Election results to be in consonance with exit polls outcome: Arun Jaitley

Clay Curtis
May 20, 2019

Indians voted in the seventh and final phase of national elections Sunday, wrapping up a 6-week-long grueling campaign with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party seeking reelection for another five years.

Some of India's 11 million election workers must go to the most remote locations in the country just to ensure every qualifying Indian casts their vote.

Four exit polls saw big wins for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), predicting that it would win anywhere between 280 and 315 seats, far more than the Congress party.

They predicted a range of 70 to 132 seats for the alliance headlined by the opposition Congress party.

Long queues formed outside polling stations in eight northern states electing the final 59 candidates to India's 543-seat lower house.

The Delhi-based Center for Media Studies estimates that parties have spent more than $7 billion on the election, making it one of the most expensive campaigns held in the world.

Counting of votes is scheduled for May 23. One poll by Neta Newsx, though, forecast Modi's group falling 30 seats short.

Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha dismissed the poll projections, saying that an alliance led by his party would defeat the BJP when votes are counted on May 23.

Parties that are unattached to either side, which include the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) whose coalition in Uttar Pradesh is resisting the BJP, could get between 69 and 125 seats, according to various polls. Congress was reduced to 44 seats, its worst showing in decades.

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In the politically important state of Uttar Pradesh, some exit polls suggested that the alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which was expected to blunt the BJP charge, had failed to make much impact.

Prodeep Chakrabarty, a retired school teacher in Kolkata, said Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party was desperate to win some seats against Banerjee's influential regional party. Exit polls are being used to create an impression that there is still a Modi wave in the country.

"I don't trust exit poll gossip", she said on Twitter. "Time to switch off the TV, log out of social media and wait to see if the world is still spinning on its axis on the 23rd (when the official results will be announced)".

Instead, they were told to boldly emphasise on BJP's focus on projecting a slew of initiatives implemented in the five years to spur growth across the sectors.

The economy is perhaps the biggest issue, with farming in crisis, unemployment on the rise and growing fears that India is heading for a recession.

And national security is in the spotlight after a suicide attack killed at least 40 paramilitary police in Indian-occupied Kashmir in February.

Gandhi, 48, attacked Modi over alleged corruption in a French defence deal and the plight of farmers, as well as on the economy.

Fake news and doctored images abounded, including of Gandhi and Modi having lunch with Imran Khan, prime minister of arch-rival Pakistan, as well as an image purporting to show Rahul's sister Priyanka intoxicated.

The conservative BJP has campaigned aggressively on Modi's strongman image and played up recent cross-border air strikes against Pakistan.

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