Karnataka went to polls on 12 May for 222 assembly seats with the three main parties, the Congress, BJP and the JDS, all claiming to form the next government in the state. As has been the practice, no sooner did the voting end, the TV channels began to flash its own exit poll predictions.
India Today-Axis were the first to announce their predictions that gave the Congress an absolutely majority in the state, while placing the saffron party second. Then came the Times Now-VMR exit poll predictions that too showed the Congress in an advantageous position with more than 100 seats. The BJP, even by the Times Now’s predictions, was placed at second.
Times Now, often perceived to be a pro-government channel, posted a series of tweets in the run up to its broadcast of the exit polls all throughout the day. The images attached to the channel’s news flashes carried four prominent faces, that of, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BS Yeddyurappa from the BJP. Rahul Gandhi and the incumbent Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah represented the Congress party. (see below)
The channel’s on-air graphics changed spectacularly as soon as it became clear that the BJP was trailing behind Congress in the exit poll predictions. Soon, BJP President Amit Shah’s photo appeared opposite Rahul Gandhi and Modi’s image had vanished mysteriously. (see below)
This did not go unnoticed by journalists and social media users. Journalist Ashutosh Mishra sarcastically wrote, “All day Campaigning for BJP as Modi being face, channel suddenly changed the face of BJP after exit polls data. Kyo Bhai?” One Twitter asked, “Since when did Narendra Modi stop being the face of BJP?” Journalist Rohini Singh wrote, “If BJP does manage to win Karnataka, they will change it to Modi again. Poor Shah”
There was another twist to Times Now’s coverage on exit polls. This was perhaps the first time a news channel had commissioned two exit polls. Soon after its exit poll predictions with VMR projected the Congress as the single largest party, the channel announced that it was going to broadcast another exit poll numbers. Its second exit poll, with Today’s Chanakya, later went on to give BJP 120 seats. Today’s Chanakya had projected 135-150 seats for the BJP in the Gujarat assembly polls last year. The BJP ended up winning just 99 seats.
P.S1. Today’s Chanakya announced on Twitter at 7.21 PM that it too was going to announce its own exit poll predictions, long after others had already announced their own predictions. Usually, such announcements come long before the voting ends.
P.S2. Exit poll predictions by Republic TV, founded by BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, gave an absolute majority to the BJP. Chandrasekhar had actively campaigned for the Reddy brothers’ candidates (all contesting on BJP tickets) in Karnataka.