Exit polls 2019: The seventh and last phase of the mammoth high-octane elections on Sunday, May 19 will bring to an end a more than two-month-long democratic exercise. The polling across 59 seats in seven states and one Union Territory will start at 7 am and end at 6 pm, after which it will be over to pollsters as they will start analysing the opinion polls and exit polls to get an idea about the possible outcome of the entire electoral process before the final verdict comes on May 23.

At the end of any election, pollsters take the centre stage as all eyes remain fixed on the figures of the exit polls. The Election Commission of India issues an advisory banning exit polls during a specified period. This time, the EC embargo period on exit polls started at 7 am on April 11, 2019, the first phase of polling.

The embargo on exit polls 2019 will be lifted at 6.30 pm on Sunday.

What are exit polls? 

An exit poll is done right after voting ends. As voter walk out of their booth after casting vote, they are asked who they voted for. A survey is done of the answers collected from different booths and the result usually indicates which party gets majority or whether any party gets majority to form the government at all. In India, a number of organisations conduct exit polls.  Exit poll results often predict the right outcome of an election, though many end up way off the mark.

READ | Lok Sabha elections 2019 Phase 7 | Key contenders, constituencies in 7 states, 1 UT

What is the difference between exit polls and opinion polls? 

In an exit poll, a voter is straightaway asked which party or candidate he or she voted for, while in an opinion poll, a voter is asked which party of candidate he or she plans to vote for.

Are exit polls reliable?

In 2014, when BJP swept the Lok Sabha elections getting full majority, most of the exit polls had given accurate figures. Exit polls, however, have not been this accurate always. In 2004, the exit polls had said the BJP-led NDA coalition would return to power, but it was the Congress that ultimately formed the government. In 2009 too, the polls had got the trends wrong.

A lot, however, depends on the fact whether the voter is telling the truth.

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EC on exit polls

The Election Commission had in 2004 urged the law ministry to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1951 seeking a a ban on both exit polls and opinion polls for a period during the elections. In 2010, the ministry accepted the representation in part, and imposed restrictions on exit polls, introducing Section 126(A) to the Act.

“The Commission is of the view that prediction of results of elections in any form or manner by way of predictions etc by astrologers, tarot readers, political analysts or by any persons during the prohibited period is violation of the spirit of Section 126A (of the Representation of the People Act) which aims to prevent the electors of constituencies still going to polls from being influenced in their voting by such predictions about the prospects of the various political parties,” reads the EC advisory for electronic and print media disallowing any article or programme related to dissemination of exit poll results during the prohibited period.

“Election Commission of India, in exercise of the powers under sub-section(1) of Section 126A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 has notified the period between 7.00 A.M. on 11.04.2019 (Thursday) and 6.30 P.M. on 19.05.2019 (Sunday) as the period during which conducting any exit poll and publishing or publicising the result of exit poll by means of the print or electronic media or in any other manner shall be prohibited,” the advisory reads.