With exit polls predicting saffron wave in Gujarat & HP, can Congress pull off an upset?

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The roller-coaster ride that was the Gujarat election is finally drawing to a close, but as we head towards the home stretch one can’t help but wonder if there is one last unexpected twist yet to come.

The exit poll results suggest that it will be a smooth finish for the BJP, which is expected to end up with anywhere between 106 and 135 seats in state assembly, depending on which exit poll you look at.

But if there is anything that our political history has taught us, the outcome of an election is certainly not a foregone conclusion and could surprise you at the eleventh hour. And what is telling is that even some of the BJP allies seem to think so.

Sanjay Kakade, a Member of Parliament (MP) representing Maharashtra in the Rajya Sabha, who was elected as an independent candidate but later joined the BJP, on Saturday said the party will not win enough seats in Gujarat to form a government.
“According to a survey by my team, BJP will not get majority in Gujarat… This is based on a survey among voters in both rural and urban areas,” Kakade told a TV channel in Pune. He added that the elections were not “fought on a plank of development… emotional issues occupied the prime slot.”

The Rajya Sabha MP’s views were also echoed by Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray. Despite being the head of one of BJP’s largest allies, Thackeray said he strongly disagreed with the outcome of the exit polls.

“There is a huge difference between the prevailing political atmosphere and the forecasts of these exit polls. They are not agreeable to us,” said the Sena boss, adding the outcome of the elections will come to light on Monday and, whatever it may be, everyone would have to accept the people’s verdict.

On its part, BJP spokesmen tried to put out the fire from within by saying everything will be clear once the election results are out. Anil Shirole, a BJP MP from Pune, said it had not been made clear whether Sanjay Kakade was a primary member of the party.

The Congress, on the other hand, has been very vehement in its refutation of the exit poll results. Party leader Shaktisinh Gohil on Friday pointed out that there have been many instances of exit polls being disproven and said that it will happen again on Monday.

Congress Rajya Sabha MP Rajiv Shukla also shared his two bits on the exit poll results, saying the actual results will be the complete opposite of what the exit polls are saying.

With all the drama going on around the Gujarat assembly elections, it isn’t immediately apparent if there has been any shift of power in the state. The words exchanged by members of both parties, the contrarian views expressed by members within the party, and the exit polls themselves have combined to form a very opaque smokescreen.

Whether Modi’s son-of-the-soil persona was good enough to woo voters even with him not being around in Gujarat any more, or whether Rahul Gandhi has managed to successfully exploit this gaping hole in the BJP’s leadership in the state, will only be made clear on Monday, when the counting of the votes takes place.

The battle in the hills

Although exit polls have predicted a massive victory for the BJP in Himachal Pradesh, sitting Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has gone on record to dismiss the findings of these polls.

Depending on which exit poll you go by, the BJP is expected to win between 38 and 55 seats in the state’s 68-member assembly.

Having contested the election from Arki instead of his former Shimla Rural seat, Singh returned to Shimla after a hiatus of two weeks. He said he could sense the mood of the people and that the actual results of the election would be quite different from the exit poll predictions.

“I am confident that ‘mission repeat’ would be achieved and tall claims made by the BJP would be proved wrong,” the CM said.

Meanwhile, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal, who has also been CM of Himachal Pradesh in the past, was highly optimistic about his chances to get back to his former role.

Speaking to the media from his residence in Samirpur, Dhumal said that the Congress’ tall claims were a result of the party’s disappointment with the exit polls. “In fact, the BJP would win more seats than predicted in the exit polls,” the former CM said.