A day after exit polls painted a grim picture for the Congress, the party headquarters here wore a deserted look even though a handful of workers present there rejected the forecast that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would return to power.
Most exit polls Sunday predicted another term for Modi, with some of them projecting that BJP-led NDA will get more than 300 seats to comfortably cross the majority mark of 272 in the Lok Sabha.
The usual commotion at the Congress headquarters was missing Monday morning, which party workers said was due to a "false atmosphere" created by the exit polls.
"We would definitely perform better. And if we don't, then manipulation of EVMs might have been done," said Ram Singh, a Congress worker.
He was joined by other party colleagues who concurred that there will be a tough fight between the two parties and the Congress' tally would be much better than it was in 2014, when the party had won just 44 seats.
Charan Kumar, another Congress worker, watched on TV BJP leaders' reaction to the exit polls. "It has been done to create an atmosphere in favour of Modi," he inferred.
But another party worker, Surya Tripathi, gave it a different spin.
"The Sensex climbed 900 points in one minute on Monday. That is not a joke. It (exit poll predicting an NDA victory) was done to benefit traders, who invest in the stock market and who also form the biggest vote base of Modi," he said.
Congress worker Suresh Singh travelled well over 900 km, from Balia in Uttar Pradesh to the party headquarters in New Delhi. "On Thursday, I know there would be celebration here and the grand old party would emerge victorious," he said.
He questioned the credibility of exit polls, pointing out that they varied widely as far as projection for his state is concerned.
"For the NDA, some are predicting 22 seas in Uttar Pradesh while others are giving 52. Here lies the clue to the credibility of the exit polls and their chances of going wrong," said Singh.
For the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, exit polls were divided, with some like ABP-Nielsen saying that the BJP's tally may fall to 22 from 71 while a few others like New 18-Ipsos and News 24-Chanakya tipping its tally over 60 seats.
Congress worker Jagdish Sharma alleged that the exit polls are an "attempt by the BJP" to spread rumours and they might try to manipulate EVMs after creating a pro-BJP atmosphere.
"We will perform better and win. It would not be onesided as projected. We have seen the real atmosphere at the ground and no one is believing the exit polls, except for the BJP," Sharma said as workers surrounding him nodded in agreement.
Neeta Mishra, the General Secretary of the Vichar Vibhag at the Congress, said the exit polls might be a strategy of the BJP to create uncertainty and make mahagathbandan parties join hands with the NDA.
"We are not at all disappointed by the exit polls. We know many people are scared of the BJP and they lied out of fear that they would be voting for the BJP but they voted for others. The technicalities of sampling are not clear. Exit polls have gone wrong a number of times and they are biased. No one believes these polls. We are doubtful of the exit polls," she asserted.
Rishi Vallabh, another party worker who has been with Congress since 1997, called the exit polls a "work of paid media".
"It has been projected to boost the morale of the BJP. But reality would be different and would be visible on Thursday, May 23," Vallabh said.
Exit polls by News 18-Ipsos, India Today-Axis and News 24-Chanakya projected 336, 339-368 and 336-364 seats respectively for the NDA, with the BJP tipped to cross the majority on its own for another term after the 2014 polls.
However, two exit polls -- one by ABP News-Nielsen and another by Neta-News X -- said the ruling alliance may fall short of a majority.
ABP News forecast 267 and NewsX 242 seats for the ruling NDA.
Elections to 542 seats of the 543-member Lok Sabha ended Sunday. The Election Commission has deferred election for Vellore in Tamil Nadu over allegations of abuse of money power.