The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is on the verge of making history, if exit poll results for Lok Sabha elections, released on Sunday evening, hold true. Most pollsters said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is likely to return to power with a majority. If the projections turn out to be a true reflection of the forthcoming results, it will be the first time a non-Congress party will be retaining power at the centre.

“When the BJP came to power in 2014, most people said it could not perform well again because that was its best ever performance, and there was no scope for improvement. But exit polls suggest that people have voted for development. The victory of the BJP in the 2019 general election is a foregone conclusion and the outcome of the exit polls is no surprise," said a senior BJP leader and party strategist.

To be sure, most pollsters in 2014 underestimated the scale of the win notched up by the BJP, then the party in the opposition. The final results of the 2019 general election will be announced on 23 May.

Senior BJP leaders are confident of returning to power and party president Amit Shah in a press conference a few days ago said the party would win more than 300 seats on its own and that the NDA would cross 350 seats.

“We are confident of a comfortable victory. For the past three months, the BJP has been saying that the NDA will return to power comfortably. But the bigger point is that the projections of the exit polls indicate that the people of the country have rejected the opposition and the Congress. People have started believing that the BJP and NDA have replaced Congress in the country," said the BJP leader.

Members of the BJP said the election strategy of the opposition parties, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, was dependent on the arithmetic of caste and religion. The exit poll predictions indicate that people are willing to rise above caste differences and vote for development and access to basic facilities, which the BJP-led government provided in the last five years, a party leader said.

“The exit polls show that people have supported politics of performance, which the NDA government has done for the past five years. The BJP leadership went to people with the work done over the last five years. People wanted development work to continue. The opposition parties had no plan except to remove Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the top post. This will be a victory of politics of performance," the leader said.

Leaders of the ruling party said the BJP had started planning for the 2019 general elections soon after coming to power in 2014. Senior leaders pointed out that while the party could manage to get more than 170 million votes in 2014 (or 31% of the votes polled), this time it was likely to do better as the flagship programmes of the government, including provision of subsidized cooking gas, electricity for all, housing for all and access to toilets, helped BJP reach out to the financially and socially weaker sections.

“At least 220 million people were beneficiaries of the various government schemes. BJP had 170 million voters in 2014, and the beneficiaries have helped BJP. We were confident from the beginning that the poor and socially weaker sections would rise above caste this time," added the BJP leader.

BJP leaders said that during the planning of the general elections, the party had realized that there were at least 160 Lok Sabha seats where the BJP had little influence and it was imperative for the party to win these seats to increase its sphere of influence. With a target of at least 80 more seats, the BJP leadership had told supporters that there was a need for the party to end the impression that BJP was a north Indian party. The BJP leader, reading from the exit polls, said that the party seemed to have gained seats in West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In the previous 16th Lok Sabha election, the BJP had two MPs from West Bengal, one each from Odisha and Tamil Nadu and none from Kerala.