The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Exit poll heat wave blows in

New Delhi, Dec. 1: The Congress is hoping that the election results on Thursday will prove all exit polls wrong.

Although pre-poll surveys reflected a clear lead for the Congress in Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the exit polls for Rajasthan have shocked many.

Four exit polls have projected four different results for the party, and none too pleasing.

Only one exit poll said the Congress will beat the BJP, but only narrowly. The other three, contrary to what the party believes and what pre-poll surveys have shown, show the BJP in the lead with quite a few seats in the 200-member Assembly going to smaller parties.

“It is extremely surprising that we are shown as trailing. But I am confident that the Congress will end up bagging 104 or 105 seats,” said a key Congress central leader who has been in charge of the party’s poll strategy for Rajasthan for the last six months.

Unlike pre-poll surveys for the other three states, all surveys have gone against the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, giving the lead to the BJP. Exit polls have also predicted the exit of chief minister Digvijay Singh but party strategists have not lost hope in his abilities.

“You will see the surprise of surprises on Thursday when the actual results are out for Madhya Pradesh,” asserted a media manager of the Congress.

From party chief Sonia Gandhi downwards, almost all Congress functionaries are hoping that Digvijay will repeat the 1998 miracle and retain power.

Some Congressmen are now fuming at senior party leader Arjun Singh, also from Madhya Pradesh, whose repeated mentions of “regrets” for “lapses” of the Digvijay government might have “lent credibility” to BJP chief minister candidate Uma Bharti’s cries of non-performance against the government. Party leaders, however, sounded more confident on retaining Delhi.

A party general secretary said: “Actually, our own realistic assessment for Delhi is that we may win 37-38 seats in the 70-member Assembly. If we do surprisingly well, the tally may go up to 45-47.”

Assessing the Congress’ chances in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, he said: “The exit polls may still be indicative of narrow victories in the two states.”

The exit polls showed the emergence of a third group that may tilt the balance in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh but party chief spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy has rubbished this exit poll claim.

In a statement issued this evening by AICC media secretary Tom Vadakkaran, the party asserted it would retain power in all the four states.

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