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A lot is at stake for Modi in UP
A lot is at stake for Modi in UP

The BJP is likely to form government in Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur while Congress may return in Punjab, according to exit poll results of the five states that went to polls. The safforn party, however, is expected to fall short of majority in Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, amid prediction of a hung assembly in UP by various exit polls, Akhilesh Yadav has said his party is ready to form an alliance with arch-rival BSP.

The India Today Axis exit poll gave BJP 18 seats in Goa out of 40 assembly seats and predicted 185 seats for it in Uttar Pradesh followed by Samajwadi party-Congress alliance at 120 seats and BSP at 90 seats. In Manipur too, BJP is likely to win 25 to 31 seats out of 60 Assembly seats. In Punjab, however, it is going to be a big setback for Punjab where Congress is expected to win 62-71 seats followed by new entrant Aam Aadmi Party with 52 seats. The BJP-SAD alliance is expected to win a dismal 4-7 seats.

Today’s Chanakya with News 24, which got its prediction right in Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and other assembly polls subsequently, has predicted 285 seats for BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance is far behind with 88 seats. Mayawati’s BSP is predicted to win a dismal 27 seats.  Voting for Assembly elections in five state ended on March 8.

UP election will cast a shadow over 2019 general elections
UP election will cast a shadow over 2019 general elections

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

The confusion continues in Uttar Pradesh. Only one poll suggests a sweep for the BJP and one a simple majority. In most places it’s ahead of the competition but short of the magic halfway mark. All of them place the BSP at a poor third. It is interesting, given in earlier elections at least more than one such polls stuck their neck out to give some party a resoundingly loud number.

So what gives? The initial assessment of the results in the state remains largely unchanged. The Samajwadi Party-Congressalliance was expected to witness a dip in numbers given the factors of antiincumbency, the SP first family power struggle and a hurriedly-stitched alliance. The BJP was expected to perform somewhere in between the 2012 state elections and the 2014 general elections.  The case of the BSP is a bit confusing. Even at its worst it was expected tosecure at least 100 seats. Most pollsters give it a far lesser number. Otherwise, UP throws up no surprises.

Rahul Gandhi might have succeeded in reviving the party in Punjab
Rahul Gandhi might have succeeded in reviving the party in Punjab

In Punjab, it was expected to be a keen Congress vs Aam Aadmi Party contest from the beginning. The ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine was fighting a losing battle given the slump in its popularity. The exit polls, barring one, predict a hung assembly with neither of the top contenders securing a clear majority in the 117-member house. Whatever the final result, the emergence of AAP is the big story from the state. The single-digit to lower double-digit numbers given to the Akali Dal is a bit suspicious though. It still has its pocket boroughs, particularly in rural Punjab, and has rarely done badly there. If it has lost in these seats then the electoral loss could be of permanent nature.

An AAP victory in Punjab can change the political situation in north India
An AAP victory in Punjab can change the political situation in north India

The small state of Goa has always been susceptible to unclear verdicts and hung houses. The trend, as the exit polls suggest, is likely to continue. If debutant AAP manages even the lowest double-digit number – 10 seats  or a few less it can play kingmaker in the small assembly. So its performance should not be judged from the point of view of loss and victory alone. It could be in a position to make or break governments. So like Punjab, it has arrived in Goa as a genuine political player.

Congress’s Harish Rawat has led a hard campaign in Uttarakhand
Congress’s Harish Rawat has led a hard campaign in Uttarakhand

In Uttarakhand, the margin of seats between the victor and the vanquished is usually wafer thin. The vote share also remains close between the main contenders – the BJP and the Congress. This time, as the exit polls suggest, the BJP is likely to get a clear upper hand. A vote share gap of nearly 10 percent would be insurmountable for the Congress for a long time. This state will be one genuine loss for the Congress in this round of elections. If the gap is only in seats it can claw back. However, let’s not jump the gun yet. Some polls suggest an equal fight.

The Manipur picture remains unclear with different polls throwing up different numbers for the Congress and the BJP. But whatever the number, the BJP would have planted its foot firmly in one more North-Eastern state.

However, it’s better to wait for the counting day. Exit polls are known to get it all wrong.

VISION 2019

Elections in Uttar Pradesh are known as the mother of all polls. This election, for which the final phase of polling is taking place on Wednesday, has been literally so. The high voltage campaign, the hype, the triangular fight (four-cornered in some places with RLD being in the fray), the strategising, the caste lines that have gone further com-plicated and the communal overtones in the political speeches – all together have made the UP election a special one.

However, the results of February-March elections to all five states – Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur also would be sig-nificant for the BJP as well as prime minister Narendra Modi. With BJP chief Amit Shah interpreting his party’s good performance in the civic elections as a stamp of PM Modi’s demonetisation exercise, pundits would see it as a test of the popularity of the PM and that of the note ban.

Going by the ground reports from these states, especially from Uttar Pradesh, and the crowd at his rallies prove that he is still the most popular politician in the country. A vic-tory for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh will have to be credited to him only. At the ground level, there was no appeal for BJP as a party or an organisation nor were its MPs popular. It was simply Modi, Modi and Modi. He will be the first non-Congress prime minister who could be equally appealing to both urban and rural, young and elderly population. People, espe-cially the poorer sections see him as a credible leader who wants to do something good for them. For anyone who has travelled through Uttar Pradesh, PM Modi’s popularity and the affection for chief minister Akhilesh Yadav were proved beyond doubts.

But for PM Modi, the elections are not just to endorse his popularity, but also to keep the roads to 2019 cleaner because it will be a harbinger for the next Lok Sabha polls. A victory in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and in smaller states like Goa and Manipur would place him as the unquestionable supreme leader who can easily make it in the next par-liamentary polls too.

Good performance in at least three of these states will also mean good days for his government in Parliament – one can expect more seats for the party in the Rajya Sabha. It will help the BJP in making its task of electing its choice as the country’s next president eas-ier. BJP’s performance in these elections will also have an impact on the attempts of some parties and forces to stitch together an an-ti-Modi alliance. Although it would make the task tougher, more parties or leaders would feel the need to remain united against the BJP.

A loss means more reliance on friendly allies like AIADMK and TMC for the govern-ment in the Rajya Sabha and for the presiden-tial election. The deeper impact would be on the party’s prospects for 2019 because it will embolden the Opposition to isolate the BJP. Not only friendly parties, its own allies in the NDA – Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Upen-dra Kushwaha’s RLSP apart from the long-time irritated ally Shiv Sena – would reviewtheir unconditional support to the BJP. Party leaders fear both the RLSP and LJP could even break away from the ruling alliance, if the BJP’s performance in Uttar Pradesh is not stunning.

Like in Uttar Pradesh , the election in Uttarakhand is seen as a test of the strategies of Amit Shah. Shah had antagonised the state leaders and the local unit in ticket distribution in both the states. If a spectacular perfor-mance in these elections would cement the Modi-Shah combine’s supremacy within the BJP, even their ideological parent RSS wouldhesitate to question any of their decisions. De-spite the murmuring discontent against Shah’s iron hand in the party, no one would raise their voices against him. Shah will emerge as the strongest president BJP has ever had. The number of ministers and leaders who act like cheer leaders will also increase.

A hung assembly in Uttar Pradesh – the possibility for which is really high now – would put BJP’s skills to forge alliances to a test. And the party would put all its might to project its performance as a stellar one and as a solid ap-proval for the BJP and the Prime Minister.

The  Numbers Game

Here are the exit poll results for five states which went to polls in February-March

UTTAR PRADESH EXIT POLL RESULTS (403 SEATS)

The BJP is likely to emerge as the single largest party is Uttar Pradesh which went to polls. According to a survey con-ducted by India Today, the party is likely to get 185 seats in the 403 state assembly. The survey has predicted that the alliance forged by the Samajwadi Party and the Congress will get 120 seats. The exit poll has predicted 90 seats for Mayawati-led BSP.

  • India Today | SP+Congress (120), BJP (185), BSP (90), Others (9)
  • India TV | SP+Congress (135-147), BJP (155-167), BSP (81-93), Others (8-20)
  • News24 and Today’s Chanakya | SP+-Congress (88+/-), BJP (285 +/-), BSP (27), Others (3+/-)

UTTARAKHAND EXIT POLL RESULTS (71 SEATS)

The people in Uttarakhand seems to have voted against Harish Rawat’s Con-gress government  as the exit poll predict-ed a clean sweep by the BJP which is ex-pected to get over 50 out of 71 Assembly.

  • India Today | Congress (12-21), BJP (46-53), BSP (1-2), Others (1-4)
  • News24 |Congress (15+), BJP (53), BSP (), Others ()
  • MRC | Congress (38), BJP (30), others (3)

MANIPUR EXIT POLL RESULTS (60 SEATS)

Like Assam, the BJP is likely to win another north eastern state Manipur with India TV predicting 25-31 for the saffron party followed by Congress with 17-23 seats.

  • India Today | Congress (17-23), BJP (25-31), Others (9-15)

PUNJAB EXIT POLL RESULTS (117 SEATS)

After Delhi, the Aam Aadmi party has made its presence felt in Punjab as it is pre-dicted to win 42-51 seats there. However, Congress will emerge the clear winner with 62-71 seats. The BJP-SAD alliance is likely to thrown out of power after two full terms.

  • India Today | Congress (62-71), BJP + Akali Dal (4-7), AAP (42-51), Others (0-2)
  • News24 | Congress (54+), BJP + Akali Dal (9-15), AAP (54+), Others ()

GOA EXIT POLL RESULTS (40 SEATS)

The BJP is likely to retain Goa with the support of independent winners as exit poll predict 15 seat for it followed by Con-gress at 10. The AAP to has made some gains in the state.

  • India TV | Congress (10), BJP (15), AAP (7), Others (8)
  • India Today | Congress (9-13), BJP (18-22), AAP (0-2)