National Democratic Alliance having done better than other alliances in the first three phases of polling, BJP is now set to emerge as the single largest party and NDA as the largest alliance in the 15th Lok Sabha. NDA that was perceived to be an under dog at the start of the campaign has significantly improved its prospects during the last few weeks. It is expected to do well in most states. On the other hand, the Congress is likely to lose ground all over the country except in West Bengal, Kerala and Orissa.
BJD'sfolly of deserting BJP will enable Congress to gain from split in non-Congress votes in Orissa. Anti-incumbency against the Left parties in Kerala will help Congress win more seats than it did in 2004. Left parties are set to lose heavily in West Bengal and Kerala because of public disenchantment with their performance and corruption. Their strength in the next Lok Sabha will be around 40 against 60+ in the outgoing House. Amongst the regional parties, BSP in UP, TDP in Andhra Pradesh and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu are slated to do well while SP is in no position to retain its hold on UP. Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ramvilas Paswan will meet their waterloo in Bihar, their seat-sharing arrangement with SP notwithstanding. Consequently, the so-called fourth front is unlikely to win more than 35 of 120 seats in UP and Bihar.
Tall claims by Sonia Gandhi and the nominated Prime Minister that UPA had fulfilled almost all the promises it made in its 2004 manifesto have not cut much ice with the voter. Terrorism and national security, loss of million of jobs in the face of rising prices of essential commodities, failure on the development front and misuse of CBI by the Congress have emerged as major issues. Congress party is on the back foot on all these issues. Exposure by The Indian Express of the gross misuse of CBI by the Congress-led government during last days of its tenure to cancel the Red Corner Notice against Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman and personal friend of Gandhi family, has revived the spectre of corruption in high places that had led to Rajiv Gandhi'shumiliating defeat in the 1989 polls. BJP has already made it as one of its major planks reminding the voters of how the Congress government had used official machinery to defreeze Quattrocchi'saccount in a London bank to help the dynasty'sclose ally to run away with Rs 21 crore he had looted in the Bofors deal. Congress government'sinaction and the ruling party'snegative response to LK Advani'sdemand to take an effective measure to bring back mind-boggling amount of black money stashed away in foreign banks have exposed the Congress as a hub of corrupt leaders and protector of evil businessmen.
Supreme Court'sorder to SIT in the middle of the election campaign to investigate afresh allegations against Narendra Modi, his ministers and senior civil and police officers for ?aiding and abetting? post-Godhra riots has emerged as an explosive poll issue. Public memory is short but is not that fragile not to remember that it is not for the first time during the past seven years that a gang of ?secularists? has made frantic efforts, including resorting to blatant lies, to demonise the Gujarat Chief Minister. The SIT in its report to the Supreme Court, that had been mysteriously kept under wraps, damned Teesta Setalvad and her NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace for cooking up macabre tales of wanton killings. The NGO had apparently tutored witnesses to support its lies to damn Modi. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad had released Justice Banerjee'scooked-up report on fire in Sabarmati Express just two days before Bihar Assembly elections in 2007.
Similarly, a contempt case was raked up against Modi during the run-up to the Gujarat Assembly elections the same year. Is it a coincidence that the widow of Jaffri moved the court in the middle of the election campaign or is there a pattern behind the strategy to embarrass Modi at crucial junctures? Modi vanquished his detractors on the previous two occasions. Will he do it again? Apex court'sorder will not hurt the BJP or the Gujarat Chief Minister. Modi remains unfazed. His response has electrified the masses in Gujarat and elsewhere. He is seeking votes on good governance and strong leadership. Congress has unwittingly introduced the distorted debate on ?secularism? versus ?communalism?. It will gravely hurt the ?secularists?.
As of now, no party is likely to get a clear majority in the 15th Lok Sabha. While a clear picture will emerge only on May 16, NDA has a better chance to attract some regional parties after the results are out to stake its claim to form the government. LK Advani has emerged as the front runner in the race to 7, Race Course, thanks to a robust campaign, all-out support from cadres of the ideological ?parivar? and his unblemished record of public service for more than half a century and qualities of head and heart. It is turning out to be a one-man race what with UPA allies deserting Congress and insisting that Dr. Singh is not their prime ministerial candidate. Sharad Pawar has virtually confessed that Congress and its allies?including those who left on the eve of the elections and conjured up the fourth front?will not have numbers and that Left parties? support would be crucial in retaining power. Prakash Karat, general secretary of CPM, has bluntly asserted that the Left parties won'tsupport a Congress?led government. He, however, won'tmind the Congress lending outside support to the third front of which he may himself be a candidate for the top job. Such an arrangement can'tbe a lasting one because of inherent contradictions. If it does happen, the country should be prepared for a mid-term poll in a year or two. CPM leader'sobservation that his party would prefer a Lok Sabha member to be the next Prime Minister is causing ripples in the third front. Is this his way of telling Miss Mayawati and J Jayalalithaa who are not candidates in this election that their ambition of occupying the top office will remain a pipe dream? Will the highly ambitious ladies take this lying down or will the third front disintegrate after the results are out?