India’s main opposition Congress party has told its workers not to lose heart and to remain vigilant at vote-count centres after exit polls predicted a clear election victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The counting of votes cast in the seven-phase general election will take place tomorrow, with the result expected later that day.
Modi’s ruling coalition is projected to win between 339 and 365 seats in the 545-member lower house of parliament with a Congress-led opposition alliance getting only 77 to 108, an exit poll from India Today Axis showed on Sunday.
The ruling alliance, led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seems assured of victory.
Modi met leaders from his ruling alliance yesterday, receiving garlands and shawls from them in a show of optimism. Flanked by BJP president Amit Shah, Modi met cabinet ministers, party colleagues and dozens of the leaders from regional blocs that are part of the alliance.
But exit polls in India have proved misleading before and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the younger sister of party president Rahul Gandhi, urged party workers to ignore them, and to keep the faith.
“Don’t let rumours and exit polls discourage you. This is being spread to break your determination,” she said in an audio message late on Monday.
“This has further raised the need for you to remain alert. Please keep vigil outside strongrooms and counting centres. We are confident that our combined efforts will bear fruit,” she said, referring to centres where electronic voting machines are kept.
The staggered general election, billed as the world’s biggest democratic exercise with some 900 million eligible voters, began on April 11 and finished on Sunday.
The BJP says it is confident the final results will reflect the exit polls.
The BJP has also urged Congress to think about whether the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty still enjoys the support of the people.
The family has dominated politics since the British colonial rulers left in 1947, with three prime ministers.
But Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, a senior BJP member who would likely retain his role in a new Modi cabinet, said Congress could no longer rely on the family to win votes.
“Leaders are judged on merit and not on caste or family names,” Jaitley said in a Facebook post.
If the BJP wins another majority on its own as expected, it would be the first time a party has won back-to-back majorities in parliament since 1984.