates a net gain for the BJP/NDA in Southern India.

In the East, the exit polls indicate a good showing for the BJP in both West Bengal and Odisha. One must add a word of caution. Many seats that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) won in West Bengal went to the poll in the final phase. The exit polls were held on the same evening as the last phase of voting.

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Often, exit polls fail to capture the real mood of the last day of polling as they are busy finalising their numbers by the afternoon of voting. Odisha is another key gainer for the BJP as per the polls. One has little information about the numbers for the assembly elections. Does the number indicate a split verdict or the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) being voted out of power in the state? A split verdict would be historic as this has never happened in a simultaneous poll in Odisha.

Exit polls have in the past missed the mark by either over-projecting a party/alliance or under-projecting them. Thus, in the current round, one would look at the lower band and the mid-point of the band. The upper end of the band would indicate that in all states, that end of the band has been achieved. We will soon know the answer to this question. An agonisingly long wait for the counting day.

(Dr. Sandeep Shastri is the National Coordinator of the Lokniti Network)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author

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