Exit poll results and May 23

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Almost all the organisations which have conducted exit poll, made public after the end of the final phase polling on Sunday, have given the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) either an outright majority or a comfortable edge in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The NDA has got these numbers based on an exceptionally strong performance by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) across north, west, central and east India. If these results hold up on May 23 when counting of votes takes place, the BJP-NDA combine will become the first non-Congress government to return to power with a majority. This would be the first time that BJP would form a government twice in a row at the centre. This is significant because so far only the Congress has managed to retain power for consecutive terms. The stock markets responded positively to predictions in the exit polls that the incumbent National Democratic Alliance government would easily win re-election. Over the course of trading on Monday, market indices hit new all-time highs and posted their biggest one-day gains in 10 years. The rupee appreciated by 49 paise, the biggest single-day gain in two months, to close at 69.74 against the US dollar. Some exuberance at the prospect of a stable government is understandable.

There is no denying that the exit polls predicting the BJP 2.0 at the Centre have been largely contrary to the overall expectations, particularly among a section of the populace, in the country. Not that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wasn’t all along a favourite to win but the conspicuous absence of a wave in the PM’s favour had led the people anticipate an outside chance for the Congress and the wider opposition. The most probable outcome was seen as the return of Modi in a weaker coalition.  But for the Congress, the exit polls show that it will improve on its 2014 performance, but still it will not be enough to cause any damage to the BJP. If these exit poll results prove to be correct, then two major features would emerge from these polls. Firstly, Modi would prove himself to be an undisputed leader despite having no significant wave in his favour; secondly, Congress, having come put with an innovative poll manifesto, has miles to go to match BJP’s ability to the convert the support it receives into votes. Moreover, the exit polls also have a crucial message for the Congress and Opposition parties that they have not been able to dent NDA’s support base despite forming alliances in some states.

The big question emerges:  are exit poll predictions reliable or credible? It may be mentioned here exit poll prediction of 2004 proved to be horrendously wrong. Then came the 2009 general elections, which proved to be another failure. Exit polls had suggested an equal contest between the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the NDA. Instead, the UPA ended up winning 262 seats and the NDA 159. Let’s wait till May 23.

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