The exit polls impacted the mood in party offices - from an upbeat BJP camp to a subdued atmosphere in Congress and other opposition parties - though the general refrain is of "wait and watch" ahead of counting of votes on Thursday.
While three exit polls predicted that the BJP-led NDA will cross the 300 mark for another term at the centre, two others said the ruling alliance may fall short of a majority. Party workers were given the day off by many parties on Monday, but a worker at BJP headquarters in Delhi said they have already started preparations "to celebrate Lok Sabha election results on May 23 in a big way".
"We were working 24X7 during the election time and were confident that we will breach the 300 mark," said Jitendra Rawat of BJP's media cell. The last round of polling was on Sunday.
The usual commotion at the Congress headquarters was missing on Monday morning, which party workers said was due to a "false atmosphere" created by the exit polls. "We would definitely perform better. And if we don't, then manipulation of EVMs might have been done," said Ram Singh, a Congress worker.
He was joined by other party colleagues who concurred that there will be a tough fight between the two parties and the Congress' tally would be much better than it was in 2014, when the party had won just 44 seats.
Charan Kumar, another Congress worker, watched BJP leaders' reaction to the exit polls on TV. "It has been done to create an atmosphere in favour of Modi," he claimed. But another party worker, Surya Tripathi, gave it a different spin; he claimed:
"The Sensex climbed 900 points in one minute on Monday. That is not a joke. It (exit poll predicting an NDA victory) was done to benefit traders, who invest in the stock market and who also form the biggest vote base of Modi."
Congress worker Suresh Singh travelled over 900 km from Balia in Uttar Pradesh to the party headquarters in New Delhi. "On Thursday, I know there would be celebration here and the grand old party would emerge victorious," he said.
CPI national secretary D Raja conceded that this could be the Left's worst poll performance in years. "What role we will play will be decided post May 23," he said.
Discussions over tea on exit polls and fate of the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh were rife at the BJP headquarters in Lucknow. Regional parties have been hoping to play a major role in government formation in the event of a hung Parliament, but the exit poll results took way some of the enthusiasm at the Samajwadi Party headquarters in Lucknow with Chief Akhilesh Yadav going into a huddle with senior party leaders.
"The exit polls show us in good light. Some of the polls even give us over 50 seats. We are enthused with the exit polls, but are keeping our fingers crossed till the results are out on May 23," said Ajay Pratap Singh, a party leader from Sitapur.
Said Manoj Mishra, an SP supporter:
"They (exit polls) have only deepened the suspense instead of making the picture clear. We will prefer to wait and watch till the final results are out."
SP Chief Akhilesh Yadav also drove to the residence of BSP supremo Mayawati and the closed door talks lasted for almost an hour.
The mood in the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) camp too was subdued. "What we predicted and our feeling was neither the NDA nor the UPA will get majority on its own. As per exit polls, what we visualised is not going to be correct," a senior leader of the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao-led outfit told PTI in Hyderabad.
Sources in the TRS said the party had nothing to lose and "is not worried" as it's anyway "sitting pretty" in Telangana after returning to office last December.
The Trinamool Congress leaders at its office in Kolkata appeared unfazed about exit polls predicting gains for the BJP. "We have our internal party report. We also have reports from districts and each and every constituency," a TMC leader said, exuding confidence that the party will better its 2014 performance when it won 34 out of 42 seats in West Bengal.
"It is for sure that the BJP has lost the election. The TMC will play an important role (in government formation)," said another senior TMC leader, who did not wish to be named. Although senior TMC leaders sounded confident of winning the polls, some district leaders said there may have been an undercurrent against the party, which its top leadership had "failed" to gauge.
The TDP camp too was optimistic about its performance with Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu continuing his meetings with leaders of other parties. In Delhi, workers at the Aam Aadmi Party office said that the exit polls do not reflect the ground reality. "The exit polls are by paid media and AAP has performed very well in Delhi. It is not possible that we would not be getting even a single seat in the national capital," AAP worker Vishesh Kumar said.
Elections to 542 seats of the 543-member Lok Sabha ended Sunday. The counting of votes is on May 23.
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