Come Sunday, the entirenation will be glued to TV from evening to see the exit polls beaming fromalmost all TV channels of India and India will have an idea what is in thestore when on may 23 actual votes will be counted.
But the question is howfar the exit polls are correct and how now they have been able to predict thevoting.
It all started in themid-1980s when election surveys were conducted . Election surveys and laterexit polls began gaining traction in India in the mid-1980s when charteredaccountant-turned-journalist Pranoy Roy conducted opinion polls to gaugevoters' mood in the election. In the initial years, exit polls were publishedin magazines with India Today playing the leader.
But the actual exit pollbegan in 1996, 13 years from now.
It was the publicbroadcaster Doordarshan commissioned the exit polls, which were conducted bythe Centre for the Study of Developing Societies The CSDS exit polls predicteda fractured mandate, which was an accurate assessment.
The BJP emerged as thesingle-largest party but well short of a majority. Atal Bihari Vajpayee formedthe government after being invited by the President. He resigned in 13 days andwas followed by HD Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral in quick succession.
In 1998 the top fourelection surveys India Today/CSDS, DRS, Outlook/AC Nielsen and Frontline/CMSshowed the BJP-led NDA emerging clear favourite but falling short of themajority mark of 272 seats in the 1998 Lok Sabha poll. The result varied from214 to 249 for the NDA while the Congress-led alliance was predicted to win145-164 seats.
Eventually, the NDA won252 while the Congress got 166 seats in the Lok Sabha election in 1998.
in 1999, almost all thepolls overestimated the victory of the BJP-led coalition under Atal BihariVajpayee. All the major election surveys by India Today/Insight, HT-AC Nielsen,Times poll/DRS, Pioneer-RDI and Outlook/CMS predicted more than 300 seats forthe BJP and its alliance partners.
The NDA won acomfortable majority in the Lok Sabha but fell four short of 300-mark in thehouse.
The Congress-plus wassomewhat accurately predicted to win between 132 and 150 seats. The coalitiongot 134 seats. The poll surveys failed to correctly estimate the influence ofthird force, which got 113 against the prediction of as low as 34 and a high of95 seats.
In 2004 it was acomplete failure of the exit poll to gauge the mood. All the exit polls predicted the easy returnof the Vajpayee government with half of them awarding simple majority to theNDA.
Eventually, the NDAcould not cross the 200-mark. It was reduced to 189. The Congress-led coalitionwon 222 and ran a coalition government.
It was a bad day forexit poll in 2009. The exit polls suggested a tough fight between the rulingUPA and challenger NDA with Nielsen's survey giving 199 and 197 seats to thetwo blocks respectively.
In the actual results,the UPA won 262 seats, and the NDA got 159, and the exit polls suffered amassive loss of credibility.
In 2014 Lok Sabhaelection, exit polls were successful could successfully sense a Modi wavepredict a win for the BJP-led NDA. Almost all the exit polls showed the NDA'seasy victory. while one of them, the most accurate one, predicted 291 seats forthe BJP and 340 for the NDA.
Eventually, when theresults were announced, the BJP got 282 seats and the NDA won 336 in the543-member Lok Sabha. However, the exitpoll could not foresee Congress's downslide. All but one predicted 100-135seats but Congress won 44 and UPA gotjust 59.
Now on Sunday eveninganother set of exit poll results will come and let's see how far the pollstersare correct this time.