Karnataka polls: Narendra Modi blasts pundits, political rivals as opinion polls point to close contest

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has never been a fan of opinion polls. In all elections, opinion polls and predictions made by political pundits have been juicy fodder for campaign rallies.

Narendra Modi

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Karnataka election is no exception. But what makes it even more interesting is that even though Modi is yet to step foot in the state, he has dismissed opinion polls by various agencies and media houses. Modi has asserted that there would be no hung Assembly in Karnataka and on 15 May, the verdict on who is going to rule for the next five years will be clear.

Modi will hold his first poll campaign rally in Karnataka only on 1 May. That's still five days away and there won’t be much time left to tilt the balance. He is landing in Karnataka almost a week after the end of the nomination process. The state party unit would have liked Modi to begin his campaign a bit early, but he is apparently heavily occupied with work in Delhi and elsewhere, including foreign trips.

On Thursday, hours before he left for two-day tour to China, Modi made good use of cellphone technology to connect with party workers, spell out his party’s agenda and give them some talking points on how to challenge their Congress and JD(S) rivals and counter the Congress' misinformation campaign.

Modi could be right when he said the people of Karnataka would vote decisively and not give a fractured verdict. The last such instance of a fractured verdict was in 2004, when the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 79 seats, followed by Congress with 65 seats and JD(S) with 58 seats. Thereafter, Karnataka has voted steadily: First for the BJP and then for the Congress.

The last time Uttar Pradesh — the largest state in north India — threw a hung Assembly was in 2002. In the 403-member state Assembly, Samajwadi Party emerged as single largest party with 143 seats, followed by BSP and BJP. In 2007, 2012 and 2017 Uttar Pradesh gave a clear mandate to the BSP, SP and BJP respectively.

Though smaller states with 40 to 60 Assembly seats have thrown up instances of fractured mandate  — Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya come to mind — no medium or large states have given a fractured mandate or a hung Assembly in the past 15 years.

One can argue there was no clear winner in the 15 October, 2014, Maharashtra election. But overall results suggested that voters' preferences for the 288-member Assembly was clear: The BJP, which finally contested an election on its own (after 25 years), won 122 seats. Compare that to the 2009 election, when the BJP won just 46 seats (the saffron party gained 76 seats). The Shiv Sena, which also struck out on its own, won 63 seats compared to 45 seats in 2009 (winning 18 more seats).

However, the Congress and NCP, which ruled Maharashtra for a decade, suffered massive losses: They won just 42 seats in the 2014 election, down from 82 in 2009. It appeared that BJP and Shiv Sena, who'd been partners for two-and-a-half decades contested separately, were favoured by voters hoping they'd join hands to rule.

See what Modi said in Karnataka: "Now, they have a new discourse about hung Assembly. That’s a false proposition. Till the results were declared in 2014, they kept claiming hung Parliament is coming. You must advocate for full majority. Karnataka needs a full majority government to change fate of the state. Talks about hung Assembly are a conspiracy".

Modi then blasted pundits, so-called observers, and political rivals. Modi wants to convey a message that even as there is a triangular contest between BJP, Congress and JD(S), there is a direct fight between BJP and Congress. While one can't make a prediction, it's more than clear that a tough electoral contest is on the cards. The Times Now-VMR Survey predicted a neck-and-neck contest where Congress has a slight edge (91 seats), BJP inching closer (89 seats) and JD(S) is emerging as kingmaker (40 seats).

TV9-Covoter and India Today-Karvy opinion polls predicted (broadly) the same: Hung Assembly. C-Fore predicted Congress will win with a bigger mandate than in 2013. No opinion poll predicted a clear victory for BJP. BJP leaders are now trying to draw comparisons with what Modi said about opinion polls and the popular mandate with Uttar Pradesh, where no opinion poll predicted a clear victory for the saffron party.


Updated Date: Apr 26, 2018 20:30 PM

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