Exit polls in India show that the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is poised to win three crucial state assembly elections and will lead in one, while the newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is expected to put up an extraordinary show in Delhi. As for the Congress Party, it is poised to lose badly in all four states.
At the conclusion, on Wednesday, of elections to state assemblies held in phases over the last few weeks in five Indian states, various polling agencies (C-Voter; Today's Chanakya; CSDS; ORG; Nielsen) conducted exit polls and have all largely turned up with the same trend. Exit polls were not conducted in the north-east state of Mizoram.
At present, in the five states where elections were held, the Congress is in power in Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram while the BJP rules Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Actual counting of votes is scheduled for December 8, with results expected the same day.
The outcome of the state elections, seen as a barometer of popular mood before the all-important national elections to the lower house of parliament sometime in April-May 2014, could be a huge boost to the political aspirations of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
The assembly elections were termed as the "semi-final" before the "finals" in 2014.
The biggest surprise thrown up by the exit polls is a near dream-debut of the AAP, which contesting on an anti-corruption plank, has managed to jolt the Congress and the BJP with its showing in Delhi.
Consequently, the Delhi assembly, which traditionally alternated between a BJP or a Congress government, is now showing an unclear verdict, or a "hung" house.
This means that either the BJP or the Congress will have to depend on the support of the AAP to govern Delhi.
The surveys showed that the BJP was expected to wrest back Rajasthen and retain power in Madhya Pradesh. It is also in the lead in Chattisgarh, which it rules now.
The results thrown up by the exit polls is a clear indicator that the Congress Party is paying a price for the series of scams that have dogged the Manmohan Singh-led central government since the party returned to power for the second time in 2009.
The real talking point is, however, the great showing by the AAP, which, emerging out of a mass movement against corruption, reflects the popular mood for a fundamental change in the way deals are struck and the country is governed.