The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Early bird finds fewer worms

New Delhi, May 10: The National Democratic Alliance’s move to call early polls might not have worked according to script. The Telegraph-Star News exit poll at the end of the fourth and final phase of polling tonight showed the ruling coalition precariously hovering around the majority mark of 272 seats.

The NDA might get anywhere between 263 and 275 seats, the exit poll, carried out by C-Voter, projected in its final tally. The projection means that the NDA would drop anywhere between 29 and 41 seats from its 1999 strength.

In the largest state of Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for 80 seats, the exit poll predicts the BJP to benefit from a four-cornered contest involving the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress.

The projection for the party is 30 seats, an improvement of five over its 1999 tally. The Congress too is projected to win two additional seats to tally 11 from the state.

The gains of the two national parties in Uttar Pradesh are projected to come from the Samajwadis and the Bahujan Samaj Party which together are expected to win 33 seats against their previous combined tally of 40.

It could be argued from the exit poll projections that the increase in the tally of the BJP and the Congress might indicate a vote for stability — away from the smaller parties.

The smaller parties, it would seem, now require a coalition with the bigger parties more than the other way around.

The balance then would seem to be tilting away from the smaller parties back to the national parties.

The only difference being that earlier the bigger parties were platforms for various interest groups but now they have to negotiate and create such a platform in a coalition arrangement with the smaller parties.

The Congress and its allies are predicted to get between 174 and 186 seats. The exit poll projects other parties like the Left, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party to corner 86 to 98 seats.

Confirming pre-poll opinion surveys, the exit poll projected heavy losses for the NDA in the two big southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh which together (along with Pondicherry) account for 82 seats. In Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, which went to the polls today, the exit poll gave the BJP and its ally Jayalalithaa only eight of the 40 seats — a drop of 17 from the 1999 NDA tally of 25.

Obviously, the BJP’s move to opt for Jayalalithaa in place of its DMK, PMK and MDMK allies of 1999 seems to have backfired. The exit poll story of Andhra, which went to polls in the first and second rounds in April, is already known.

The NDA is projected to lose at least 18 seats there. While the BJP went in for an ally swap in Tamil Nadu, its Andhra ally Telugu Desam’s . Chandrababu Naidu was among those who influenced the early poll decision.

The exit poll projection of losses in the two southern states is so high that the BJP has found it impossible to make up elsewhere.

In fact, contrary to earlier opinion polls, the exit poll projected the NDA as having made a late recovery in Bengal. It predicted the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine to hold on to the 10 seats it won last time.

It makes gains in Punjab and losses in Haryana, leaving it only marginally better. In Delhi, the Congress is expected to bag four seats — it had none in 1999.

Early polls may not have worked to the extent the BJP would have liked, but polls at a later date could have been worse for the party with anti-incumbency beginning to work against it in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

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