If exit poll results opposition parties should prepare for 2024 elections : Rajeev Sharma

The exit poll numbers, which predict a thumping majority for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, have signalled an “exit” for the entire non-BJP opposition. The numbers, if proven correct, make the following points.

One, if there was unanimity or near-unanimity about the general elections 2019, it was only on one point: a 2014-type Narendra Modi wave was just not visible. If the final results on May 23 match the exit poll predictions, then it means that five years later the nation continues to be in the grip of a Modi wave. It’s a strange phenomenon and nothing short of a puzzle. Psephologists and political pundits will have to solve this riddle.

Two, Team Modi outclassed and outsmarted every single rival. The exit polls predict that NDA will retain a large chunk of Uttar Pradesh (80 seats)  and almost retain the 2014 figures in states such as Maharashtra (48 seats), Bihar (40 seats), Madhya Pradesh (29 seats), Gujarat (26 seats), Rajasthan (25 seats) and Delhi (7 seats). Moreover, it would also register huge gains in hitherto non-BJP territories like West Bengal (42 seats) and Odisha (21 seats). That means, the Modi government would have managed to win even more seats from states where it had little or no presence than it lost in its traditional bastion of the Hindi heartland.

Three, a repeat of 2014, if exit poll results are correct, would signal the end for many regional satraps like Mayawati. It will also be a long winter ahead not just for parties such as the Congress and Trinamool Congress which are openly and blatantly anti-Modi, but also for regional parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Orissa.

To be sure, this analysis hinges on the exit polls getting their numbers right. The track record of exit polls is hardly glowing. Exit polls have got it terribly wrong not only in India but also internationally while predicting the outcome of Brexit or elections in the United States and Australia.  Remember, in 2004, the poll of exit polls gave the NDA and the UPA, 288 and 102 seats respectively in the 543-member Lok Sabha. In 2014, though exit polls did indicate a NDA victory over the UPA, the gap turned out to be much wider with the NDA finishing with 336 seats while the UPA managed just 59 seats. Similarly, in the 2009 elections, exit polls had predicted NDA and UPA to get 186 and 197 seats respectively but the final figures were far different: just 160 seats for the NDA and a near-majority for the UPA with 262 seats.

Still, despite the blatant inaccuracies of exit polls at times, the fact remains that in their nearly four decades of history, the accuracy rate of exit polls in case of Lok Sabha elections has been an impressive 80 percent.

Will 2019 be any different? For now, exit poll results would have inevitably perked up the BJP and shocked and awed the opposition parties. Going by the exit poll results, the opposition is doomed unless these numbers turn out to be wrong by a huge margin. Even then,  its hopes lie on the slender thread of the BJP on its own falling way short of even 200 –a scenario for which five states will be critical: UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha which together account for 231 seats. If the exit poll results for these states eventually come out to be correct or near-correct on the 23rd, then the opposition parties better start preparing for the 2024 elections.

Rajeev Sharma is an independent journalist and political analyst. He tweets @Kishkindha. Views expressed are personal.

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