Past exit polls were wide of the final tally

Though exit polls have predicted return of BJP-led NDA to power at the Centre, these exercises have been quite off the mark when the results of four LokSabha elections in the past were announced.

Take the example of 1999 polls when the 13-month old
AtalBihari Vajpayee’s led government fell, necessitating the election.

That time while the exit poll by three different agencies
gave BJP and its allies 336 seats, 332 seats and 329 seats, the Congress and
its allies were predicted to get 146 seats, 145 seats and 138 seats
respectively.

But when the final poll result came, the BJP+ couldn’t even
cross 300-mark. It got 296 seats, though the party went on to form the
government. The Congress and its allies got 134 seats–the number was somewhat
close to the predictions.

Finally, the BJP went on to form the government under the
leadership of Vajpayee. In 2004, when BJP was riding the ‘India Shining’ wave,
nobody could have thought that the Vajpayee government will not return to the
power.

Expecting a landslide victory, the BJP had even preponed the
elections as they were confident of returning to power.

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Their expectations were backed by the exit polls, which had
given BJP seats in the range of 275 to 290. On the other had the seat tally for
the Congress was predicted between 169 seats and 205 seats.

But when the official results were declared, it left many
surprised. The BJP+ was reduced to 189 seats and lost power. The Congress and
its allies got 222 seats and went on to form the government under the
leadership of Manmohan Singh.

When India went to next elections in 2009, the Congress-led
government was facing anti-incumbency and BJP was in a resurgent mood.

It was being perceived that BJP could win the elections. The
exit polls reflected it as well. Again three different exit polls gave BJP+
seats varying from 177 to 197, while as the Congress+ was predicted to get
total number of seats varying from 199 to 216 seats. These polls had predicted
a hung parliament.

But again the exit polls proved wrong and the BJP was
reduced to 159 seats and Congress performed better than the previous polls,
getting 262 seats and returning to power.

In 2014, when the Congress-led UPA was facing both anti-incumbency
and massive corruption charges and it was almost sure that Congress won’t
return to power, the exit polls predicted the highest of 280 seats and lowest
of 249 seats for BJP and its allies.

The Congress and its allies were predicted to get highest of
148 seats and the lowest of 97 seats.

But this time again the official results were different. The
BJP and its allies finally got 336 seats, while the Congress and its allies
were reduced to 59 seats.

Today the exit polls have again predicted that BJP and its
allies could perform far better compared to previous election and have been
predicted to win the majority comfortably by at least 14 bodies.

The exit polls have predicted Congress and its allies could
132 at maximum. But given the credibility of these exit polls in the past, many
would be waiting with bated breath for May 23.

-GK

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