You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Exit polls: Why I’m watching Bihar

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-05-2014 Aakar Patel

Exit polls were wrong in 2004 and off the mark in 2009, but I think the ones this time have it right. I don’t have any information on this, but general observation of polls bears this out. Polling has consistently shown increased support for Narendra Modi over the past six months. The polls from last year had the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning well under 200 seat in the Lok Sabha and this began to change over the months. The ones earlier this year showed the opposition party winning over 200 seats. Now, even the most pessimistic of them shows an increase in that number by a couple of dozen, and the most optimistic gives BJP almost 300.

That is what a wave is.

There is no surprise that Modi is winning in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (except according to Times Now) and Chhattisgarh. These are states from which the Congress has either been shut out, as it has been in Madhya Pradesh for 15 years and in Gujarat for 20, or is a weakening force.

There is no big deal even if the BJP should win a seat or two in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Such things happen. In Tamil Nadu the party is riding on allies, one of whom (Vijayakanth) got 10% the vote the last time, and if that is transferable, a seat or two is not impossible. In Bengal, the slow collapse of the Left has left a vacuum which Congress has been unable to fill and opened up some space for the BJP.

The surprise is that Modi is sweeping Bihar. It is a state the BJP has never won, a state that is well-governed according to those who track such things, and a state, if we are skeptical, whose voters fairly recently kept their faith in chief minister Nitish Kumar. How did they suddenly shift from affirmation to rejection? What happened?

I always understood the alliance between the Janata Dal (United) and the BJP as one between middle castes and upper castes, and this was visible in the names of their legislators. That meant the JDU was the larger force, something borne out by vote shares in the last two elections. For Nitish Kumar to lose in the way that he is predicted to—after expecting to benefit from rejecting Modi—is puzzling and remarkable. That is the one state I would watch on Friday.

Uttar Pradesh has tens of millions of voters who are familiar with the BJP and, unlike Bihar, who have voted for BJP majorities in the past. The charisma of Modi and events on the ground in Muzaffarnagar have helped bring these voters back to the party.

It will be expected if Modi wins that state, though talk of 60 seats out of 80 is again fantastic.

What about the Congress? It is expected to win only three major states and none comprehensively. In Karnataka, it will have a fight on its hands now that B.S. Yeddyurappa is back in the BJP and I think the results will be touch and go. In Kerala, its large minority support base (most Malayali Christians and Muslims generally vote for the Congress-led United Democratic Front) has rallied against Modi. One poll says even Assam will go to the BJP.

With less than 100 seats and little say in the Lok Sabha (things are different in the Rajya Sabha), the Gandhis will not be influential in the opposition unless they rally other parties around them. This is unlikely given mother and son’s inadequacies and reticence. There will be no Mamata Banerjee, J. Jayalalithaa or Arvind Kejriwal in the Lok Sabha. Modi, if the numbers hold, will have much more space than Manmohan Singh did. And who can say he doesn’t deserve it after this fantastic campaign?

Speaking of which, I have heard something truly amazing. Apparently the total Congress spending on television networks was more than, and certainly as much as, the BJP’s. This is according to the channels themselves. That means as many Congress ads were aired as were the BJP’s.

If you find this hard to believe, and I certainly do, the answer lies in the fact that the BJP spent their money better. Their messaging was simpler, more focussed and therefore carried the tint of repetition. A great package was created and offered by Modi and, going by the opinion polls, has been bought by India.

More from the reply to all blogThe vacuum in the CongressWho is Narendra Modi’s choice for Gujarat CM?The paid news phenomenonNarendra Modi’s passive-aggressive communalism

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon