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Exit polls give Modi edge

New Delhi/Ahmedabad,Dec. 16: The exit polls tonight suggested Narendra Modi will retain power in Gujarat although the Congress will do much better than in 2002.

The chief minister himself went on an early victory lap of his constituency, Maninagar, in Ahmedabad. “Khem Chho' Mat Aapiya' (How are you' Have you voted')” he asked, mingling with the crowds and flashing the V-sign.

Most television channels put the BJP ahead. A STAR News poll predicted a comfortable majority for the party, giving it 103 seats against 76 for the Congress.

NDTV’s exit poll suggested the Congress might have a slim chance of reaching majority, giving the party between 70 and 95 seats in the 182-member Assembly. But its forecast for the BJP was better: 90 to 110 seats.

Times Now did not do a poll but its post-election survey suggested Modi would scrape through.

The second and final round of polling drew a turnout of 63-65 per cent, higher than the 61.5 per cent recorded in 2002 when Modi swept to power with 127 seats. In the first phase on Tuesday, the turnout was around 60 per cent.

The BJP sees the high turnout as a sign of a pro-Modi wave while the Congress interprets it as a vote for change.

Turnout was lower — 54 to 57 per cent — in Godhra, the epicentre of the 2002 riots, and highest in rural areas like Dahod, Mehsana and Banaskantha.

The CNN-IBN survey hinted the Congress might have done better had it stuck to development and not fallen into Modi’s trap by using phrases like “maut ke saudagar (merchants of death)” to describe him.

If the BJP just scrapes through, victory might not be as sweet for Modi who could find his authority curtailed. A section of the party’s central leadership has been praying for a reduced majority to keep him in check. The Sangh parivar, sidelined by Modi, could also return to play a bigger role.

But in Maninagar today, Modi was God. Businessman Rohit Shah, 62, could not get over his unexpected meeting with the man and claimed he saw a “divine glow” on his face. “Just like we have faith in Tirupati and any other religious place, we have faith in Modi,” he said.

Although polling was peaceful, there were many complaints of people with valid voters’ identity cards finding their names missing from the electoral list, especially in Muslim-dominated localities.

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