Polling officials seal an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine at a polling station after the end of the last phase of the general election in Kolkata, on May 19, 2019. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Statutory warning: Exit polls have gone wrong in the past, not just in India but elsewhere too. Just this weekend, all pollsters predicted a narrow win for Australia Labor Party. But the results have shocked everyone, some analysts saying it is more shocking than the surprise victory of US President Donald Trump.

Having said that, let’s see how polls on Sunday predicted the outcome of Indian elections ahead of the results on May 23. Most exit polls predict a comfortable majority for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If Modi achieves this feat, this will be the first time a ruling party with absolute majority would be winning a second consecutive elections in India in decades. Modi’s predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh had also won two consecutive elections — 2004 and 2009 — but his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in the minority and needed the support of other parties to rule for ten years.

How the pendulum swings

Before we analyse what this spectacular victory would mean for Modi, his opponents and India, lets also look at the band of numbers projected by pollsters — the arc drawn by the pendulum. India Today-Axis with the largest sample base of almost 800,000 voters in 542 seats has predicted up to 365 seats for the NDA while at the other end ABP-Neilson is predicting a total of 277 seats, a gap of 88 seats.

Similarly, when you look at the state-wise projections, numbers vary in key battleground states. For example, NDA seats for the trophy state of Uttar Pradesh vary from 68 seats to 33. In other states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra seats for NDA vary from one pollster to another.

Modi and opponents

Most exit polls say Modi is returning to power with a comfortable majority and to say these results will be devastating for the opposition would be an understatement. The opposition, united in some states, fractured in others, was hoping to halt the Modi juggernaut in its tracks and stop him from becoming the prime minister again. The exit poll results have clearly dashed their hopes and the opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi will have to go back to the drawing board and count the own goals and blunders. The biggest losers are likely to be the regional heavyweights like Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav who were expecting to prop up a non-NDA government.

What this means for India

The southern states, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana are the only states where Modi’s magic is not working. For the rest of the country, from the western states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan to the entire northern and north-eastern stretch, Modi is emerging as the tallest leader. Even in the eastern state of West Bengal, once a left stronghold and currently ruled by Mamata, the NDA appears to have breached the opposition fortress.

Finally, if these numbers are true, it is clear that the voter in vast swathes of India have changed and want a strong leader on the PM’s chair. This would be clear victory for only one man — Narendra Damodardas Modi.