DC Edit | Do exit polls reflect mood? Status quo remains in N-E

The first results of the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are already out with Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim having to count their state polls numbers early as the tenure of the assemblies was running out on Sunday.

Both results — the one in Arunachal a foregone conclusion because 10 seats were won by BJP were without a contest and in Sikkim the ruling party Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) returns with an amazing tally — showed a bias for the status quo that could very well be an indicator of the larger national mood.

Prem Singh Thamang’s SKM achieved the impossible in a near-total sweep in an Indian poll, losing only one of 32 seats to the Sikkim Democratic Front, which his party had displaced in 2019 winning 17 seats after SDF had ruled uninterrupted for 25 years. The truly amazing performance of a 97 per cent landslide is something any neta and his party would be proud of.

The major exit polls may also be seen to point towards a trending status-quoist theme as the lower turnout in many states and constituencies despite an expanded base of voters since 2019 suggested there was no great wave to be seen either way in a somewhat lacklustre and long election cycle in the sweltering heat of an Indian summer.

It is a popular notion that exit polls are not to be trusted and are to be viewed with scepticism. They have, at times, gone very wrong. But, in the modern era, when conducted by professional agencies that understand the science of psephology and are funded well enough to poll a large enough sample size, exit polls do tend to get it right.

The exit polls were mostly accurate, within the range of statistical chance, in the last two elections — in 2014 when they pointed to a big change in the fall of UPA-2, and in 2019 when they predicted the status quo in a win with a sizeable margin for the BJP-led NDA.

If the major pollsters are right again, it is the combined Opposition, having coalesced somewhat better in a third attempt at a grand coalition, which will have much introspection to do. Their contradictions showed in their effort to paper over the cracks in a disjointed group among which they opposed one another in places like Kerala, West Bengal and Punjab.

Most of all, their narrative was less about what they would like to achieve if given the opportunity to rule nationally and more about how they wanted to dismantle things the ruling party had put together in its ideological tilt to governance. Not being in power, they could freely promise the moon in tempting people with freebies, including an impossible sounding Rs 1 lakh per Indian woman per year while threatening wealth redistribution.

The flow of invective from both sides was free, the use of divisive talk and imagery perhaps more from the ruling side, especially from the Prime Minister, but this was one election in which the singular target at whom the diatribe was nastily aimed was the PM, Narendra Modi himself. Curiously, they objected even when all he did was meditate. At the end of the day, it is only the people who speak the loudest with their choice of who will lead them and the nation.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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