It's still too early to say whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will actually amass the numbers that have been predicted and if the Congress will be a complete wash-out, but as the curtains were drawn on the general elections on Monday, at least three news television channels, in partnership with analysts, declared results of their exit polls, all suggesting that the political winds in India are in favour of the BJP leading the next government.
The surveys also suggested that Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and Jayalalithaa's AIADMK will be the regional satraps to watch out for.
Here are the four key takeaways from this round of exit polls:
Ab ki bar, India definitely wants a Modi sarkar
Somewhere, the BJP's publicists are patting themselves on their backs. Their 'ab ki bar, Modi sarkar' slogan is all set to wipe off the scars left by the BJP's disastrous 'India Shining' refrain in 2004, when they yielded the government at the Centre to the UPA. Exit polls announced by CNN-IBN, Times Now and ABP News have unanimously declared BJP the clear winner in these polls. And there is a strong possibility that BJP's Mission 272 might turn out to be a reality. The Lokniti-CSDS survey has predicted 275 seats to BJP and its allies as they stand now. ABP-Nielsen gives the NDA 281 seats and Times Now says that the NDA might clinch up to 249 seats.
A strong wave in favour of Modi seems to have blown through states considered strongholds of non-BJP parties, such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP, which had managed to get just 10 seats in 2009, might manage to snap up anything between 40-52 seats. While the ABP-Nielsen survey gives the BJP 46 seats in UP, CNN-IBN predicts that the BJP will get anything between 45 to 53 seats and the Times Now poll pegs the seat number at 52.
In Maharashtra, the IBN exit polls predict 33-37 seats for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, while the Congress is set to win 11-15 seats. In Bihar, the ABP Nielsen poll predicts that BJP will get 19 seats, LJP 2, RJD 10, Congress 4 and JD(U) will be reduced to getting just 5 seats, post its split from the NDA.
If the exit poll numbers are anything to go by, then the Modi wave, widely panned as a myth by his rivals, is a reality the Congress would have done well to admit to earlier. The BJP has to be credited for turning the battle into something that could work in their favour - a battle that is not issue based, rather one that unfurls as a war of personalities. The party weighed its odds well - having been out of power for ten years, it would be a difficult to fight these polls based on issues of development alone.
Their achievements during the Vajpayee era wouldn't immediately appeal. On the other hand, Modi's success in Gujarat is a continuing phenomenon, something that is far easier to showcase. And Modi also incites extreme sentiments in voters, making him a personality hotly discussed, a personality people take immediate interest in.
If the BJP indeed gains a clear majority this time, that will solely be because they used Narendra Modi very, very well.
Modi may face a Mamata problem
The exit polls conducted after polling ended on Monday have shown that Modi could just have made that one rare mistake in taking on Mamata in the closing days of the campaign.
The Lokniti-CSDS exit poll shows that TMC's vote share is slated to jump by at least by 7 percent from 2009 to 38 percent. The BJP's vote-share has gone up in West Bengal, thanks to the 'Modi wave', but it is still a minuscule 15 percent compared to the TMC's 38.
The Times Now-ORG exit poll predicts 20 seats for the Trinamool Congress, 15 for the CPM and five for the Congress. The BJP, according to their poll, will get no more than two seats in West Bengal. A third poll, this one conducted by ABP Nielsen for ABP News, gives 24 seats to the Trinamool Congress and 12 seats to the CPM. Congress is slated to bag 5, whereas the BJP lags far behind with just one seat.
Modi appears to have risked mocking Mamata on her home turf based on his own incessant campaigning to ensure the BJP wins big on its own and the NDA need not reach out to a Mamata. Still, the BJP is a non-entity in Bengal and by enraging Mamata, Modi could have just made a rare faux pas in the eventuality that the NDA falls short.
AAP will not open its Uttar Pradesh account, Kejriwal will lose
Though the Aam Aadmi Party has pitched its strongest candidates in Uttar Pradesh this year, it seems that its dreams of debuting in Uttar Pradesh may not materialise. Not this year, at least. The ABP Nielsen survey predicts that AAP will get no seat in Uttar Pradesh. The primary reason why AAP will be a wash-out in UP this term, probably has to do with the opponents its most popular candidates have chosen.
Contesting against Narendra Modi might be symbolic in several ways, but it is definitely not a recipe for victory. Varanasi has traditionally been a BJP stronghold and Arvind Kejriwal possibly didn't get as much time to campaign in Varanasi as he did in Delhi. Kejriwal's anti-corruption pitch too has very little bearing on Varanasi's political narrative, mostly dominated by religion. As the spectacle on Modi's nomination day showed, Varanasi was not voting Modi, the development guru.
They planned to vote Modi, the pro-Hindu political icon. Everything from the saffron colour scheme, to the 'Har Har Modi' chant and Modi's impassioned encomium for 'Maa Ganga', indicated that a battle in Varanasi couldn't be fought on the same issues that helped Kejriwal take on Sheila Dikshit.
Also, in the Delhi state polls, social media had an important role to play. Given that AAP was reaching out to a crowd with access to most social media platforms, their campaign came out stronger and more focussed. The 70 manifestos for the different Assembly sections helped AAP reach out to people in a way the other parties couldn't. They gave Delhi voters an impression of being involved in the city's welfare actively, of having done their research well.
Cut to Uttar Pradesh, where their poll pitch sounded uncannily like that of the others - corruption, development, communalism, etc. There was very little UP-specific content in their campaign, something that could serve as a hook for them to latch on to a voter-base largely disinterested in their politics to begin with. In fact Kejriwal went the whole Hindu-pleasing route by visiting temples, taking a dip in the Ganga, etc.
Jayalalithaa could play kingmaker
Jayalalithaa has kept Narendra Modi and the BJP on tenterhooks for long - once commenting that Modi is a friend, then refusing to either ally with him right away or declare otherwise, but going on to declaring that the Tamil Nadu development model is better that Gujarat's.
The Congress is slated to score a duck in Tamil Nadu. According to the CNN-IBN CSDS-Lokniti survey, the Congress will not win any seats in the state. Jayalalithaa's AIADMK will win 22-28 seats, says the survey while the DMK will win 7-11. The BJP-MDMK combine is set to win 4-6 seats.
During the campaign too, Tamil Nadu was dotted with posters portraying Jayaa as a national player. Given that Mamata Banerjee might be out of Modi's reach and Modi has not upset Jayalalithaa, he would be looking at the Tamil Nadu CM for a decisive edge if he needs to shore up some numbers.
Jayalalithaa is only too aware that for her to remain relevant in a post poll scenario, she needs to have most of Tamil Nadu's 39 seats (not counting the UT of Puducherry) under her belt. Has she done enough to ensure this? The exit poll numbers show she might have.