Opposition leader Gandhi urges voters not to "get disappointed by the propaganda of fake exit polls," after a slew of exit polls projected clear victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday dismissed as "fake" exit polls predicting a clear election victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a day before the scheduled release of results.
A slew of exit polls released after the world's largest election ended on Sunday projected that Modi and his allies would return to power with between 282 and 313 seats out of 543 in parliament.
"My dear Congress party workers. The next 24 hours are important. Stay alert and vigilant. Don't be afraid. You are fighting for the truth," Gandhi, head of the Congress party, said on Twitter.
"Don't get disappointed by the propaganda of fake exit polls. Keep faith in yourself and the Congress party. Your hard work won't go to waste. Jai Hind (Bow to the motherland)," he wrote.
Mr @RahulGandhi the exit polls look like the Opposition is heading for a loss (for now).— Tenzing Lamsang (@TenzingLamsang) May 21, 2019
However, your campaign has been a credit to the image of India.
You refused to go low, you did not divide communities, you did not get personal and most importantly you did not spread hate.
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed the predictions and Indian stock markets rose strongly on Monday, but exit polls in India are notoriously unreliable.
In 2004 they predicted that Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee's BJP-led government would be re-elected but results showed the opposite, bringing a Congress-led alliance to power under Manmohan Singh.
In the last election in 2014, the BJP won 282 seats, the first time a party had won a majority on its own in 30 years. It then cobbled together an alliance with a commanding 334 seats.
Counting of the roughly 600 million votes cast was due to begin at 8am (0230 GMT) on Thursday. If there is a clear trend this should be evident by around midday.
Voting machine doubts
Meanwhile, party volunteers on Wednesday joined armed police to guard strongrooms containing the four million electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in the vote before counting begins.
On Tuesday more than 20 opposition parties had called on the election watchdog to ensure the machines were not manipulated after video clips emerged on social media purporting to show irregularities.
The Election Commission moved swiftly to refute the reports, saying voting machines were "absolutely safe in strongrooms," and those shown in video clips were reserves.
Amit Shah, president of the BJP, said on Wednesday that the opposition was rattled by their likely defeat and were "tarnishing" India by raising questions about the electoral process.
Vijay Singh, an election agent for the Samajwadi Party in Lucknow – capital of the key state of Uttar Pradesh – was one of those keeping an eye on the strongroom, a common practice during election, despite the baking heat.
"We sit there in shifts of eight hours. The administration has provided a tent where we camp round the clock," Singh told AFP news agency.
I believe the exit polls are all wrong. In Australia last weekend, 56 different exit polls proved wrong. In India many people don’t tell pollsters the truth fearing they might be from the Government. Will wait till 23rd for the real results.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 19, 2019
Voting machines seized
About 500 masked men carrying guns and machetes attacked Indian election officials in a remote northeastern state and made off with computerised voting machines, officials said on Wednesday.
On Sunday, a team of officials was travelling through dense jungle to a polling station in Arunachal Pradesh when it was ambushed, district magistrate Rido Tarek said.
Some of the attackers opened fire but there were no casualties, police said.
"About 500 miscreants attacked our polling team and also resorted to firing although no one was injured," Sunil Garg, the state police inspector general told Reuters by telephone.
The team was on its way to Koloriang constituency for a re-poll set for Tuesday following allegations of malpractice during the voting in April.