Exit polls and post-poll surveys at the end of assembly elections in five states Wednesday indicated only bad news for the Congress,any which way the ruling party at the Centre sought to view them.
The Congress,the polls said,will be routed in the four mainland states of Chhattisgarh,Madhya Pradesh,Rajasthan and Delhi,and will struggle to get a comfortable majority even in Mizoram.
The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government in Madhya Pradesh,they said,would retain the state while Vasundhara Raje would lead the BJP back to power in Rajasthan,snatching the state from the Congress with a comfortable majority.
As for Chhattisgarh,the surveys poured cold water on the hopes of the Congress to wrest the state from the BJPs Raman Singh. Four polls projected the BJP to be in control in the state,with only the India TV-C Voter survey suggesting a close contest between the Congress (41 seats) and BJP (44 seats) in the 90-member Assembly.
In Delhi,which was the last to vote on Wednesday,the surveys differed on the number of seats that would be won by the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal. But all of them agreed the Congress would lose the city-state as well.
The picture was not rosy for the Congress even in Mizoram,where the grand old party does not face the BJP or the AAP.
The India TV-C Voter survey projected the Congress would fall short of a majority,winning only 19 seats of the total 40,down from 32 last time. The opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) and Mizo Peoples Conference (MPC) alliance was shown winning 14 seats and the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) expected to bag five.
The message from all the polls and surveys was,however,unambiguous: along with local factors,a strong anti-Congress sentiment caused by inflation,poor economic performance and corruption charges prevailed in these states.
If these projections are confirmed on Sunday when votes are counted,the results will be a big blow for the Congress six months before the Lok Sabha elections and could demoralise its workers across the country.
On the other hand,they will provide a booster shot for the BJPs 2014 campaign led by Narendra Modi. In fact,a BJP win in the four Hindi heartland states could also push regional parties in the south and east – where the BJPs presence is not as strong – to seek an alliance with the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections to ride on its rising popularity.
For parties in the secular camp,which are already unnerved by the BJP campaign led by Modi,the results could force a rethink of political strategy to counter the saffron surge.
A Congress rout will also cast a shadow on the winter session of Parliament where the UPA government has a significant legislative agenda. The BJP,if it wins the four states,could seek to dictate the agenda and unsettle the government yet again.
Some Congress leaders,however,sought to portray a brave face despite the exit poll projections.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit rejected suggestions that the high voter turnout indicated strong anti-incumbency.
It is good that people in great numbers have participated in voting. But I cannot say about the results. I am not an astrologer to predict the result. Let us see what happens on December 8, she said referring to the exit polls. Congress is being projected down by everyone. They always do it. I will not talk about my assessment.