Battle for Bihar: exit polls have merely deepened the suspense
Difficult to call
- Four of the six TV exit polls predict a narrow victory for the grand alliance in Bihar
- One predicts a slender win for the NDA, while one says the BJP-led combine will win in a landslide
- The agency predicting the landslide, Today\'s Chanakya, got the 2014 Lok Sabha spot on
- While others said it would be close, Chanakya said BJP alone would win 277+ seats. It won 282
More in the story
- What political analysts on the ground think about the exit polls
- Why the Today\'s Chanakya poll is a bit hard to digest
For months, the buzz surrounding the Bihar election has been that it's too close to call. Even on the ground, it's difficult to get a sense of which way the wind is blowing.
As the final round of polls drew to a close on Thursday, 5 November, the suspense remained. All eyes were on the television exit polls.
But even these have returned inconclusive, for the most part.
According to four of the six exit polls that have attempted to predict the outcome of the Bihar election, the grand alliance will clinch victory. The other two have declared that the NDA will win, of which one predicts a mind-boggling margin of 72 seats.
Exit polls by C-voter-India TV, Nielsen-ABP, News Nation and CNX-NewsX have given the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance 122, 130, 125 and 132 seats respectively out of the total 243.
The same polls have given the NDA 111, 108, 114 and 93 seats respectively, predicting a grand alliance victory by 11, 12, 5 and 39 seats.
On the other hand, an exit poll conducted by Cicero-India Today has given 117 seats to the grand alliance and 120 to the NDA, making the latter the winner by three seats.
But the sixth poll is predicting something completely different - the Today's Chanakya-News24 poll says the NDA will bag 155 seats and the grand alliance only 83. That means the BJP-led combine would win by a margin of 72 seats.
The average of all six numbers gives the grand alliance a very slender edge of just one seat, with 118 to the NDA's 117.
Chanakya got the 2014 Lok Sabha prediction spot on - it said BJP would get 277+, and it got 282
The Today's Chanakya poll left viewers and analysts scratching their heads. But, in a bid to prove its credentials, the agency recalled its biggest success on its Twitter handle.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, while most predicted a close contest, Chanakya had gone ahead and said the BJP alone would get a majority, with at least 277 seats. As it happened, Narendra Modi led the party to 282 seats on its own.
That's not to say Chanakya hasn't had its share of misses. But it's not as though others have been accurate every time.
Political analysts agree with the four exit polls that predict a slim win for the grand alliance
The experts' view
Catch spoke to several analysts, who were all in agreement that the polls giving a slender edge to the grand alliance seemed closer to the ground reality.
Well-known political activist Mahendra Suman said that psephology as a discipline hasn't matured in India yet, so exit polls often miss reading the verdict.
Having said that, he added, his own assessment was that the grand alliance did have an edge. Suman said the alliance took the lead in the first phase and consolidated it further in the second and fifth phases. Polling in the third and fourth phases, according to him, was a bit in the NDA's favour.
Five exit polls have predicted slender victories. Only Today's Chanakya shows a big win for NDA
Film critic and political analyst Vinod Anupam said the exit polls clearly show that voters were in a dilemma. According to him, most voters wanted Nitish to continue as CM, but did not want Lalu to return to the ruling dispensation. The fact that there wasn't any special hostility towards the BJP added to the dilemma.
However, Anupam noted, the BJP had erred in the beginning itself by making only Modi and party national president Amit Shah as the face of its campaign. After that, he felt, support for the BJP kept falling as the polls progressed.
Senior journalist Gyaneshwar also felt that most of the exit polls were close to the truth, except the one conducted by Today's Chanakya.
Gyaneshwar said he was conscious that the same agency had made quite accurate predictions earlier, but this time, its questions and conclusions sounded strange. Fifty-one percent anti-incumbency against Nitish, for example, was a fact hard to digest, he said, adding that people's anger with Nitish was only over aligning with Lalu.
"I do see an edge for the grand alliance," Gyaneshwar noted.
With such wide discrepancies, exit polls have turned the Bihar election into a nail-biting thriller. Counting day, 8 November, can't get here soon enough.