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Exit polls predict second term for Modi

‘BJP will retain its strongholds in the north and west and make considerable gains in West Bengal’

All exit polls released at the conclusion of the seven-phase 17th general election predicted a second term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.

Most polls indicated minor to considerable setback for Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh where it won 71 of 80 seats in 2014, but they were in agreement that the party would firmly hold on to its strongholds in the north and west and make considerable gains in West Bengal.

Trailing in south

In southern States barring Karnataka, the BJP is projected to trail far behind opponents. The Congress and its allies are projected to make significant gains compared to the historic low they hit in 2014, but will end up some distance away from the halfway mark of 272 seats in the 543-strong Lok Sabha, according to these polls.

The polls predicted between 242 to 365 for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and between 77 and 164 for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Parties that are unattached to either side, which include the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) whose coalition in Uttar Pradesh is resisting the BJP, could get between 69 and 125 seats, according to various polls.

Exit polls have a long history of going wrong in India. According to Praveen Chakravarty, chairperson of the Congress Data Analytics Department, who compared exit polls with actual outcomes posted on Twitter: “~80% of exit poll seat predictions for all parties in large state elections since 2014 are wrong.” Exit polls are generally considered more accurate than opinion polls conducted before actual voting.

Around the world also, the credibility of opinion polls and exit polls has taken a beating in recent years.

Almost all polls in the Australian election last week got the outcome wrong, and similar was the fate of polls during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Brexit. But what is common between these polls that went wrong was that all of them under-reported the support for conservative and ultra-nationalist positions. Indian exit polls on Sunday uniformly predicted a massive surge in favour of the Hindu nationalist BJP.

The exit poll projections indicate that Mr. Modi’s campaign to turn the election into a referendum on his persona rather than the performance of his five-year term has been successful.

Jobs were less of a concern during elections

Rafale controversy did not register with voters, finds post-election survey

Economic issues, including “unemployment”, were less salient in determining voter choice over the course of the election, Lokniti’s post-poll survey found in comparison to its pre-poll results published jointly by The Hindu in the run-up to the election.

Those who mentioned “economic issues” related to unemployment, the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), price rise and poverty as key concerns fell from a high of 38% in the pre-poll to 25% in the post-poll survey. Only 12% of the respondents identified unemployment as the most important issue, a drop of nine percentage points from the pre-poll survey.

Significant drop

The drop in these numbers are significant as the bulk of those who reported economic issues as key concerns were more likely to support the Opposition and the United Progressive Alliance.

The post-poll survey also found that while awareness of the Congress’s flagship minimum income promise, the NYAY scheme, had increased over the course of the election, a significant section of the poor — the targeted recipients — had yet to learn about it. The Congress’s attempt to bring “corruption” as a key plank in relation to the Rafale deal also did not quite register, the survey found. While only half of the respondents had heard of the controversy, less than half among them felt that there was wrongdoing by the government. In other words, the Rafale controversy did not quite have an impact as the Congress expected.

BJP should consider expelling Pragya: Nitish

‘Her remark on Godse condemnable’

Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar on Sunday condemned BJP Bhopal candidate Pragya Thakur’s controversial remark referring to Nathuram Godse, assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, as a deshbhakt (patriot).

Asked whether Ms. Thakur should be expelled from the BJP, Mr. Kumar said, “it must be considered.” However, he added, “it’s an internal matter of the BJP.”

He was speaking to journalists after casting his vote at a government school near the Raj Bhavan here.

“This is condemnable... Mahatma Gandhi is the Father of the Nation and people will not like it if anyone talks about Godse in this manner… If someone holds such thinking, this is intolerable for us,” Mr. Kumar said. He also reiterated, “We cannot compromise on three things — crime, corruption and communalism.”

Mr. Kumar declined to comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pilgrimage to Kedarnath. “The Prime Minister does yoga…where is the need to make any political comment on this,” he asked.

(With inputs from PTI)

Summer travel plans affected as airfares on popular routes skyrocket

Big jump in cost of tickets booked up to 30 days before departure

An aircraft preparing to land at Mumbai airport. Reuters

As Amit Patel, a professional at a private company, sat down to book a flight for a business trip to Bhopal from Delhi, he had to first postpone his travel by four days and ultimately buy a train ticket as the airfare for the 90-minute flight, at ₹20,000, was five times the usual price.

“I travel very frequently on the Delhi-Bhopal route and I usually pay ₹4,000 for one-way travel. I was travelling in the second week of May for an important work related to the elections, but decided to first wait for cheaper fares and then ultimately booked an Executive Class ticket on Shatabdi, which is an eight-hour journey and cost me ₹2,500,” Mr. Patel said.

According to data by travel portal Yatra.com for bookings made for travel on May 18, ticket prices were higher by 10% to 60% as compared to the same period last year. For example, a Delhi-Bengaluru flight booked 30 days before travel cost ₹7,021, which is 42.3% higher than the airfare of ₹4,931 available last year for the same booking period.

A Delhi-Guwahati flight, also booked 30 days before travel, was 57% dearer at ₹7,536, as compared with ₹4,801 last year. Similarly, for bookings made seven days before travel, a Delhi-Bengaluru flight at ₹9,291 was 16.8% more expensive compared with last year.

The sharp rise in airfares comes at a time when there is a huge demand for travel during the summer vacation season as well as for school and college admissions, but there is a deficit in capacity due to the grounding of Jet Airways’ 123 planes. While the government has asked other airlines to speed up induction of new planes, it will take several months to bridge the gap.

Passengers planning overseas travel will also have to dig deeper into their pockets. Airfares for Mumbai-Dubai were nearly three times higher at ₹22,913 for a booking made 30 days before travel when compared with ₹7,167 last year.

Delhi-London, too, was nearly three times costlier than last year (₹75,731 instead of ₹25,488). However, some sectors, where passengers have a plethora of low-cost airlines to choose from, such as Delhi-Bangkok and Delhi-Singapore, saw a dip of ticket cost of 61% and 78%, respectively.

Delhi and Mumbai together account for 42.6% of outbound travel by Indian citizens, according to government data. Spiralling airfares have resulted in foreign carriers like Qatar Airways proposing a temporary increase in seats between the two countries.

“Without our contingency plan, Indian travellers will be forced to either choose expensive last-minute tickets or complicated and burdensome re-routings,” said an airline spokesperson.

Plan in advance

Yatra.com’s COO Sharat Dhall’s advice to travellers is to “plan in advance and not to book at the last moment to avoid the unprecedented hikes in airfares.” But there is no escaping high airfares this summer as it’s advance airfares that have been bumped up the most.

(Additionalinputs from Aditya Anand; Lalatendu Mishra)

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