The first casualty on the day after exit polls predicted a sweeping victory for BJP and its allies was the poll conducted by Axis My India for the India Today group. The polling agency took down its seat by seat projection from its website because of glaring errors.

Errors included gaffes like wrong names for the five Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttarakhand. The agency also predicted that the Congress would win the Chennai Central seat in Tamil Nadu. In fact, the Congress has not contested the seat. The DMK did.

Worse, it listed 109 seats as tough contests where the winning margin would be less than three percent. It put in a disclaimer absolving itself of all responsibility for wrongly predicting the result in these seats, saying its prediction is based on the popularity of the parties contesting, not the individual. So, if an individual wins or loses, the agency cannot be held responsible.

Although it held on to its overall prediction of a massive sweep for NDA, it has obviously developed cold feet about its state-wise forecast. This comes amid claims by the pollster and its media sponsor that the exit poll is based on the largest ever sample size of 7 lakh respondents.

Can we really trust exit polls after this?

A female face?

BJP president Amit Shah may have inadvertently sparked off an internal war in the Bengal unit of the party. It seems that he met with some Bengali “intellectuals” at night following the violence at Kolkata’s Vidyasagar College and he made some comments that have created a cleavage in the party.

The comments came in response to a question on the perception that the BJP in Bengal is seen as a north Indian party because it lacks strong, prominent local leaders. Shah retorted that this is a wrong perception. He said the BJP has many good leaders in Bengal and some of them are women. He indicated that the party may project one of these women leaders as its chief ministerial face against Mamata Banerjee for the next assembly election in 2021.

His remarks set off a mini storm in the party amid speculation on which woman leader he was referring to. The consensus was that Shah could have been referring to Ramayana TV serial star Rupa Ganguli who is considered a favourite of the BJP central leadership.

The backlash came the next day which was the last day of campaigning in Bengal. Bengal BJP office bearers did not allow Ganguli to campaign. And when Narendra Modi landed in Bengal to address two rallies, they stopped her from joining him on the dais. Her absence was noted by journalists covering Modi’s rallies because Ganguli has been a regular fixture on the stage with the PM.

Milking sympathy

Dismissed BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav, who was supposed to contest against Narendra Modi, became something of an icon among young members of his community during the election campaign. Yadav was prevented from contesting as the gathbandhan candidate for Varanasi after the returning officer rejected his nomination papers on the ground that he had been dismissed from service.

The rejection seems to have generated a wave of sympathy for him. SP chief Akhilesh Yadav milked it as much as he could. He provided the ex-BSF jawan a car and managers and told him to campaign in the Yadav belts in eastern UP.

He even called him up on stage at the gathbandhan’s joint rally in Ghazipur recently and introduced him. Tej Bahadur Yadav was given a rousing welcome and a standing ovation by the crowd. In fact, Akhilesh played the caste card everywhere. He attacked the BJP for being a party of the upper castes and reminded his audience about the purification rituals Yogi Adityanath conducted at the chief minister’s official residence in Lucknow before he moved in to “cleanse” it after Akhilesh had lived there for five years.

Deol a draw

Although there seems to be a Congress wave in Punjab, ageing Bollywood star Sunny Deol unnerved the Congress camps because of the huge crowds he drew in Gurdaspur from where he is contesting as a BJP candidate.

Gurdaspur was so excited about having a celebrity in its midst that even Congress workers were charged up. They too attended Deol’s roadshows to catch a glimpse of the star.

The Congress candidate is veteran politician Sunil Jakkhar, son of late Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakkhar. He commands enormous respect in Punjab and had won the Gurdaspur seat in a byeelection by a huge margin following the death of sitting BJP MP and Bollywood star Vinod Khanna.

In fact, Dharmendra almost lost his son the election with a statement praising Jakkhar. He said he would never have allowed Deol to contest had he known who the Congress candidate was. He recalled his family’s relationship with Balram Jakkhar.

Bu after this hiccup, Deol seemed to recover and campaigned with verve. They say voters in Gurdaspur are enamoured of having a Bollywood star represent them because they feel that Deol will buy a house in the area and visit frequently. They are missing Vinod Khanna’s star presence.

But analysts say that although Deol attracted crowds, the votes will go to Jakkhar who is considered a good and responsive MP.