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Exit polls see door shut on change
Tallies hold, give or take a few

New Delhi, April 20: Exit poll results for the first phase of the Lok Sabha election held today unfolded more or less according to script with all forecasts suggesting little change in the balance of power between the two major groups, one led by the BJP and the other by the Congress.

Bloodied by violence across the country from Manipur in the Northeast to Jharkhand in the east and Jammu and Kashmir on the northern tip with 20 deaths, the election saw a low turnout of 50-55 per cent.

If the exit polls, conducted by the Hindi news channels STAR, Aaj Tak, Zee and Sahara and NDTV, which beams in Hindi and English, prove correct, the BJP-led alliance’s tally should remain around the 1999 score of 88 and the Congress and its allies’ around 44.

The forecasts for the BJP and allies ranged from 69-73 at the lowest end on Zee to 93 predicted by Aaj Tak.

STAR and Sahara were nearly the same. The BJP and allies were expected to get 80 seats according to the STAR poll and the Congress group 53. The respective numbers on Sahara were 83 and 52.

Zee’s projection for the Congress camp was also on the lower side at 41-45. NDTV also released a range, 70-80 for the BJP and allies and 50-60 for the Congress camp.

Aaj Tak gave the Congress and allies 44 seats, unchanged from last time, as it predicted a gain of five for the rival side.

Zee TV predicted a substantial loss, between 19 to 15 seats for the NDA. It said the BJP-led alliance is likely to get between 69 and 73 seats and the Congress and partners between 41 and 45. The Zee gave a large chunk of 23 to 29 seats to others.

The exit polls showed that while anti-incumbency hit the Congress in Karnataka and the Telugu Desam-BJP combine in Andhra Pradesh and to some extent in Assam, in Maharashtra the ruling Congress-NCP alliance might have bucked the trend. In Gujarat, where the BJP had 21 of the 26 seats and the Congress five, nothing much is changing.

In the STAR poll, the Congress was expected to gain 13 seats in Andhra Pradesh with the other side losing 10. But, then, since the first round of polls were held in the Telengana region, where the Congress was expected to do well because of its alliance with a regional party, the results may not be representative of the entire state.

If . Chandrababu Naidu was being buffeted in Andhra, in neighbouring Karnataka, his counterpart S.M. Krishna was faring no better. STAR gave the NDA 10 seats and the Congress only four. In both states, Assembly elections are also being held, but projections were mostly unavailable today. Some are expected tomorrow.

But the Lok Sabha exit polls would leave Naidu and Krishna shaky in their chief ministerial chairs.

In Jharkhand, of the six seats that went to the polls today, STAR gave three each to the Congress and the BJP alliances. Zee showed the BJP ahead in five and Aaj Tak in four seats.

STAR gave four to the Congress and allies and seven to the BJP-Janata Dal (United) in 11 Bihar seats. For Orissa, the projection is nine for the BJP combine and two for the Congress.

The cloud over publicising the results of exit polls was lifted today with the Election Commission virtually ruling out a ban for now. “The commission feels that regulation of exit polls can only be done through legislation,” a spokesman said.

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