Voters wait in queues to cast their vote for the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly Elections, in Ahmedabad on Monday Image Credit: ANI

Exit polls are in. If you believe them (that should be a giant “if”), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will sweep Gujarat, continuing its unbroken record of 27 years at the state box office, while the Congress could be headed for a photo finish with the BJP in Himachal Pradesh.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is all set to make blockbuster gains in Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls as per exit polls. This is good news to all parties and most importantly the channels, which use them as advertising drivers.

Essentially, my dear SWAT analysis readers, they can be best described as “infotainment” as most news is in today’s India. The best of them have repeatedly read elections all wrong and even apologised on national television -- only to bounce back and back the data with the same fervour.

Luck and catching a voter trend has a lot to do with successful poll casting because in a country with a billion plus population, how do you get even get a sample size to reflect the Indian voter?

Modi Gujarat polls
Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters on his way to the polling booth to cast his vote for the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections, in Ahmedabad on Monday, December 5, 2022. Image Credit: ANI

Modi's elections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inextricably linked himself with Gujarati “Asmita” (pride). As a two term Prime Minister, he is regarded as a Gujarati Gaurav.

Sensing the AAP threat, Amit Shah -- the BJP’s electoral totem -- took total charge of the Gujarat campaign. These results can be read as a verdict on the inseparable duo of Modi and Shah. The PM addressed a record number of 31 public meetings in Gujarat. For BJP, the Gujarati voter was voting for Modi -- their man in Delhi.

In 2017 when the Congress came closest to unseating the BJP in Gujarat, it had gotten its three point aggrieved caste strategy on point. Then Hardik Patel represented the angry “Patidar” (landlord and agrarian caste ), Alpesh Thakor represented the angry farmer and Jignesh Mevani, the disempowered Dalit.

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Except Mevani, the other two are in the BJP and have lost all remaining credibility. Rahul Gandhi, the then Congress president, had promised to visit Gujarat every month and take up the grievances of the Gujaratis.

Gandhi did not keep his promise and today Gujarat’s famous bi-polar polity has been breached by AAP -- India’s most successful political start up.

As I repeatedly point out to you, dear readers, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP does politics on BJP’s terms and actually in most states where it is successful (Delhi and Punjab), it simply hoovers up the votes of an enfeebled Congress party. Even if AAP wins a couple of seats in Gujarat, it should worry the Congress -- currently in seemingly terminal decline.

Anticipation of the AAP as an opposition got the BJP bigging up the Congress as the preferred opposition in Gujarat and that should tell you all about the Congress’ fighting chops in any election.

If exit polls are correct on Delhi, then AAP will be in charge of the MCD Image Credit: Supplied

If the Congress manages to win Himachal Pradesh, some of the credit ought to go to Priyanka Gandhi who has been keeping a low profile but, running a tight campaign in the state. Gandhi kept the family flag aloft and also addressed public meetings.

The BJP, by contrast, mounted a high voltage campaign overwhelmingly helmed by party President J P Nadda, who is a Himachal Pradesh native. He called all the shots and will be answerable to Modi and Shah post-results. Some of his decisions were viewed as controversial as his loyalists benefited overwhelmingly in the ticket distribution.

If exit polls are correct on Delhi, then AAP will be in charge of the MCD and shall have zero alibis for not sorting out the woes of India’s capital. If the polls prove correct, it also showcases how national parties destroy their state wings by not empowering and embracing local leadership.

For instance, BJP has imposed Manoj Tiwari on Delhi and virtually destroyed local leaders like Dr Harshvardhan, who was dropped from the Modi cabinet as union health minister. After the death of the charismatic Sheila Dikshit, the Congress seems to have withered away in Delhi.

So enjoy the exit polls but await SWAT analysis for the real results.