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Exit polls swing mood in BJP camp

By A K Diwanji in New Delhi
December 02, 2003 21:28 IST
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The moods in the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress camps have undergone a major change after the exit polls revealed their findings.

These surveys' predictions are quite different from what the pre-election opinion polls had claimed as far as Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are concerned.

The opinion polls and the recent exit polls had both claimed that the BJP will win in Madhya Pradesh, while the Congress will sweep Delhi. But in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the earlier prediction of an easy Congress win has now given way to a BJP surge that might lead to a victory for the party in Chhattisgarh and a hung assembly in Rajasthan. And BJP leaders, who earlier claimed that such surveys had little meaning, are now seeing virtue in their findings!

"We are pleased at our efforts and the fact that most exit polls give the BJP an edge," said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the party spokesman. He pointed out that in the by-elections to the Bihar assembly, it was the BJP and its ally, the Janata Dal (United), that had won two of the three seats.

A BJP source said the party is happy that it was able to turn the anti-BJP trend around in the past week in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. "Certainly this will have a major impact at the Centre," he said.

The mood in the Congress camp was, predictably, diffident. In defence of their poor showing in the exit polls, a Congress leader pointed out that such polls tend to be very city-centric. "It is well-known that the BJP strength is in urban areas, while the Congress tends to be strong in rural areas. So such polls are not really indicative of what the final results will be," a senior Congress leader said.

The Congress can draw some consolation and the BJP a warning from the fact that when in 1998 virtually every opinion and exit poll predicted a BJP sweep in Madhya Pradesh (Chhattisgarh was then a part of Madhya Pradesh), the voters shocked the pollsters by voting for the Congress.

"This fact must be remembered," said the Congress leader, adding that the party is still confident of retaining Rajasthan.

Even the BJP source admitted that while favourable opinion and exit polls can be pleasing, they are no substitute for the final result.

The BJP source said the party believes that two factors did the trick in Rajasthan. First, the final round of public meetings by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a huge impact. Second, and perhaps more important, the involvement of Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat swung substantial votes in the party's favour.

Shekhawat was the chief minister of Rajasthan from 1989 to 1998 and the unchallenged leader of BJP in the state till he was elected vice president in 2002. He still wields vast influence in the party across the state.

In Chhattisgarh, the source said it was the Congress going overboard on the Dilip Singh Judeo tapes that went against it. The former environment minister was caught on camera taking cash from a person seeking mining rights in Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

"Let us face one fact squarely whether we like it or not," said the BJP source, "corruption is not the big issue that it is made out to be by the press. There are other more important issues that often take precedence over issues of corruption."

He pointed out that Jayalalithaa won handsomely in Tamil Nadu even while corruption cases were pending against her in courts.

Both parties have to wait till the morning of December 4 to know the final tally and then decide what they did right and where went wrong. The final results should be out by noon.

The final results will also tell us how reliable exit and opinion polls are.

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A K Diwanji in New Delhi