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Cong cool to rout forecast

New Delhi, Dec. 5: The Congress showed no signs of nervousness today after exit polls predicted a rout for the party in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi and failure in Chhattisgarh, saying the truth will be out on counting day.

At least one leader described the projections as “media entertainment” while several others dared the agencies to prove their claims on December 8, the day the votes will be counted.

Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi kept faith in positive feedback from Chhattisgarh and called top leaders of the state for a meeting this afternoon.

Sources said the party was gearing up to manage the magic number in case it fell short of a majority by a few seats in the 90-member Assembly.

The BSP is expected to win two seats while the Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch, which former chief minister Ajit Jogi is accused of having links with, might get three.

“Exit poll is not an exact poll and I see this as media entertainment,” a confident Jogi said before meeting Rahul. “We will get enough seats and easily form the government.”

Asked about numbers, he said: “I don’t want to speculate on numbers but the BJP will not be able to manage majority.”

On the chief minister’s post, he said: “We have fought the election with complete unity. In our party, there is a process of electing the CM but a leader who can get the maximum seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha should be preferred.”

Congress leaders spoke of bright prospects in Chhattisgarh at the party’s official media conference too, with spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das saying the poll projections had “no basis”.

“If they can show us behind in Chhattisgarh, why won’t they do so in other states? We think the entire exercise has no basis and there is an attempt to demoralise our workers and candidates before the counting day,” he said.

“You cannot declare the results before counting,” he said, when asked what had prompted him to make such an allegation. “The self-esteem of the survey agencies is at stake. We don’t understand the hype, how the survey by three agencies is shown by the entire media overriding all other national issues. We were hearing about packages for (the) media.”

Asked how he could question the media’s integrity, Das said: “We are not saying the entire media. But we may fall in some trap or the other. Or the media is not working hard enough to find the truth.”

Other leaders described opinion polls as “paid advertisements” and dared the survey agencies to prove their claims on Sunday.

They feel the fight in Madhya Pradesh was much closer than what is being predicted and said the calculations might go awry in Delhi, too.

“We have been shown getting 16-17 seats and the BJP in the range of 37 to 41,” one Delhi leader said. “We reject this with full responsibility. Even the AAP gets three somewhere and 31 elsewhere…. It is almost a criminal offence to mislead people in this manner.”

In Bhopal, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ajay Singh said: “The exit polls are not doing any talking, it is the money behind them which is making all the noise. I feel that the 2013 Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh would be a replay of those held in 2003.”

In 2003, 26 ministers lost and the ruling party was reduced to below 40 in a House of 230. The Congress was in power then, and Singh believes the same fate awaits the BJP now.

Senior Congress leaders don’t expect that kind of a result but say the BJP could end up with around 100 seats.