Exit polls predict win for Stalin, Pinarayi; cliffhanger in Bengal

The polls predicted a sweep for the DMK in Tamil Nadu, signalling the emergence of MK Stalin and an unprecedented return to power for Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala, reports Asian Lite News.

Exit polls for the latest round of assembly elections on Thursday predicted outcomes along expected lines in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, but seemed to suggest that West Bengal may be too close to call.

The polls predicted a sweep for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu, signalling the emergence of MK Stalin, 62, as one of the most powerful regional leaders in the country; an unprecedented return to power for the Left Democratic Front (LDF), headed by Pinarayi Vijayan, in Kerala; and a successful defence by the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam. But West Bengal, arguably the most intensely and bitterly fought state election in recent times, is also emerging the tightest, the polls indicated.

Some polls gave the BJP, which pulled out all stops in its campaign, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah leading from the front, the edge. Others pointed to an advantage for the incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC). The truth will emerge on May 2, when votes are counted.

Opinion polls have been horribly wrong in the past, although, sometimes, they have also been prescient.

The BJP’s general secretary in charge of West Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya, said the party would form the government in the state. He attributed the indecisive opinion polls to the research firms’ lack of familiarity with the state, people’s fear of “voicing opinions freely” in a state with a culture of political violence, and the presence of a large number of “silent voters”.

The TMC’s Samir Chakraborty chose only to look at polls that gave an edge to his party. “TMC is getting a majority despite Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, and top BJP leaders making Bengal their base camp,” he said.

If the BJP manages to pull off a win, it will a remarkable achievement for a party that won only three of the 294 assembly seats in 2016, although it won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2019. The party has long considered Bengal the last frontier, and a win in the state will complete its dominance of the east.

If the TMC manages to hold on — whichever party wins, the margin, if the opinion polls are any indication, will be slim — it will a remarkable achievement for chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whose party was weakened by desertions, faced significant anti-incumbency, and appeared to be behind the BJP for much of the campaign.

It will also elevate her standing in any anti-BJP grouping that coalesces at the national level.

Any such grouping will also have to make space for Stalin, fighting his first assembly election as leader of the party, although he did lead it to a sweep in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 (the DMK-led alliance won 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state). It also means the Dravidian movement, bereft of a leader after the deaths of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK’s) J Jayalalithaa and the DMK’s Muthuvel Karunanidhi, gets a new icon.

The polls also predicted the return to power of the BJP and the LDF in Assam and Kerala, respectively. Both were anticipated.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) was criticised for the eight-phase elections in West Bengal, which meant campaigning continued as cases continued to rise, with all parties flouting Covid-19 safety protocol. Elections in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Kerala, were held in one phase on April 6, and that in Assam, in three phases on March 27, April 1, and April 6.

Now it’s on to Sunday when all eyes will be on West Bengal.

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