The first batch of exit polls predicted that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would return to power comfortably through winning almost as many seats as it did in 2014.
According to five different polls released by Indian media organisations on Sunday night, Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies were forecast to win a majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament, reports NDTV.
The Indian National Congress, the leading opposition party, seemed to have done marginally better than its stunning defeat in the last elections in 2014 but it remained a distant second to Modi’s alliance.
Most of the exit polls predicted that Modi’s party and its allies would win about 290 to 300 seats in the 545-seat lower house, which chooses the prime minister.
Another media said the poll of polls has given the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) 303 of 543 seats and the Congress and its allies 126.
The poll of polls indicates that the BJP, as it had calculated, will make up for its losses in Uttar Pradesh with Odisha and West Bengal.
In Bengal, Chief Minsiter Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress will get 24 of 42 seats and the BJP will move to double digits at 14, predict exit polls.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (BJD) will be neck and neck with the BJP, the poll of polls says.
The gains in the two states will help make up for what the BJP is predicted to lose in Uttar Pradesh, where it scooped 71 of 80 seats in 2014.
The poll of polls predicts 44 seats for the BJP. The Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav combination is given 34 seats while the Congress is set to do no better than it did in 2014 - two seats.
The exit polls also indicate that the Congress may not reap much from its December victories in three big heartland states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
"The exit polls results are according to our expectations," BJP national vice president Vinay Sahasrabudhe said. "The grand alliance experiment has failed. The BSP and SP could not take our votes. The main opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh are divided thin, whose benefits the BJP got."
Voting in one of India's most acrimonious elections in decades ended on Sunday after seven rounds held over a month-and-a-half.
The results will be declared on Thursday, May 23, but before that, exit polls are attempting to predict how PM Modi's BJP, Rahul Gandhi's Congress, their allies and other parties are likely to score.
A health warning - exit polls often get it wrong.
In 2014, the poll of exit polls - an aggregate of various exit polls - gave the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) 288 of the 545 seats in parliament and the Congress-led UPA 102.
The gap turned out to be far wider. The NDA won 336 seats while the UPA, which had been in power for two straight terms, was reduced to 59.
Among the seats that voted today was PM Modi's Varanasi, which he is expected to easily retain.
The BJP has campaigned aggressively on the nationalism pitch and played up the recent Balakot air strikes against Pakistan as an example of PM Modi's strong leadership. The opposition, led by the Congress party and its leader, Rahul Gandhi, have accused him of pursuing divisive policies and neglecting the economy.
PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi have attacked each other on a near daily basis.
The Prime Minister held 142 rallies across the country, sometimes five a day.
The Congress campaigned intensely in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala.
Rahul Gandhi, 48, attacked the PM over alleged corruption in the Rafale deal and over the plight of farmers and lack of jobs.
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