Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party is likely to lose two heartland states while a third is too close to call, exit polls showed yesterday in the final test of popularity before a national election due by May next year.
Surveys broadcast at the end of voting for five state assemblies showed the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trailing behind the rival Congress party in some areas.
The actual votes will be counted on Tuesday, and exit polls have been wrong in the past, partly because of the sheer scale of Indian elections involving millions of votes.
Still, nearly all the polls showed that the Congress - led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family - will win a clear majority in western Rajasthan state and scrape through in eastern Chhattisgarh, according a survey of surveys pulled together by NDTV.
In Madhya Pradesh, the same polls suggested the BJP and the Congress were locked in a fight down to the wire.
The combined surveys showed the BJP winning 110 seats, the Congress 108, and smaller groups 12 in the 230-member house. To rule, a party requires 116 seats.
The three states are part of the northern Hindi belt, a bastion of the ruling Hindu nationalists.
“The BJP is struggling everywhere, for all its bravado,” said Juhi Singh, a spokesman of the regional Samajwadi Party.
Modi, who came to power with a sweeping majority in 2014, has been praised for improving governance and cutting some red tape, but has been criticised for failing to create enough jobs for the thousands of young people entering the jobs market every month.
He has also faced criticism for allowing hardliners in his party to undermine India’s secular foundations.
Foreign investors who largely remain bullish on India’s long-term prospects, are watching the state polls closely for clues to the national vote.
“The result would be consistent with what most polls are showing: that we are heading for hung parliament,” said Jan Dehn, head of research at emerging markets fund manager Ashmore.
“The market may discount the results a little bit given these are state elections and there are often protest votes.”
But a divided parliament would make it difficult for the incoming government to carry out reforms in the banking sector and other areas, he said.
Exit polls yesterday predicted a Congress victory in Rajasthan and Chattisgarh state Assembly elections.
According to the exit polls, the Congress victory in Rajasthan represents a trend in the state that has not re-elected the party in power for a second term in the last 20 years.
In the 200-seat Rajasthan Assembly, the India Today-Axis My India survey predicted that the Congress was set to sweep the polls, winning between 119 and 141 seats with a vote share of 42%.
The survey predicted that the BJP may get 55-72 seats with a 37% vote share.
The Republic TV-CVoter predicted that the Congress would get 81-101 seats and the BJP 83-103 seats.
Another survey by The Times Now-CNX predicted that the Congress was likely to win 105 seats and the BJP 85 seats. According to the survey, the BSP may get seven seats while two may go to “Others”.
A survey by News24 gave the Congress a clear majority (110-120 seats) while the BJP was likely to win 70-80 seats.
Overall 72.65% voting was recorded in Rajasthan when polling in the Assembly elections came to a close yesterday. The elections were largely peaceful barring a few sporadic incidents of violence.
Meanwhile, in Chhattisgarh the Congress is likely to get enough seats to form a government after spending 15 years in the opposition, a majority of exit polls predicted yesterday.
According to India Today-Axis My India, the Congress would bag 55-65 seats in the 90-member Assembly while the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) share would reduce to 21-31 seats.
Republic-C-Voters also predicted a victory for Congress on 40-50 seats and said the BJP would win 35-43 seats.
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