Exit Polls hint at unprecedented times ahead in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab

While Uttar Pradesh is likely to see the return of an incumbent chief minister after completing his full five-year term, one may see a change in the binary nature of Punjab politics so far dominated by Congress and Akali Dal

Gautam Mukherjee March 08, 2022 18:56:01 IST
Exit Polls hint at unprecedented times ahead in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab

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There has never been a time when an incumbent chief minister, having completed a full five-year term, won a second consecutive term in the politically bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).

Only BSP’s supremo Mayawati and SP’s Akhilesh Yadav have ever completed a full-term in office in UP before Yogi Adityanath, and it is they who are also featured in the unequal contest of 2022.

The SP is expected to double or even treble its tally from 2017 in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, but fall well short of the half way mark in the 403 seat house.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his heavyweight ministers from the Centre, their ‘Double-Engine Sarkar’, is about to pull off this path-breaking feat.

This replete with heavy doses of Vikas and Suraksha, surges of Hindutva from pride of never-seen-before progress in Ayodhya and Varanasi, ‘Baba’s Bulldozer’ revving its engines and demolishing the properties of the wicked, Bahubalis put to flight, killed, or behind bars.

Then there are the huge economic gains in the state’s GDP, rocketing it up from No. 8 to No. 2 amongst all states, supported by the start of massive strategic industrialisation, loads of highly visible infrastructure implementations, the betterment of agriculture and sustained welfare measures for the poor.


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For the first time perhaps, such positive and nation-building factors seem to have swamped the traditional electoral calculations of caste, religion, employment as socialist largesse, even vendetta politics designed to settle scores.

The projected win in UP along with the retention of Bihar puts the BJP/NDA in the pole position for winning the general elections in 2024. That is why no stone was left unturned in the nurture of this state and the relentless campaigning.

This is the trendline, according to all the different Exit Polls revealed on Monday, 7 March evening, after the last phase of Uttar Pradesh polls ended. They give the BJP a minimum of 225 seats in the Times Now-Veto poll and as much as 326 in the upper end of the India Today-Axis poll.

As far as exit polls go, the remarkable thing about this sextet, sponsored by various TV News media houses, is that they all indicate the same trend-line for all the five states surveyed.

That they by and large have stuck to the fewer pre-poll surveys, is another noteworthy thing. It implies very little changed during the seven phases of polling in Uttar Pradesh and the one-dayer in Punjab, in particular, despite the best efforts of all contenders.

If the results on 10 March bear out these exit poll findings, it would appear that the voters, which include large numbers of women, had made up their minds in advance.

The other huge development these exit polls point to is that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is going to win the state of Punjab, on its own, with a majority. Here the numbers have tightened in the AAP’s favour since the pre-poll surveys.

This success, if borne out on the 10th, will change the binary nature of Punjab politics which has long been dominated by the Congress or the Akali Dal-BJP combine. It was taken as a given that the Sikh-dominated state would not brook the advent of an ‘outsider’.

Some scepticism on the pre-poll and exit poll findings on Punjab have been expressed. This is based on the overestimation of AAP’s showing in 2017, when they nevertheless bagged 20 seats.

This time it looks like there is no stopping Arvind Kejriwal and his designated chief minister face, Bhagwant Mann. Not even constant barbs about Mann’s alcoholism have made a dent. Nor have doubts and innuendos raised about the AAP’s fraternising with Khalistani elements. Punjab has apparently voted for decisive change.

It is clear that an AAP win in Punjab will reverberate in national politics. Based on how well AAP does in the state, and how stable its government proves to be, this party could conceivably win in other states too.

It has narrowed the credibility gap with regard to AAP’s appeal beyond the half-state of Delhi in one fell swoop, and nothing will be the same for it again. AAP has gained substantially in stature via this projected win. And once again, the minimum has it short of a majority at 51 seats in the 117 seat assembly. This per ABP News CVoter poll, but the maximum has AAP at 111 in the News24-Today’s Chanakya poll.

Assuming an AAP win, it will be the rise of a new force standing on the ruins of the Congress in Punjab despite the latter’s contortions in recent months. As for security of the border state, there is no real basis for assuming the AAP will take it less seriously than it deserves. The recent collusive and seditious menacing of the Prime Minister on his aborted visit to a border area of Punjab demonstrated that perhaps it is Congress that cannot be trusted.

In Manipur it appears to be a clear and comfortable win for the BJP, but Congress still lives in Uttarakhand and Goa.

In both states the exit polls reveal very close contests between the BJP and Congress. In the end, if these polls are borne out for the hill state and the beach state, then adroit post-election management may win the day for either side, assuming there is no outright win, however razor thin.

A Congress win in either or both states will help it survive better in national politics, with just Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in its kitty with its own chief ministers after the loss of Punjab.

Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra have Congress participation, it is true, but it would be a stretch to call them Congress states.

However, as it stands, the exit polls on Uttarakhand and Goa reveal voter unhappiness with the performance of the BJP over the last five years. In Uttarakhand, there were three different chief ministers, and only the current incumbent Pushkar Singh Dhami seems to have struck a chord with the people of the state.

In Goa, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, and his flock have been dogged by complaints of massive corruption. This even though Sawant was hand-picked by former chief minister and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. If this is so, both the Central leadership and the local organisation in Goa need to make changes fast if they manage to retain the state.

The writer is a Delhi-based commentator on political and economic affairs. The views expressed are personal.

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