Why even BJP may not believe the exit polls predicting a win in Manipur
Exit polls have a chequered history and the 2015 Bihar Assembly election was a case in point wherein almost every pollster predicted a win for BJP. However, when the results were announced, all pollsters were dumbfounded after the Grand Alliance managed to upstage the BJP. A similar exercise was undertaken today by multiple pollsters who are predicting a close contest between the BJP and the Congress in north-eastern state of Manipur.
Interestingly, even BJP leaders from the state are not confident of defeating the three time Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh. However, according to Times Now CVoter exit polls, BJP leads the tally with 25-31 seats, followed by Congress with 17-23 seats. Similarly, NewsX-MRC exit poll has given a slight edge to the BJP with 25 seats with Congress in second position with 17-23 seats and others managing 9-15 seats.
If these poll predictions come true, it would be a major setback for the Congress who has been ruling the state for the last 15 years and had managed to win 42 of the 60 seats in the 2102 assembly elections. As far as BJP is concerned, it should be ecstatic with its performance considering it didn't even manage to win a single seat in 2012.
Moreover, this would bring BJP closer to realising its dream of a Congress free North-East under the leadership of former Congress heavyweight Himanta Biswa Sarma, who joined the saffron party after being snubbed by Rahul Gandhi. Combined with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity, Sarma has been working tirelessly to topple one Congress after another in the north-east. In fact, BJP has already managed to wrest control of Congress ruled states like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
However, the grand old party should take hope from the India Today-My Axis exit poll which predicted 30-36 seats to Congress, 16-22 to BJP and 3-6 to others. The CNN- News 18 Gramener poll of polls suggests a close contest between the two parties with Congress winning 24, BJP 25 and others 11. If this prediction comes true, then BJP is likely to form the government considering the others include the Naga Peoples' Front, the ruling party in Nagaland, and a BJP ally.
Elections were held in Manipur in two phases on 4 March and 8 March which saw a turnout of 85.5% and 86%, respectively. The major political parties contesting in the Manipur Assembly elections include - Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Left Democratic Front, Naga People's Front and newly formed Irom Sharmila's People's Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA).
It is to be noted that the Ibobi government was banking on the anti-Naga sentiment amongst the dominant Meiteis to win them the elections. Meities were upset with the Nagas over the economic blockade they have imposed on Imphal Valley leading to normal life being thrown out of gear and the prices of essential commodities sky rocketing. Nagas imposed the blockade after the three time chief minister decided to carve out seven new districts from Naga inhabited lands in Manipur.
Thereafter, Congress was successful in creating the impression that the Nagas had a secret deal with the central government and that the territorial integrity of Manipur was under threat. This ploy changed the political narrative and, suddenly, the Congress, which had been all but ruled out of making a comeback, was back in the game. The BJP, on the other hand, found itself in a catch-22 situation – it could not criticise the creation of new districts for fear of alienating the Meiteis; it could not take a critical stand on the economic blockade lest it jeopardise the Naga peace process.
Under these circumstances, the possibility of BJP forming the government was completely ruled out even by party's own strategists. However, these exit polls must come as surprise to all those who have been watching the state politics unfold before the elections. If these predictions do come true, it would be major boost for the BJP that had almost given up on Manipur.