All exit polls show BJP winning Gujarat elections, defeating Congress in Himachal

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to retain power in Gujarat and trounce the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, exit polls said on December 14.
Seven exit polls said the BJP will cross the majority mark in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. The saffron party has ruled the state for almost two decades but is battling an agrarian crisis and violent protests from its loyal Patidar votebank this time. One exit poll said the party will better its performance from the 2012 election.
Four exit polls predicted the BJP was headed for a crushing victory in Himachal Pradesh, where governments have traditionally changed every five years and where the Congress government was facing charges of corruption and poor law and order. Two others gave the saffron party a comfortable majority.
Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh voted separately over the past two months with the former’s two-phase polls ending on December 14 to close a bitter campaign. Results for both states will be announced on December 18.
Exit polls have gone wrong frequently in the past, especially in states with complex caste and community dynamics. Pollsters got their seat predictions wrong in the assembly elections in Bihar and Delhi in 2015, and in Uttar Pradesh in 2017.
If the exit poll results hold true on counting day, it will buoy Modi, who led the BJP from the front in both states, and embolden him to continue with his economic reforms agenda. It will also be a setback to Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi, who assumes charge of his party on Saturday.
Victory in the two states will provide a shot in the arm for the BJP before assembly elections in a clutch of states – including Karnataka, the last big state ruled by the Congress – in the first half of the next year.
Moreover, it will put the BJP, along with its allies, in charge of 19 of India’s 29 states. The Congress will be left with just five.
Gujarat has 182 seats with the majority mark at 92. Himachal Pradesh has 68 seats with the majority mark at 35.
In 2012, the BJP won 115 seats in Gujarat and the Congress 61. In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 26.
“Given the under assessment of BJP in exit polls, we expect the victory to be bigger than what is projected in exit polls, all of which have predicted a victory for us in Gujarat and HImachal Pradesh,” said BJP spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao.
The Congress was skeptical about the predictions with party spokesperson Shobha Oza saying exit polls have proved wrong in elections before. “I don’t know how much you trust the exit polls…definitely we are winning in Gujarat,” she said.
Campaigning was especially fierce in Gujarat, where development issues gave way to personal attacks in the closing days of the election. The Congress had hoped to ride on the support of the Patidar community, who are seemingly angry with the BJP over denial of quotas, and discontent among some sections over the Goods and Services Tax.
Patidar leader Hardik Patel, along with Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, had hoped to hurt the BJP. But exit polls suggested the troika might not have had a big impact and may only help improve the Congress tally marginally.
In Himachal Pradesh, where ageing six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was battling anti-incumbency, his principal challenger and BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal was projected to have won big across all regions of the state.

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