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Trends indicate INDIA maintaining 200+ seats, defying all exit poll predictions; how accurate have these surveys been since 2014?

Trends indicate INDIA maintaining 200+ seats, defying all exit poll predictions; how accurate have these surveys been since 2014?
The votes are in, the election commission is armed, and tallies are finally being made. As lakhs of viewers tune into their news to update themselves, many are coming away shocked at the current standings. Despite confident promises of capturing 400 of the 543 Indian seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has barely won a dozen or two seats more than the halfway mark of 272, as per the initial few rounds of counting.

This is still an impressive position to be in, and certainly enough to help the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) make another term. However, the overwhelming, yet lukewarm, support has inadvertently deflated the ‘Abki baar 400 paar’ chant echoed by the party throughout its campaigning. Further, this comes mere days after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called the slogan the ‘common man’s mantra’.
Exit polls gone wrong
Party conjecture aside, most exit polls had also predicted a landslide victory for the NDA, with some even predicting the party crossing the 400 marks, helping the alliance comfortably bring in a third term for current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, Congress leaders staunchly dismissed these findings, asserting that the INDIA alliance will achieve at least over 250 seats this election.

While exit polls have exercised a notoriously patchy reputation for delivering inaccurate findings in the past, the surveys might have gotten it wrong far more than usual this time around. For instance, the BJP has been predicted to win 400 seats by News 24-Today’s Chanakya poll, 358 as per Times Now-ETG, 392 per India V-CNX.

Times Now - ETG
Matrize - Republic36112656
Jan Ki Baat - NDTV
PMARQ - Republic35915430
India News - D-Dynamics37112547
Today's Chanakya - News2440010736
India TV38612433
Poll of polls36914331

However, the Modi-led alliance has yet to cross the 300 mark. If this trend holds, a majority government will form with BJP-led NDA acquiring slightly below 300 seats, almost mirroring exact forecasts by on-ground reporters and some political experts. However, this is quite in contrast with almost all exit polls this election season.

If the scorecard settles at the current mark, this will end up becoming the poorest performance for NDA since their historic win in 2014. The alliance came to power after winning an overwhelming 336 seats in 2014, and 353 seats in 2019.

However, the main point of shock has come from the performance of Congress and the INDIA bloc, who have maintained a steadfast 200+ seats since the initial polling rounds. Out of the nine odd exit polls that came out with results recently, none had predicted the INDIA bloc to win over 150-170 seats.

As the tallying moves into its final phases, let’s look at how exit polls performed in the previous election cycles.
2014 elections
In 2014, 834 million voters participated in the largest-ever elections worldwide — only to be surpassed by the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. An average of eight exit polls had indicated that the BJP would see a 283-seat victory, while the opposition would have had to settle for 105 seats.

Just as predicted, the BJP saw a landslide victory and swooped in 282 of the 543 seats, with a vote percentage of 31.3%. This win was a huge blow to the INC, which only won 44 seats compared to the 206 in 2009. Since a party must win at least 55 seats to become an official opposition party in India, the Congress’s defeat meant that there was no official opposition party for India.
2019 elections
The previous Lok Sabha elections turned out to be an even bigger win for the BJP! In 2019, exit polls had predicted that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance would peak at 306 and that the INC-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) would win just 120.

However, the post-poll statistics turned out to be underwhelming. The BJP won a whopping 37.36% of the vote — the highest by a political party since the 1989 general elections. It won 303 seats, while the NDA collectively won 352 seats. It was another crushing defeat for the Congress, which won just 52 seats, failing to claim the post of Leader of the Opposition once again.