NEW DELHI, Dec 8: Voters in key Indian states produced a verdict on Sunday that mocked the exit polls and pricked a rightwing hoopla surrounding the rise of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi as a runaway winner of votes for next year’s general elections.
The final results of four state assemblies — Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — were due to be announced late on Sunday. The north-eastern tribal state of Mizoram will get its results on Monday.
Most exit polls, not known for their veracity or accuracy, were proved wrong again as the BJP struggled to win a clear majority in the Delhi assembly although the voters did end Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s rare three-term tenure.
Contrary to the pollsters’ prediction the mostly young voters chose the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as the close number two runner-up in Delhi.
In spite of not getting a majority the BJP is still expected to form the Delhi government as it has emerged as the single largest party.
On Thursday, an India Today-ORG exit poll had given the BJP 41 seats, a clear majority, and the AAP just six. It turned out that the BJP was struggling to get 36 seats on Sunday, while the AAP had secured close to 28 seats.
The Congress was given 20 seats in the exit polls. It got just eight.
“This is not my victory, but a victory of the voters of Delhi state assembly,” AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal said. He trounced Ms Dikshit in her own constituency.
The BJP retained its hold on India’s geographically largest state of Madhya Pradesh where Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, a popular backward caste leader, won with a handsome margin. None of the pollsters gave Mr Chouhan the large margin he got.
He was poised to win 158 seats and was initially a rival for Modi’s mantle as a prime ministerial candidate.
As the ruling party in the state, the BJP was leading in the tribal region of Chhattisgarh in a ding-dong fight with the Congress. Most opinion polls had given the BJP a clear victory, which was not the case.
In the border state of Rajasthan, where the Congress was set to lose power after losing its way with Muslim supporters, the BJP looked like a clear winner with about 157 seats in the 200-member assembly, way ahead of the poll predictions.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi said she was extremely disappointed with the results, attributing the loss to inflation. “We need to have deep introspection,” she said.
“Obviously people are unhappy…We need to take all the necessary action to improve our prospects for the future.”
The elections were seen as a semi-final race to the general elections due by mid-2014. The BJP has named Hindutva mascot and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.
His influence on Sunday’s outcome has ranged between minimal in Madhya Pradesh and negative in Delhi, though the BJP is not officially admitting to it.