If Modi goes to the Centre, it may not be via UP and Bihar: Survey
The BJP could win 27 seats in UP and 17 in Bihar, but that's still only a third of the 120 seats in the Hindi heartland -- the wave of support for Modi is not the tsunami he needs.
With 120 seats in Parliament, the surge in support for Narendra MOdi in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar should have been welcome news for the Bharatiya Janata Party. It's not, simply because the surge is not the tsunami of support that the Gujarat chief minister will require in these two critical states to notch up the numbers in 2014.
A survey commissioned by the Economic Times and conducted by research firm Nielsen which reached out to 8,500 voters making it one of the wider such exercises, has found that of these 120 seats, the BJP can expect to win 44 -- 27 in Uttar Pradesh and 17 in Bihar.
It currently has 10 MPs in Uttar Pradesh and 12 MPs in Bihar.
Between now and the polls in the summer of 2014, Modi's popularity in these two states -- and simultaneously, the depth of the BJP's local units -- needs to multiply significantly, if the road to the Centre is really "certain to pass through these states".
As it stands, the Hindi heartland will not deliver the coveted chair to Modi. (The poll was conducted just before Modi was formally anointed PM-candidate for the BJP -- so the popularity Modi enjoys in some pockets may have been under-reported in the survey, and likewise for the anti-BJP polarisation in some other pockets of these states.)
The good news for Modi -- support for each of the other parties is eroding alongside his rising acceptability.
In UP, not only is the BJP's anticipated victory in 27 Lok Sabha constituencies almost three times its current count of Parliamentarians from UP, but the poll also shows overall voteshare rising to 28 per cent, from 17 per cent in 2009, in the state.
The Congress emerges as the least preferred party here, its seat share expected to fall to 12 from 21.
The Samajwadi Party, perhaps taking the biggest hit from the Muzaffarnagar riots, is projected as likely to win only 16 seats, down from 23.
The other player in UP, Mayawati, could lose the upper caste votes that were central to her rainbow coalition, since the BJP is most likely to win the support of these voters. The poll predicts, however, that her MPs will continue to number around 20, the BSP's current tally.
In Bihar, with half the number of seats, notwithstanding the BJP-Nitish divorce, the survey results expect Modi's fortunes to only improve on account of, once again, the upper castes switching to the BJP. The projected vote share for the BJP will be 36 pc, the report says. Again, he gains from the falling popularity of the JD(U) and the failure of the Congress to make inroads here.
Needless to say, the survey results are complex and oversimplification would be hazardous: For example, Nitish's personal ratings remain high, but the JD (U) is expected to lose half its current 20 LS members; Nitish's relevance at the Centre would take a tumble if that were to happen but if he were to tie up with the Congress with a view to consolidate the Muslim vote, then it's an wide open field. And that will be despite the fact that the Congress was decimated in the last Assembly elections where it won just 4 out of 243 seats.
So, what's the fine print in the survey results and its reading? For one, in both states, just how the Muslims and Yadavs vote could alter dramatically closer to polls, and their voting behaviour will significantly impact the result. Two, while the BJP may gain from the split with Nitish, it's not a corresponding gain for the NDA -- even a thinner contingent of JD (U) MPs could be significant to the UPA or an alternative combine.
In any case, the rising acceptability of the BJP may bestow it a larger slice of the voteshare pie -- up to 33 pc from 14 pc in 2009 in Bihar, but not a matching rise in the seat tally, expected to go from 12 to 17. The RJD, whose leader Lalu Prasad Yadav was not yet in jail when the survey was conducted, loses a significant percentage of votes, from 19 percent to 12 percent. The RJD is, however, projected as winning 5 seats, up by 1 from 2009.
And, as a previous Outlook survey of experts pointed out, a three-fold rise in the number of MPs the BJP has in UP is the most the party can expect to grow, even in post-Muzaffarnagar Uttar Pradesh's highly polarised atmosphere. The space for any further growth for the BJP is limited. Plus there is the important aspect of where the BJP is on the decline, the Modi factor notwithstanding, for example in Karnataka. In its largest support base in the South, the BJP will suffer critical losses. The largest Southern state in terms of MPs, Andhra Pradesh, could redefine the reading of some surveys if the Congress plays its cards cleverly there.
So, while the general view may be that the Hindi heartland's 120 MPs could pick the next prime minister, the BJP gains alone will not be enough to deliver Delhi to Modi
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