The voter holds the key.

The voter holds the key.

Twist in the tale? Battle 2019 could humble Modi and his BJP, admit partners

Pollsters suggest Congress and its allies could corner 287 seats as against NDA's 256

Agency Report | New Delhi | 13 May, 2019 | 11:00 PM

All the wave and the undercurrent in favour of Modi being written about by the ‘godi’ media are strangely not something the BJP’s own allies are convinced about. In fact, some of the party’s biggest allies are voicing concern on the fate of the BJP on May 23, the day the results of the ongoing general elections are announced. Could there be a surprise in there?

Key Bharatiya Janata Party allies have taken to a cautious path, saying the NDA will form the next government but the BJP, unlike in 2014, will not be able to win a parliamentary majority on its own.

Shiromani Akali Dal’s Naresh Gujral said in a recent interview to a TV channel that no single party would get a majority in the election but couched that by saying that the NDA would get the numbers to form the next government.

He had said the BJP would fall short of absolute majority but the NDA would be able to form a stable coalition government with allies. He described himself as a realist while making the remark.

SAD is one of the oldest allies of the BJP and has been able to paper over the occasional differences between them.

Gujral’s comments came against the backdrop of BJP general secretary Ram Madhav’s remarks that the party would fall short of the majority mark in the elections.

Madhav’s comments appeared to give voice to the anxiety within the ruling party that the BJP would not be able to repeat its 2014 performance and this could trigger a search for suitable allies who could then ask for plum cabinet berths in return for their support.

Another old ally, the Janata Dal (United), has been just about as forthcoming about the BJP’s electoral prospects.

KC Tyagi, senior JD(U) leader, has told the media that the BJP will have reduced numbers this time compared to 2014 but not to the point that it will not be able to form the government.

However, his party colleague Gulam Rasool Balyavi, was more direct, saying the NDA itself would fall short of a majority in the Lok Sabha. He went a step further to state that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar should be fronted as the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate — hinting that this would help it to bring in new allies and get the required numbers to form the government.

“The statement (by Ram Madhav) rings true. This is what I currently sense in the country. The National Democratic Alliance will form the government with the BJP as the single-largest party, but it will be somewhat difficult for the BJP to win 280-plus votes,” Raut told NDTV.

The Shiv Sena allied with the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections two months ago despite differences that had cropped up between the two parties in the wake of the 2014 polls.

Raut saw opposition alliances across the country as one of the reasons for the arithmetical shift that would deprive the BJP of a clear majority. “We do believe that the National Democratic Alliance will cross the 300 mark but the BJP will fall short due to this very reason,” he said, adding that regional parties across various states will emerge stronger in the ongoing elections.

Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena, like other BJP allies, also agrees that the BJP would fall short of an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and would therefore need the support of allies to form the next government. In a recent interview to a TV channel, he said it would be difficult for the BJP to repeat its 2014 performance.

However, like the other NDA partners, he said the alliance would pull through and form the next government.

These allies have also introduced an ambiguity over the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, saying whoever is picked would be acceptable to the allies but he would need to take everyone along, one ally has said.

At least one ally has made it plain that there will be some arm-twisting for ministerial portfolios. Gujral said in a recent media interview that his party represented farmers and would demand key portfolios related to agriculture.
A survey of voters undertaken by institutions and calculations by independent psephologists have indicated a surprising unanimity of possible scenarios post May 23 when the results of the Lok Sabha elections are declared — they show that the NDA is likely to have a pared down performance compared to 2014 while the UPA might not move into areas possibly vacated by the BJP-led alliance unless it finds new allies.

A study by the Centre for Socio-Economic and Political Research (CSEPR) in Delhi at the conclusion of Phase VI of polling suggests that the NDA as a pre-poll alliance could muster 231 seats as compared to 174 seats of the UPA, while calculations of the possible poll outcome by a well-known psephologist indicate similar numbers — 234 for the NDA and 169 for the UPA.

Another calculation made by a psephologist appears to anticipate that the tables could be turned on the NDA by the UPA — it suggests that the Congress and its allies could corner 287 seats as against the NDA’s 256. However, this calculation factors in possible post poll tie-ups for both the alliances.

It brackets the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party Mahagathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh with the Congress. There is no such tie-up now and these parties could add 80 seats to the UPA numbers, according to this calculation.

The calculation also places the YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh, the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti in Telangana on the same side as the NDA. Once again, there is no such tie-up at the moment, and if these three parties were to join the NDA, they would together add 50 seats to the NDA numbers, according to this calculation. The Congress party’s own tally is likely to be 117 seats and the BJP’s 168 seats, the forecast made by this psephologist appears to indicate.

While these surveys and calculations are undertaken professionally and scientifically, they are often considered speculative in accurately predicting voter behaviour.

The CSEPR suggests that in Uttar Pradesh, the NDA could get about 30 seats, the UPA about 5 seats and the mahagathbandhan about 45 seats. These are exactly the figures anticipated in the calculations made by the second psephologist — 30 seats for the NDA, five for the Congress and 45 for the Mahagathbandhan. But as he places the Mahagathbandhan as a Congress ally, the tally for Congress and allies is placed at 50 seats. The calculations made by the first psephologist are also along these lines in Uttar Pradesh — 28 for the NDA, four for the UPA and 48 for the Mahagathbandhan.

For the big battleground of West Bengal, where the main fight is between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP, the CSEPR survey says that the BJP would do much better than in 2014 and is likely to get eight seats against two last time, while the Trinamool Congress is likely to get 32 seats and the Congress with allies a distant two seats.

The calculation by the first psephologist says that the BJP could get nine seats, the Trinamool Congress 31 seats and the Congress alliance two seats. The second psephologist’s calculations gives much more to the Trinamool Congress — 35 seats — and the Congress one seat, and the BJP alliance six seats. However, because he places the Trinamool Congress in the Congress camp, the alliance’s tally is put at 36 seats.

The subtext in this is that if these calculations and surveys indeed prove right, the BJP would have increased its vote share in Bengal and that would give the Trinamool Congress much room for worry because it would provide the BJP the launch pad for growth in the state. The BJP had got 17 per cent of the votes in the 2014 general elections but this had dropped to 10.16 per cent in the state Assembly elections in 2016.

The CSEPR indicates that in Bihar, the BJP and the Janata Dal-United could get 22 of the 40 seats while the Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance is likely to get the remaining 18 seats. The calculation by the first psephologist also favours the NDA, giving it 25 seats and the UPA 15, while the second psephologist places the NDA and the UPA tallies at 20 seats each.

In Maharashtra, which has 48 seats — the highest after Uttar Pradesh — the CSEPR survey suggests that the BJP-Shiv Sena combine will get 34 seats while the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine will get 14 seats. The calculations by both psephologists say that the NDA could get 28 seats and the UPA 20 seats in the state. (IANS)