One fallout of conducting the Lok Sabha polls in seven phases is that political parties, through their own commissioned exit polls, start getting an idea of how they are performing.

Accordingly, they recalibrate their campaign messaging in different phases, as BJP has been doing – from Pulwama to Pragya Thakur.

The media also conducts its own exit polls and adjusts its political commentary. All this seeps into the larger political grapevine – after the first few phases, a prominent news TV anchor suggested that the real election might begin after May 23.

No wonder there is a growing murmur after the first four phases of polling – possibly based on exit poll trends – that the BJP is not doing as well as expected even though it is expected to remain the single largest party. The opposition, the mahagathbandhan, is doing reasonably well in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP’s losses could be significant. This was further reinforced by Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh sharing a stage and sending a clear message of vote transfer among their voters.

The BJP is worried about this.

If BJP loses about 40  of the 80 seats in UP, as against the 71 seats it bagged in 2014 amidst a Modi wave, there is a real possibility that its overall tally gets confined to 180-190 and the NDA fails to cross the 220-225 mark.

This could happen realistically if the Congress manages to win an additional 40 to 50 seats in Hindi-speaking states as well as Gujarat, where it has largely been a one-on-one fight with the BJP.

So what happens if the NDA is confined to around 220 seats? In that event, Modi will try to woo the southern states where K. Chandrashekhar Rao of TRS, YRS Congress’ Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy or Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal could be new potential allies for the BJP. Modi may even try to win over the DMK, which is presently a part of the UPA.