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.
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.