Assembly Polls 2017: Exit polls suggest Modi-led BJP clearly ahead in UP

BJP may retain power in Goa, wrest power in U’khand; consolation prize for Cong in Punjab

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If the predictions of several of the exit polls, made public on Thursday, for the five states that had Assembly elections in February-March turn out to be true, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to emerge as the most influential leader of India since Indira Gandhi, who had held sway over the country’s political landscape 40 years back.

Findings of at least four exit polls suggested that Modi’s blitzkrieg of public rallies in Uttar Pradesh Polls could help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) either comfortably cross the majority mark of 202 in the 403-seat UP

The BJP, along with ally Apna Dal, had bagged 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP in 2014, winning a staggering 337 of the 403 Assembly segments. At least two exit polls — India Today-Axis and Today’s Chanakya — could come close to that tally by winning up to 285 seats. However, two other exit polls predicted a hung Assembly with the BJP as the single-largest party but the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Congress alliance not far behind and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in third place. As for other states, most exit polls said the BJP was likely to retain power in Goa and wrest power from the Congress in Uttarakhand.

One exit poll, however, predicted a dead heat between the BJP and Congress in Uttarakhand, predicting that both were likely to win 35-seats each in the 70-member Assembly.

In Manipur, one exit poll predicted that the BJP would emerge the single-largest party, while another said the incumbent Congress was most likely to return to power.

The BJP’s only setback is likely to be Punjab, where exit polls predicted a consolation prize for the Congress, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) likely to emerge as the principal Opposition party. But two exit polls predicted a hung Assembly, with both the AAP and Congress winning nearly the same number of seats and falling short of the majority mark of 59 seats. Four of the five exit polls said that the Shiromani Akali Dal–BJP alliance will struggle to touch double digits in the 117-member Assembly.

If the counting of votes, scheduled for Saturday, vindicates the findings of the exit polls that are predicting a near majority for the BJP in the UP Assembly, it will have ramifications on the Rajya Sabha numbers in 2018 and also on the presidential elections in July. It would also shrink the space for the Opposition, and to some extent achieve BJP chief Amit Shah’s ambition of a ‘Congress-mukt’ India. If the BJP triumphs in UP, the PM can justifiably claim it to be a referendum in favour of his November 8 demonetisation decision. A favourable electoral verdict, say sources, will embolden his government to go after tax evaders and complete the unfinished agenda of demonetisation.

The numbers in UP Assembly are likely to help BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) get its choice of presidential nominee elected to be the next President of India. Currently, the NDA is approximately 66,000 short of the majority mark in the presidential electoral college. On Thursday, the Election Commission said it has initiated the process for the holding of the presidential elections. It announced the filling of two vacancies in the Lok Sabha and of 12 legislative Assembly seats across 10 states. The polling for these bypolls will take place on April 9. The electoral victories would also help the BJP emerge the largest party in the Rajya Sabha in 2018, and reach closer to the majority mark. The lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha has hobbled the Modi government in its efforts to push through some of its legislative agenda.| read full article

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