The spate of exit polls and post polls have only deepened the confusion over the political future of India. Exit polls, unfortunately, don't have a healthy track record. They have erred even in small states such as Gujarat, Karnataka and Punjab.
However, even if we assume that pollsters have been more diligent on this occasion, there are some concerns.
Following delimitation of constituencies, there is no base figure for the pollsters. This can lead to projection errors, even if we assume that the sampling exercise is in order.
The important thing is to look at broad trends and the direction of the vote rather than the seat projections. Now, all the pollsters are clear that the Congress will do well in Kerala, Orissa, Delhi and Punjab. They are equally clear that the BJP has the upper hand in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar and Orissa.
The Uttar Pradesh situation is, at the best of times, confused. It is a nightmare trying to predict seats on the basis of four and five cornered fights. We should just note that both BJP and Congress appear to have done well. The Congress has been bolstered by Muslim bloc voting in its favour in Phase Five.
We should wait till Saturday to find out how the trends have translated into results.
But there are four states where there is no agreement among pollsters over the direction of the vote. These states are Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Assam.
In all these four states, NDTV and CNN-IBN have been extremely generous to the Congress. They see the popular mood in its favour. In Tamil Nadu, they see a halfway divide.
These are contentious conclusions and go against the grain of other polls. I expect the Congress to lose seats in all these four states.
If NDTV and CNN-IBN are right, the Congress and UPA emerge on top. If they are even half off the mark, the advantage shifts to the BJP and NDA.
I thank the pollsters for keeping the interest in the real vote intact. We should be glued to the TV from 8am. We should be able to gauge the trends by 10.30 am and know the outcome by 2.30pm.
I am going to be busy with TV and my commissioned articles that day. No blogs till late night.
Arun Jaitley regalled some of us with a very funny anecdote about opinion polls.
During the Punjab Assembly polls of 2007, he was quite disturbed by the fact that there was such a striking mismatch between his private assessments and the opinion polls. His polls suggested a clear BJP-Akali advantage while the familiar pundits gave the Congress a clear 5 per cent lead (which they brought down to a 1 per cent lead in the exit polls).
Finally, he was thrilled to see a poll in a Punjab paper which gave a small lead to the NDA. He expressed his happiness about it to a senior Akali leader.
"Yes, you should be happy," replied the earthy politician, "I spent one crore organising it."