Wednesday, May 22, 2013

BJP or Congress: Who will win the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, form the next government at the Centre?


Speculations have already begun as to who is going to form the government after the upcoming 2014 general elections?

The recent survey conducted by AC-Nielsen that was shown on TV channel, 'ABP News' (formerly Star), has led to a fresh debate over prospects of the two major coalitions.

Whether it's going to be Congress-led UP that is projecting its youthful face Rahul Gandhi [along with Manmohan Singh as future PM once again] after having ruled the country for the two consecutive terms or BJP-led NDA which is banking on Narendra Modi?

The results of the survey [opinion poll] are quite interesting. It was conducted between May 1 and 10 and it predicts the number of seats to various parties, if the polls were held now, given the current mood of the electorate in the country.

I saw the survey on TV and here are my observations. First, let's see what are the results of this survey. Have a look at the figures and then we can analyse. First, Uttar Pradesh [UP] that sends the maximum number of seats [80] to the Parliament:

Samajwadi Party {SP] 24
Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] 23
Bahujan Samaj Party [BSP] 21
Congress 6
Rashtriya Lok Dal [RLD] 5

For, Maharashtra [48], the statistics suggest:

Congress 12
BJP 17
Shiv Sena 12

West Bengal [42] is another major state.

Left Front [CPM-CPI-Forward Bloc] 18
Trinamool Congress [TMC] 14
Congress 9

Bihar [40] is also a key state and any major change in number of seats can turn the tables for either of the coalitions. The premise was that JDU and BJP are still together here while Congress and RJD are not in an alliance. (If there is an alliance between Congress, RJD & LJP, it'll be bad for NDA, suggests the survey)

JDU 24
BJP 10
Congress 3

In Delhi, the survey gives five seats to BJP and two to Congress. What about Aam Admi Party (AAP)? Zilch! The survey shows that as per the mood in the country, NDA will be ahead of UPA. The bigger coalition is more likely to form the government, isn't it?

Predicting the Picture: How the Lok Sabha 2014 would look like:

NDA 206
UPA 136
Left 34
REST 167

So shall we accept this survey and the projections?

The survey shows Congress' vote share at 20% and that of BJP at over 31%. Really! That seems a bit far-fetched. Congress is definitely not having a great time due to the scams but these figures are still not too convincing.

Even if BJP gets 206 seats, will it be able to find the allies? It must be remembered that this survey shows the figure of REST [THIRD FRONT] at 167 and along with Left Front their strength will be over 200. So apart from NDA and UPA, there will be a huge block, and this hints at a real 'khichdi' or the fractured mandate.

What can be faulty in these projections

The survey shows Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi enjoying 36% support for the post of Prime Minister (PM) compared to Rahul Gandhi (13%), Manmohan Singh (12%), Mulayam Singh (5%), Nitish Kumar (3%) and Sushma Swaraj (2%). [Rahul plus Manmohan makes it 25, which is not too bad, given that it is urban centric poll]

As always, the surveys are mostly conducted in Cities. In urban areas, BJP has traditionally been strong and hence they surveys often go in BJP's favour. In UP, the BJP may not get as much seats. For the last 20 years, such polls have generally given more seats to BJP.

In last election, all channels predicted 140 seats for SP in UP Assembly but it went on capturing more than 200 seats in the Vidhan Sabha. The reason is that a section of SP or BSP voter isn't as vocal about his preference. Muslims often say that they would vote for Congress but end up voting for the third parties just like Dalits voted en masse for BSP but not many of them accepted it in front of others.

We keep hearing a lot about NaMo factor but Congress won the Karnataka election. It also won the polls in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Clearly, the corporate support and the excessive hype in media hasn't materialised as much on the ground.

What can happen in a year?

Elections are almost a year from now. In the current situation, Congress is not going to have Parliamentary elections along with Assembly elections by year end. The 16th General Elections are likely to be held in May 2014.

By then, it expects to gain by Right to Food  Bill and other popular schemes. It has changed its campaign style also. Have you noticed the recent advertisements on TV, targeting the young generation? On social media i.e. Twitter and Facebook, it has locked horns with RSS and BJP that once ruled online opinion.

Of course, there is a disillusionment [largely in urban India] with regard to Congress due to a spate of scams. It is also battling incumbency, which will be a major factor. But one must remember that despite all these factors Congress has consistently been winning state elections.

The BJP has its own woes

The problem for the BJP is that it can't just rely on Congress doing bad. The BJP has to increase its number of seats significantly. Where will it get them? In MP, Chhattisgarh, it has reached its peak and the scenario isn't as rosy for it. Party workers openly say that the tally will go down in these two states.

In Karnataka, it has no good prospects either. If Rajnath Singh fails to revive BJP in UP, the figure of 206 looks far ahead. Congress may lose seats in Andhra Pradesh. It is going to a be vital state. But will Nara Chandrababu Naidu ally with the BJP. No chance.

Can there be such a major shift?

The 2009 elections had given a mandate to Congress-led UPA. Congress had more than 200 seats while BJP had just 115. Can there be a complete reversal? If it happens, then only the BJP can hope to get more allies and be able to form the government.

If the BJP alone gets 180 plus and with its allies, reaches 220-225, then it will be in a position to form the government. The SP-BSP may have 40-50 seats, and along with Left, RJD and a few small parties, make it 100 seats. It is this vote coming from UP, West Bengal or Southern India which hurts the BJP-led coalition, the most.

The 'key' States and the parties to watch out

Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu will be the key states. J Jayalalitha's AIADMK can play a major role. If she manages to win Tamil Nadu, then BJP can expect to garner her support. Not Naidu, but Jagan Mohan Reddy is another person who may go to the BJP. The role of BJD supremo Navin Patnayak will also be crucial.

Can West Bengal's voter again turn towards the Left? There are several questions. The voters' mood will be more visible by the year-end. The Left is against Congress. The 'secular' SP and BSP are rivals but at the Centre both these anti-Congress parties, also support the UPA.

Majority of voter lives in Rural India, not Cities

The agencies conducting these polls remain urban centric. Less than 1/3rd of constituencies were touched. Just 33,000 voters were quizzed. The sample size needs to be much bigger in a country like India. Here people play games with the surveyors [or questionnaires] and even give wrong answers. The feeling is that, 'Why should I tell them what's in my mind?'

India is too big and complex. It is next to impossible for any mathematical formula to make a guess or predit the results at the national level. Here, there are four and even five cornered contests in many constituencies, and people don't vote for a Prime Minister, rather, they go for party. Predictions of victory and loss are really tough.

While the BJP and Congress have now formed a mindset that it's time that either of them should govern the nation, not these smaller parties, reality is different. In case, both Congress and BJP remain under 150 or around, you can not rule out chance of Mayawati or J Jayalalitha, emerging the dark horse.

In fact, where the Congress is losing, the BJP is not gaining. The gainer is a regional party. An astonishing 47% vote is going to the regional parties, says R Jagannathan, in an Analysis here.

Let's wait and watch.