New Delhi: Is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) set to form the government in the Centre for the third consecutive term? India Today and CVoter’s ‘Mood of the Nation’ survey suggests so.
If it happens, Narendra Modi would emerge as the only second prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru (the first PM of the country) to have a third term in office in a row.
The NDA, according to the survey, could win 335 seats in the upcoming general elections (a loss of 18 seats if compared to the total tally of 353 in 2019).
On the other hand, the survey predicts, the Congress-led INDIA alliance might win 166 seats — with 71 going in the grand old party’s kitty seats and 95 to its allies. It means, the Congress would go up by 19 seats from its 2019 tally of 52. If the prediction turns out to be right, the party would finally have the Leader of Opposition post — which it had lost in the past two elections (2014 and 2019).
The survey predicts that the NDA’s vote share would stand at 45% and INDIA block 38%. However, the difference deepens if analysed party-wise. The survey predicts a vote share of 40% for the BJP and 19% for the Congress.
The survey suggests the NDA will sweep in North India and have dominance in West and East. On the other hand, the Opposition, the survey finds, is expected to perform well in the South.
The prediction shows that the BJP would repeat its 2019 performance in many states such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan where it is expected to have a complete or near-complete sweep.
In Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal, the predicted tallies are also similar to the last election.
The Opposition alliance, the survey suggests, is likely to sweep in southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It might be strong in Punjab.
But the Congress seems to be struggling badly — according to the prediction — in states where it has a direct contest with the BJP, though it would have minor gains in Haryana and Karnataka.
Following states would have major changes if the survey is something to be believed:
In Bihar, the NDA is predicted to lose seven seats (32 from 39 in the previous election). The Opposition may increase its tally from one to eight.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Centre’s ruling alliance could further increase its seats to 72 from 64. With just eight seats, the Opposition is expected to perform the worst here.
Maharashtra may witness a major change in terms of number of seats to the NDA and the INDIA bloc. The survey predicts 22 seats for the NDA (a fall of 19 seats from 41 in 2019).
The INDIA alliance is likely to go up to 26 seats, as against seven for the UPA in 2019.
Telangana would give the Congress 10 (a rise of seven if compared to previous poll) and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) could be down to three from nine.
In Andhra Pradesh, according to the survey, a major turnaround is expected. The Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) could fall to just eight seats from 22 in 2019 and the Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP), along with its allies, could go up to 17 from three in 2019.
In Karnataka where the Congress is in power, surprisingly, the survey predicts a marginal hike (one to four) for the party.
In Assam (which has the BJP government), the NDA could go up to 12 from 9 and Congress might lose one seat from three last time.
Issues such as the construction of grand Ram temple, handling of COVID and abrogation of Article 370, the survey predicts, seem to be working in favour of the NDA, while unemployment is something the incumbents must be worried about.
# There does not seem to be much resentment against the Modi government. And in the near absence of the anti-incumbency, the BJP may witness a minor loss in number of seats.
However, achieving ‘Mission 370’ (for the BJP) or ‘Abki Baar 400 Ke Paar’ (for the NDA), as announced by PM Modi, is still a distant dream.
# The BJP continues to have a strong hold over Uttar Pradesh. The INDIA block appears to be weakest here. Among all the non-Congress parties in the INDIA bloc, the Samajwadi Party seems to be struggling the most.
If voting is held today, the survey predicts, the NDA in Uttar Pradesh is likely to get 52% of the total votes by securing 72 seats with the support of Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal (S).
In the 2019 elections, the BJP won 62 seats and its ally Apna Dal (S) two seats.
# The states where the saffron party has a strong regional leadership such as Uttar Pradesh and Assam, its gains are higher.
# Despite PM Modi focussing his visits to these states, especially to the South, the BJP does not seem to be performing exceptionally well even though it is making a limited inroads in states where it is weak such as West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
# The states (such as Maharashtra) where the Opposition has a strong alliance, it is set to gain.
# The Congress seems to be struggling in almost every state where it has a direct contest against the BJP. The exceptions are Haryana and Karnataka.
# Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ — which has crossed through Eastern India — does not seem to be turning into electoral gains for his party and its alliance. Whatever the INDIA block would get in the East would be because of the strong base of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.
As per the survey, it is inevitable. The math does not seem to favour the Opposition block, which has already saturated the possible gains from the alliance in Maharashtra.
As a result of Nitish Kumar’s exit from the INDIA alliance, the arithmetic is no longer in its favour in Bihar. Still, the Congress-headed alliance is predicted to have a marginal gain.
As long as the Congress continues to perform badly in states it has a direct fight with the BJP and its allies underperform in their respective states, it cannot at all be even closer to the NDA.
What can help the Congress reduce the BJP’s lead at this stage is an aggressive campaign centered around livelihood and unemployment.
In addition, the Congress president along with other decision makers of his party should sit with their allies, thrash out a seat sharing formula for states, decide candidates and get on the ground aggressively strictly sticking to people-centric issues.
Asked about the possible scenario the survey has projected, political analyst Rahul Verma, a fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, said there is always a possibility in Indian politics, but the probability of the projection turning into a different direction is “very low”.
He said the vote share of the Congress did not improve in PM Nehru’s three successive elections (1952, 1957 and 1962). “But what is happening with the BJP, it is improving (31% in 2014, 37% in 2019 and now projected 40% and that too three months ahead of elections). Given the fact that it’s a conservative estimate, the BJP being an organisational party can actually pick up more votes. With this kind of difference in vote share, the seat translation is going to be heavy,” he said.
He said the Congress is holding on to its 18-19% vote share and 70 seats because of its, perhaps, performance in Telangana and other states.
“But we don’t know what will conspire in these states if the BJP ties up with regional parties like the BRS, etc.,” he added, hinting that the 400 figure announced by the prime minister for the NDA might turn into a reality.
Asked what happened to the Congress (three consecutive defeats; 15 years out of power; and while it may get 70 seats, it could also come down to 40-50 if the BJP goes up by 20-30), senior journalist and political commentator Rasheed Kidwai said the party would be happy even with 70 seats, which will let it secure the position of of the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
“It may sound a bit odd and bizarre, the Congress would be happy to know the findings that it is getting 70 seats, which would give them the Leader of Opposition post,” he said, adding that “the Congress is a very easily satisfied party. And this is one of the reasons why it is going down”.
When asked as to why the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and the ‘Bharat Jodo Nayay Yatra’ failed to help the party improve its vote shares and seat counts, he said, “When the the first phase of the march was started, the Congress was expected to increase its vote share by two-three percent. They were actually hoping for a hike of 25%. It is very bad news that the party is not getting the expected number of seats.”
Asked where such a result will lead to the grand old party, he said “In states, its allies would break away because nobody wants to be in Opposition forever.”
Asked if the Opposition has just given up like it appeared to have done in the 2022 Gujarat Assembly election, Kidwai said the biggest problem with the Opposition in 2024 is that there is no sense of political authority.
“There are regional parties and the Congress. When you talk about the Congress, you have Mallikarjun Kharge as the president of the AICC (All India Congress Committee) and Rahul Gandhi who represents the political leadership of the party. Since Kharge lacks political leadership, there is no political authority at all,” he concluded.
Political analyst Amitabh Tiwari, when asked about big takeaways of the projections two months before the election, said the BJP is of course attaining the poll position which the Congress acquired from 1950s till 1950s.
“At that point of time, the Congress was competing mostly against regional parties. But now the BJP is doing the same as regional parties’ tally stands at 168 seats.
“The BJP is increasing its vote share, while the Congress is holding on to its vote share. All its gains are coming at the cost of regional parties,” he added.