By Harihar Swarup
What will be the scenario like if the general elections are held today—nine months before schedule? If the Opposition unites against the BJP and Narendra Modi, then it will be a battle between UPA and NDA, seeing a return of coalition governments, according to a recent poll survey.
Recall 2014 Lok Sabha election—“the prince versus pauper” contest between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi? If the poll battle is held today, it will be neither Rahul versus Modi nor Modi versus the rest. The 2019 fight might end up looking like a clash between two grand coalitions—the NDA plus versus UPA plus.
In the collisions between two grand coalitions, can a Congress led grand alliance challenge the Narendra Modi-led NDA in 2019? Will the index of opposition unity, which bore results during the Bengaluru drama at the time of Karnataka assembly poll and during the key bye elections in Uttar Pradesh (Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana) checkmate the NDA plus in 2019 Lok Sabha poll?
The tightest case scenario, according to India today survey is the following: UPA-plus, including the Mamata Banerjee-led All India Trinamool Congress, Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi party and Mayawati-led BSP is likely to do really well, getting 224 seats, just four seats less than NDA (228) while others get 91 seats. In terms of percentage of votes, the UPA plus (41 per cent), does better than NDA (36 per cent), while others are expected to end up with 23 per cent votes.
An alternative scenario, according to the survey, is with NDA-plus finding new partners in South: AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh. The Telugu Desam party and Peoples Democratic party, which quit the NDA, have been added to the UPA fold. With additional partners in south, the NDA-plus is likely to get 255 seats in contrast to 242 seats for UPA-plus (43 per cent). In terms of popular votes, UPA-plus (43 per cent) is still ahead of NDA-plus by 2 per cent. Others are just 16 per cent.
These two scenarios contrast dramatically from scenario 1 in which the coalition structure is similar to 2014. The UPA –plus gains almost 10 per cent more votes over 2014 scenario, while the NDA trails by 5 per cent, losing its equivalent lead.
What has led to the shrinking of the NDA’s vote and a corresponding surge in UPA’s votes compared to previous surveys? Is Modi on a slippery slope after four years in power? Is the survey picking up anti-incumbency trends in the nation’s mood? Or, is the UPA surge mainly because of newer allies of the Mahagatbandhan?
The answer, is all four. First the three most important voter concerns are unemployment (34 percent), price rise (24 per cent) and corruption (18percent). The three together is causing an anti-incumbency wave. Although, at 49 per cent Modi’s popularity is still 22 per cent higher than that of Rahul Gandhi (27 per cent), the gap between the two has reduced from 55 per cent in January 2017 to 22 per cent now, a steep decline. Second the new allies of UPA-plus (AITC, SP and BSP) are main catalysts for coalition surge.
Finally, three key takeaways from the survey: First, the NDA, in all scenarios, is ahead of the UPA in terms of seats. Reason: the BJP’s strike rate is much higher with a concentrated voter base, as compared with the Congress, which is spread thin among voters. Second, Modi still remains undisputed leader with highest rate of popularity ratings. Finally, the UPA’s surge is likely to work out in 2019 if and only if the grand alliance is pre-poll one. (IPA Service)
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