Exit polls might not be the most reliable, but it's hard to ignore when all of them give definitive predictions for Punjab and UP.
Exit polls are like a spicy curry that everyone likes but only a handful can digest. Journalists tend to have contempt for them and politicians only like those that go in their favour. But both these groups keep an eye out for the numbers.
This season, the exit poll mania was scheduled for Monday evening, once the last votes were cast for the seventh phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh. Out of the five states that will have new assemblies, the pollster verdict seemed obvious in three of them: the BJP will grab Uttar Pradesh and Manipur, and the AAP will clinch Punjab.
Here are the numbers that poured in yesterday. Please note, exit polls are rarely right. Reader caution is advised.
Axis My India, which has traditionally tied up with India Today, predicted that AAP has Punjab in the bag with 76 to 90 seats. It predicted a 41 percent vote share for the party, with a substantial share of Sikh upper caste votes (46 percent). Interestingly, the pollster stated that the party will not win the prosperous Doaba region – with 23 of the 117 seats – which will go to the Congress.
Pradeep Gupta, the chairman of the polling company, did not offer a complex explanation for AAP’s majority, only “badlav”, or change. Showing off his record, he claimed that out of 52 elections that Axis My India has surveyed, it got 48 right.
Chanakya, which famously got the 2014 general election right (and much else wrong), predicted the most resounding endorsement for the AAP in Punjab – 100 seats on the back of 45 percent of all votes. It only had 10 seats for the Congress.
But not all polls ascribe a majority for Arvind Kejriwal’s party. CVoter, still basking in its Bihar glory of 2020, gave the party 56 seats with 39 percent vote share. So, the highest seats and votes, but not a clincher.
Republic TV teamed up with pollster P-MARQ, which scored poorly during the Kerala and West Bengal elections in 2021. The company gave 66 seats to AAP, seven seats above the majority mark of 59, with 35.6 percent vote share. The Times Now-Veto exit poll put this number at 70 with 40.4 percent of all votes.
All eyes are on UP, whose electoral mood will set the course for the general election of 2024. The Axis My India poll projected a minor dent for the saffron party with 307 seats along with its allies Apna Dal and Nishad Party. The vote share, however, is said to rise to 46 percent from 41 percent in 2017. The Samajwadi Party’s tally will fall near 86 seats with 36 percent of all votes.
India Today journalist Preeti Choudhry seemed taken aback by the numbers, and added that she did not observe the pro-BJP wave in UP which the pollster predicted.
In the previous assembly elections, the NDA alliance – BJP, Apna Dal and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party – bagged 325 seats of the total 403 seats. Axis My India had then predicted 265 seats for the alliance.
Chanakya, whose numbers ran on News24, fell a notch below. It forecast 294 seats for the BJP alliance with 43 percent vote share (with a three percent margin of error) and 105 seats for Samajwadi Party and its allies with 35 percent of the votes. The pollster’s vote share predictions for the BJP in 2017 stood at 42 percent, when the party fell just short of 40 percent.
Other pollsters also predicted a majority for the BJP, but not a drastic one. CVoter – which claims to have a sample of more than a lakh in UP – took BJP as far as 236 and SP to 140. P-MARQ predicted 240 seats for the BJP with 40.1 percent vote share and 130 for SP with 34 percent of votes.
The Veto exit poll predicted the least seats for the BJP at 225. Their vote share for the Hindutva party did not touch 40 percent, fixed at 39.39 percent. SP came a close second with 35.32 percent of all votes but only 151 seats.
Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur
Things got dicey for exit polls in Uttarakhand and Goa. A turf war between the Congress and BJP brought out uncertainty. The Axis My India poll hands the contest to the BJP, with a 44 percent vote share and 41 seats in an assembly of 70. At 40 percent, Congress is predicted to grab 25 seats only.
So did Chanakya, though with tempered vote shares. It predicted 43 seats for the BJP with 41 percent of the votes and 24 for the Congress with 34 percent votes.
CVoter, however, gave 29 seats to BJP and 35 of them to the Congress.
In the Northeast, Manipur is a battleground for 60 assembly seats. Axis My India forecast single-digit wins for all parties except BJP, to which it accorded 38 seats with 41 percent of all votes. P MARQ did not seem so optimistic – it gave 29 seats to the BJP and 14 to the Congress, with 36 percent and 26 percent vote share respectively. CVoter also stuck to 14 seats for the grand old party, but only 25 for the BJP.
The predictions for Goa, the southern state with 40 assembly seats, are a mixed bag. CVoter and Axis My India projected 15 and 16 seats for the BJP, respectively, and 14 and 17 for the Congress.
The reason why these numbers are neck-to-neck is because of the vote shares. CVoter gives 32.7 percent of votes to the saffron party and 30.2 percent of it to the Congress. BJP gently pushes the former up to 33 percent and the latter to 32 percent.
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