The BJP will have to cover a lot more ground over the seven or eight months remaining before the next parliamentary elections if it seriously intends to gain power at the center. The Congress, meanwhile, will have to work twice as hard in terms of policy and strategy if wishes to retrieve lost ground.
A survey done by Times Now, C-Voter and India TV suggest that the BJP will emerge as the single largest party and the NDA the largest political formation as against the ruling Congress and UPA. Narendra Modi is by far the preferred Prime Ministerial contender over Rahul Gandhi or any one else but these preferences will not translate into as big an advantage in Lok Sabha seats, at least for now.
While the predictions made by the Times Now, C-Voter and India TV survey differ with CNN-IBN, Hindu, and CSDS Election Tracker in terms of the numbers, the broad findings remain the same in both cases - Congress losing heavily but the BJP will not gain enough to win the election outright either.
If that were to happen, it would defy national and regional trends over the last few years, with voters having given governments a clear mandate at the both the centre and the states. Not since the 2007 Uttar Pradesh elections have people given a fractured mandate in any state and 2009 was a clear pro-incumbency mandate for the Congress-led UPA. However, the two surveys suggest that the Congress has lost out in popular perception and confidence.
The BJP, though, can’t celebrate because the gains made by the party are only marginal - from 116 in 2009 to a projected total of 131 as of July 2013. This certainly can’t make the BJP and its campaign committee chief Narendra Modi feel happy, but it can console itself that the survey predicts heavy looses for the Congress - from 206 seats in 2009 to 119.
The survey claims that the UPA would get a total of 134 seats, down 93 seats from what it got in previous elections and the NDA could get 156 seats, up by 24.
What should worry both principal parties, the Congress and the BJP, is that a potential Third Front (aggregate of non-UPA & non-NDA), which got 184 seats last time, could get around 253 if the elections were to be held today.
This particular survey makes the interesting prediction that for the first time ever, the combined tally of the two main parties could be 250, far less than the 272 needed for a majority in Parliament. This suggests two possibilities: A Third Front or Federal Front could emerge to lead the government, or if Congress leads a new government by stitching together some kind an umbrella coalition after the elections, it will be a very weak government.
If the surveys are any indicator, then the Congress may still have a chance in case of a fractured mandate, but the smaller regional parties will have a much greater arm-twisting capacity over the union government than they ever had in the past.
The Times Now, C Voter, India TV opinion poll suggest that the Samajwadi Party (33 from 22 in 2009) and AIADMK (29 from 9 in 2009) are making heavy gains. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has made his prime ministerial ambitions known but AIADMK chief Jaylalitha has so far not shown any such inclinations, at least in public.
The CNN-IBN/Hindu survey had predicted that Congress will take a massive beating – down from its 2009 strength of 206 to 131 - 139, the BJP emerging as the single largest party with 156-164 seats and NDA being the largest pre-poll political group with 172-180 seats, way ahead of Congress led UPA 149-153 seats. It projected Others (a host of smaller parties) could gain as many as 147-155 seats without taking BSP, SP and the Left Front into account.
The Congress has now gone into into a hyperactive mode. The paralysis in decision making that characterised it has been replaced by fast-tracking a decision on spinning Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh, joining hands with JMM-RJD for the formation of a government in Jharkhand, attempting to take sole credit for a populist Food Security Bill and putting another contentious but landholding farmer-friendly land acquisition bill on the table.
How much these efforts will halt its slide will depend on the realities on the ground. In the meantime, Modi and his team will have to move fast and in a more decisive way to boost BJP’s prospects to get within striking distance of forming the next government at the center.