Millennium Post

Nearer polls, die looks cast for Modi

Let me start with a caveat that I am not a complete believer in the opinion polls. The way they have been frequently used by the television channels in the past few years to fill-up the space on days when the possibility of grabbing eyeballs is high, makes them suspect and also makes one believe that psephology is more an attempt at entertainment rather than serious political study.

A few months back I had argued in these very columns that howsoever much the Indian intelligentsia castigate the political class, the fact remains that it too wants some space in power structure. This is most evident among the journalists and this new breed called psephologists.

While the professional ethics of both would require that they should not seek privileges from those on whom they report but an increasing trend towards journalists and even psephologists seeking assignments from political parties has become part of the system.

Having said that, I must also admit, the opinion poll predictions have not always completely mismatched with the final results. They got the predictions very close to the actual results in the recently held polls (December 2013) for the five state assemblies, the exception being the performance of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. AAP’s own opinion poll conducted by Yogendra Yadav over-estimated its performance, the other pollsters under-estimated it. Such inaccuracies do occur when a party contests for the first time. However, even in the case of AAP one particular agency got their figures correct.

Therefore it could be interesting to evaluate government formation on the basis of the results of the opinion polls conducted by different agencies and telecast on different channels over the Republic Day weekend.

The channel poll results made one clear indication that the next prime minister would not be from the Congress party, which could even find difficult to cross the three figure mark. The party leaderships, especially after the 17 January session of the All India Congress Committee, seem to have reconciled itself to this probable outcome. The reluctance of party president to pitch Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate is an evidence of the prevailing mood. Though some say it could be a strategy to go into the polls as an underdog.

This, however, does not necessarily mean that the Congress has given up on the idea of having its finger in the pie of the next government formation. The propping up of the Aam Admi Party government in the national Capital with support of the Congress legislators is clear indicator of the realignment of the political forces which is on the anvil. The tone and tenor of AAP vis-a-vis Narendra Modi-led BJP has turned from critical to vituperative. While the job of ‘taking on’ Rahul Gandhi in Amethi has been left to hardly credible persona of Kumar Vishwas, in Gujarat the AAP has decided to handover the baton to senior television journalist and a much more articulate face of Ashutosh. The latter is certainly capable of communicating, the main strength of AAP, more forcefully than the former.

The question which is uppermost in the minds of the poll observers is whether AAP is capable of reining in the ever increasing momentum in favour of Narendra Modi in the states where the BJP has a presence. The opinion polls indicate that it’s unlikely that AAP would be of much consequence outside Delhi and unlikely to stop the BJP from having its all time best performance. That brings us to the concluding part of today’s discussion – whether this expected best performance will be good enough to have a Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre?

There is already a buzz going on whether there was a possibility of the former allies of the BJP returning to the NDA fold if somebody other than Narendra Modi was to become the prime minister. It’s being said that there are leaders within the BJP eagerly waiting for such a situation to arise and throw their hat in the ring.It would be sacrilegious for the BJP leadership to even think on those lines. The whole build up and campaign is framed around the persona of Narendra Modi. He has been projected by the party as the leader capable of leading the nation out of the ‘morass’ that it finds itself in. Having got the people to vote in the name of Modi, to have a compromise on his candidature for PM post would amount to playing fraud on the voters.

Should then the BJP not negotiate with its erstwhile allies for support in the situation of the NDA inching very close to majority figure and missing it by a whisker? It should indeed but making it clear that the leadership of Narendra Modi was not negotiable. The regional parties have their assembly polls lined up after the 2014 general election. They would prefer entering the arena from the position of strength rather than be part of a Congress prodded ramshackle third-front alliance.

The inter-state rivalries of these regional powers like the DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and YSR Congress, Telugu Desam Party and Telangana Rashtra Samithi in Andhra Pradesh are such that they would find very difficult to make themselves part of the same alliance. In such a situation, with numbers on its side, the BJP would find that regional parties would enter the NDA shedding initial inhibition and lead to formation of a strong government at the Centre.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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