Exit polls have to be taken with a pinch of salt, because there are enough incidents when these have been seriously mistaken. This is despite the fact that, often enough they are spot on, particularly regarding the general direction of the mandate. The confusion often arises when it is a mixed verdict and it becomes difficult to interpret the data, either way.
In the case of the elections to the 17th Lok Sabha, the exit polls are pointing only in one direction, but the opposition parties, led by the Congress, have pooh-poohed the results, claiming the ‘silent voter’ has not been heard. They are confident that the actual results on 23 May will be in their favour. They are perfectly entitled to make this claim. However, had the exit polls been in their favour and the results against them, would they have readily accepted that? It would then have all been about EVM rigging, etc. The exit polls would suddenly have acquired extraordinary credibility! In fact, Mamata Banerjee has even gone a step further and alleged the EVMs are already rigged and the exit polls are a preparation of the public mood to establish the fraud. She is convinced the whole world is against her!
Although the BJP and its allies are pleased with the indications, there have been no celebrations. They too are fully aware of the fallibility of the exit polls. As such, taking no chances, they are reportedly already readying for Plan ‘B’ – what is to be done should the numbers fall short. Having fought a hard campaign, power will not be allowed to slide out of their hands so easily. If the trend is what the exit polls say, but the numbers are smaller, the likely neutral parties will be approached – those that are opposed to UPA allies at the regional level. In fact, it is possible that some pre-poll arrangements have already been put in place.
Generally, though, the people are not surprised by what has been thrown up. The stock market made a thousand point surge, as brokers rushed to take advantageous positions. The comfort with which the likelihood of the Kedarnath ascetic’s return has been accepted indicates what has been the possible mood of the electorate. The whys and wherefores of the mandate can only be commented on when the actual results come out, but it would seem that the Indian voter has reached yet another level of maturity in India’s continuing democratic exercise.