Exit polls: Bengal on knife-edge, landslide win for Stalin in Tamil Nadu, Pinarayi will hold fort in Kerala
West Bengal, the biggest and most politically crucial state going to the poll, will be a thrilling cliffhanger but the opinion polls differ on who will seize the crown. The India Today-Axis My India poll forecasts that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee might fall short on the numbers to form a government, but the ABP-C Voter poll gives her a clear win. Republic TV-CNX reckons the BJP will squeak past the winning post.
In Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu the poll predictions are more along expected lines with the polls handing Assam to the BJP and the LDF winning over the UDF in Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK is expected to take power after decimating the ruling AIADMK, the polls say. The ABP-C Voter poll predicts the Congress will make big gains in Assam even though it is likely to fall short of the numbers.
In Bengal, to form a government the TMC needs 148 seats and the India Today-Axis My India poll reckons the BJP will be ahead by a short lead with 134-160 seats compared to the TMC's 130-156.
Predicting that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would come out ahead, the ABP News-C Voter gave the TMC and allies 152 to164 seats, the Left 14 to 25 and the BJP 109 to 121 seats. The Republic TV-CNX poll gave the TMC and allies 128 to 138, the Left 11 to 21 and the BJP 138 to 148.
However, India Today calculated that around 64 seats in Bengal would be too close to call, so the race remains wide open.
In Assam, the polls concur that the BJP will seize the crown but differ strongly on the numbers. The India Today-Axis My India poll predicts that the BJP would pull in 75-85 seats which would be close to its performance in the 2016 legislative assembly elections. By contrast, ABP-C Voter believes the NDA will pick up 58-71 seats. Making impressive inroads, the poll projects the Congress-led UPA will bag in the range of 53 to 66 seats. Other parties and independent candidates are expected to win somewhere around 0 to 5 seats in the upcoming polls. The magic figure in the battle for Assam is 64.
In Kerala, the India Today-Axis poll showed a huge sweep with the LDF winning 104-120 of the 140 legislative seats. The Republic TV-CNX Kerala exit poll pointed to a similar outcome with 72 to 80 seats for the LDF and 58 to 64 seats for Congress. The poll projected 1-to-5 seats for the BJP. The Malayala Manorama-VNX poll, however, predicts a much closer fight.
Personal triumph for Pinarayi
No party or alliance has won two terms in a row in Kerala and if the LDF wins, as predicted, it will be seen as a huge personal triumph for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his handling of the pandemic and also of the Kerala floods in 2018. The BJP is expected to win between 0-3 seats according to most polls but could hold on to the 12 per cent vote share which it had got in the last state elections.
46% root for Stalin as CM
In Tamil Nadu, the exit polls point to a landslide victory for the DMK and allies, much as had been expected. The India Today-Axis My India gives the DMK a huge victory with between 175-185 votes out of 234 assembly seats. Similarly, Republic TV- CNX gave the DMK a top of 168 seats and said there had been a massive 9 per cent swing towards it.
Such a victory would be a personal triumph for DMK leader M. K. Stalin. This is the first Tamil Nadu election without the two state giants M. Karunanidhi, who died in 2018, and J. Jayalalithaa, who lost her life in 2016. This time, 46 per cent of the people polled said they wanted Stalin as the next chief minister. Commentators offered the explanation that the AIADMK had no giant leader unlike in the past.
BJP upper hand in Assam
In Assam the polls show that the BJP will win big in Upper, Central and North Assam. The Congress, by contrast, has done well in the Barak Valley and Lower Assam. The India Today-Axis My India poll also showed that most voters were happy with the Chief Minister Sarbhanda Sonowal. That could present a dilemma for the BJP because the Deputy Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has indicated that he wants to be the next chief minister and will not take any other role. He has also signalled that he doesn’t want to shift to the Centre.
The huge surprise of the evening came from the India Today-Axis My India poll which showed a big win in Puducherry for former chief minister N. Rangaswamy, leader of the NR Congress and the BJP with which it is allied. India Today-Axis predicted the NR Congress-BJP would win between 20-24 seats out of 30.
For the Congress, the exit polls offer a bleak picture because it is expected to perform poorly in Kerala and it doesn’t appear to be near winning Assam. It looks likely to be defeated badly in Puducherry. The fact that Rahul Gandhi is an MP from Kerala’s Wayanad district doesn’t appear to have helped it in the state.