THE Economic Times (October 17) said it all. In a pre-election survey, one of the largest ahead of the 2014 battle, the paper carried out, there is a clear surge building up in favour of the BJP in the “cow belt”. Some 8,500 voters were asked to name their preferred party in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The result are stunning.
In 2009 the BJP won in Utter Pradesh only 10 seats, in 2014 it is expected to win 27 seats. The Congress which won 21 seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2001 is expected to lose nine seats in 2014. The BSP will lose only two seats and the Samajwadi Party five. Similarly in Bihar, the BJP which won only 12 seats in 2009 is expected not to get 17, while the JDU will lose ten. A Narendra Modi wave, the paper reported, is gathering momentum in the Hindi heartland.
In Uttar Pradesh, Narendra Modi’s popularity runs to 50 per cent, while that of Rahul Gandhi is a pitiable 5 per cent. Much the same story is repeated in Bihar where Modi’s popularity is 47 per cent, while that of Rahul is 19 per cent. In all BJP is expected to get 27 of the 80 parliamentary seats in 2014, nearly thrice the number it got in its past two outings.
The Economic Times makes the claim that the swing of the BJP increased after it named Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate. As a possible Prime Ministerial candidate, Nitish Kumar could manage to get a much lower percentage of votes than Modi. The point is made that the BJP-led NDA alliance is the best of its kind. A big loser in Uttar Pradesh is Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav in whom the
people’s faith has dropped drastically. As The Economic Times put it “lout chants of NaMo rise in Akhilesh land”. At the same time the Samajwadi Party’s popularity has nose-dived.
As for Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, while he scores high in reliability, opinion is sharply divided on his decision to snap his party’s ties with the BJP. Voters preferred Modi as the Prime Minister by 48 per cent, while on this point Nitish scored only 40 per cent.
Second Poll – Times Now-C Voter Survey conducted by The Times of India also indicates that the NDA will win around 186 seats and the Congress-led UPA 117 seats in the 2014 elections. Of course, anything can happen between now and March/April 2014. There are still some six months to go and the public will surely be waiting for every and any fresh development, to change its mind one way or another. But in the last three months the situation has changed fast in favour of the BJP. More reports about corruption, anti-incumbency, soaring prices, financial scandals over ones like Coalgate have changed the public mind considerably. Also, it is said the BJP confirmation of Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate has greatly helped-some barbed criticism of the man from some well-known quarters notwithstanding. And then, finally, there is now party patriarch LK Advani’s public endorsement of Modi as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate and that has settled the matter.
Internal party dissension on the issue has become a closed chapter. As Modi continues to attract bigger and bigger audiences all over India, and not just in Delhi or Rajasthan, it is becoming increasingly clear that Modi’s candidature is now universally accepted. But two things must be taken into account. One is the thinking in the smaller parties – like even Shiromani Akali Dal, for instance on whom, ultimately the BJP will have to depend upon to form a strong coalition alliance. Right now the BJP has only the support, at least publicly, of the Shiv Sena and the SAD. Modi is, at a personal level, friendly with the temperamental Jayalalithaa, and, for all one knows, she may go with the NDA. Her success over the DMK is generally accepted, considering the scams with which DMK Ministers in the UPA Government have been associated. No one is sure where Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamul Congress stands, at this point in time. It may stay away from the NDA, lest it loses its Muslim support base in West Bengal. The Telugu Desam Party, however, has now made it plain where it stands. Modi is lucky. But Nitish Kumar’s standing dislike – call it whatever one likes – of Modi is unlikely for him to support the NDA. For all practical purposes he will move over to the UPA. But all this is speculation, howsoever reasoned it is.
It is only when the BJP shows unusual strength on its own and wins more than the 186 seats it is now supposed to get, that the non-BJP, non-Congress mindsets will be put to fresh thinking. In the end, power is everything. But meanwhile a new development is running its course, the prospects of a Third Force which is being aggressively pushed by the Communist Party, which is strongly courting Naveen Patnaik. If coaliations led either by the Congress or the BJP have not necessarily provided greater political or better governance, one can only be sceptical of a coalition, say, of the Communist Party and the parties that have been left behind.
But if we accept what CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat has been quoted as having said, he is pessimistic over the formation of a third front. He is quoted as saying: “There is no Third Front now” though some parties do want one. One hope there won’t be one because it would be the biggest political fraud if a Third Front is created, considering the sheer range of views held by some thirteen parties attending the Anti-Communal Convention in Delhi. UPA coaliation has shown enough of what a fraud a coalition can turn out to be. Let the fight be between the UPA and NDA. That would be true politics.