Exit polls: Uttarakhand could swing either way, but BJP has a slight edge
The exit polls for Uttarakhand reflect the confusion that has dominated the assembly elections in the state that were held on 15 February.
While some of the exit polls give a distinct advantage to the BJP, prophesying its return to the power after a gap of five years, there are others that predict a photo finish.
More so, there is a vast variation in the number of seats each has given to the BJP and the Congress.
Predicting the numbers
On the one hand, Today's Chanakya–News 24 has given 53 seats to the BJP, 15 to the Congress and two to others in a house of 70 seats. On the other, India TV-C Voter has given 29 to 35 seats to both the Congress and the BJP while projecting two to nine seats for the others.
The India Today–Axis survey has given 46 to 53 seats to the BJP while giving 12 to 21 seats to the Congress; putting two to six seats in the kitty of others.
Another poll by CNN News 18-Gramener gives 38 seats to the BJP and 26 to the Congress while giving the rest to the others.
On similar lines, India News-MRC has stated that the BJP will romp home with 38 seats, while the Congress will follow with 30 seats. In terms of vote share it has given 40.2% to the BJP and 33.4% to the Congress while the others also garnered 26.4% votes.
A complex call
Who made to correct call will only be known on 11 March, but the election could wing any way in the hill state.
The one thing that cannot be refuted is that the BJP went into the battle with an edge. The first advantage in its favour was the traditional pattern of the state – over the past three elections, it has never voted to repeat a government.
In its attempt to dislodge the Harish Rawat government, it did manage to poach a majority of the top Congress leadership.
This led to a sort of crisis in the Congress. The leaders that crossed over to the BJP included several Congress heavyweights including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, former leader of opposition Harak Singh Rawat, former state Congress president Yashpal Arya etc.
A good fight
But Rawat managed to make a good fight of it.
For one, the manner in which it tried to dislodge an elected government led by Rawat did not go down well with the people. Even its absorption of the Congress leadership had its ramifications as it led to resentment among the RSS cadres and traditional BJP workers as the party had to give tickets to all of them or their wards.
And despite the fact that Rawat carried the baggage of anti-incumbency, he managed to counter it by highlighting the works he did in rehabilitation after the Kedarnath disaster of 2012.
He also managed to strike a chord with the people over him not being given a full tenure to prove himself – as he became Chief Minister of the state only half a term ago.
Whatever the result 11 March may hold, it should be noted that Rawat would go down a fighter who managed to take on the might of the entire BJP top brass almost single handedly. In fact, during peak poll season, there were no less than a dozen top BJP leaders from the Centre campaigning across the state on daily basis.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah tried its best to whip up nationalist sentiments by raking up the issue of surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC), its appointing the Army chief and national security adviser from the state.
It even played up its narratives on demonetisation in the hill districts where the people had still not comprehended the impacts despite a large number of youth having returned home from the plains after having lost their jobs.
What needs to be seen is that how will the demonetisation play out in the plains and Terai where it was a major issue - areas where the Congress is looking to make major gains.
Rawat had contested from the two seats of Haridwar (Rural) and Kiccha in these areas with a view to consolidate the Congress base here. The Congress expects his home turf of Kumaon to deliver the rest here.
In Garhwal, the BJP had an edge but it remains to be seen how it performs elsewhere. With both the parties having gone in for large scale poaching from rival camps and fielding these poached leaders there was a clear confusion among the electorate whether to vote for the candidate or his original parent party.
It will, as always for the state, be a close call. But this election, the predictions could go either way. Eventually, the party with the slight edge may just have to form the government with a little help from the outside.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu