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The open season is coming to an end. And in the spirit of the times, we even have an Outlook guesstimate, and the indefatigable Arun Nehru of course is still projecting numbers similar to the TOI for the two parties:
The three possibilities are a Congress-led coalition with Group D if the former has the numbers and can meet the requirements of the Left and the demand list of the AIADMK, which could, for a start, be the dismissal of the DMK government.
Further, the TDP and the BJD may also need the assistance of the Congress if they have a hung Assembly in the state.All the main parties in Group D (BSP, AIADMK, TDP and BJD) could also travel to the NDA if things do not work out to their satisfaction.
The first attempt I feel will be to forge a strong combination involving the Left and others in Group D. Attempts will be made to weaken both the UPA and the NDA by inducting the NCP and the JD(U) into this combination. At 160-plus seats they will be bigger than the Congress and the BJP but not bigger than either the UPA or the NDA.
One IB estimate received late last night says BJP 147, Congress 139. This may explain the stream of overtures from the Congress to the Left.
A pollster whose conclusions are contrarian (but often accurate) says that of the 457 seats polled to date, the projections are: BJP 154 and allies 42, Congress 123 and (pre-poll allies) 24. This makes it NDA 196, UPA 147.
MJ Akbar, as always, should be allowed the last word:
For the rest of India, back to astrologers and bookies. Bookies are considered superior because they seem to put their money where their mouth is. A friend who was born intelligent but has grown wise over many an educational afternoon spent in the exquisite environment of the Kolkata race course, reminded me of the first law of racing. Bookies only make money when the favourite loses. What would a bookie prefer? To get it right, or to get rich? Dumb question.
As the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz said,
ChaNd roz aur merii jaan,
faqt, chaNd hii roz
Arun Nehru is predicting both BJP and Congress will maintain and perhaps improve upon their 2004 Lok Sabha numbers:
Graphic Courtesy Deccan Chronicle. More here
The NDTV predictions after the third and second phase incidentally stand as follows:
|| 3rd Ph
But what's the harm in guessing? First Arun Nehru in Deccan Chronicle:
I still see both the Congress and the BJP getting close to 300 seats between them. Either of them could form a stable government and the floating vote may stabilise in favour of either party. In states where both are in contention we may see the biggest changes in the next few weeks.
A swing of 20 seats in either direction can change the existing power equations and I think this may well happen as the voter is generally ahead of most political parties.
I find a distinct change in the mood of the electorate as several chief ministers returned to power beating anti-incumbency trends. There is a premium on integrity and good governance based on stability
Graphic Courtesy Deccan Chronicle
And then DNA editors, who now show the UPA losing big and the Others gaining this week:
Graphic Courtesy DNA
MJ Akbar said it best:
Sharad Pawar, it has been suggested, has thrown a cat among the pigeons by opening a can of prime ministers. He may have done something more worrisome than that. He may have thrown a pigeon among the cats.
And another useful insight:
The Left read a clear message in this decision. The Congress wastreating the Left, rather than the BJP, as its principal enemy in thisgeneral election. How? Because in the states where an alliance wouldhave hurt the BJP, like Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, theCongress rejected an alliance with leaders who could have helped defeatthe BJP, like Shibu Soren, Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and MulayamSingh Yadav. The distribution of seats in Jharkhand had even beenannounced, but the arrangement collapsed suddenly, and inexplicably, atthe last minute. As a consequence, the BJP will pick up vital extraseats in a state where it was comprehensively defeated five years ago.The Marxists do not consider this accidental. They believe this to be partof a careful Congress strategy to marginalise the Left. There isnothing personal or sentimental about their response.
They will notpermit Congress to lead another Government because they are convincedthat the Congress will use every tactic, political and administrative,behind a screen of conciliatory words, to pursue the same objective ifit returns to Government. They know it is a battle of survival and theyintend to survive.
Graphic Courtesy Deccan Chronicle
Ha! So you thought they were done with those bloody polls? All right, Arun Nehru's back of the envelope calculations are hardly a poll, but it's fun to return to speculation of this sort. No wonder, some four newspapers carry essentially the same column week after week. Here he is in the Deccan Chronicle:
There is a clear pattern emerging in 2009, as we see the SP/RJD/LJP declining in numbers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. From their current numbers of 65 seats they can drop to 35-40 seats. The seats they lose will go to the BSP/Congress in Uttar Pradesh and to the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar.
The Left will drop from 65 seats to 35-40 seats and the gains will be for the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal and the Congress in Kerala. I feel that the trends are consolidating towards the Congress and the BJP in the future and it is just a matter of time when the BSP (vote share can be 10 per cent in the future) will consider it expedient to ally with either party for a strategic alliance.
Read the full piece here: Watch UP and Bihar for coalition trends
Coming from Congressman-turned BJP armchair pollster Arun Nehru, the Congress would be pleased to see him give it a lead of as much as 25 seats in the Deccan Chronicle:
Graphic Courtesy the Deccan Chronicle
Trends have settled in most of the states but what will happen in Uttar Pradesh? I see small changes which may further develop in the coming weeks.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) continues to look strong and after the Pilibhit episode it may gain minority votes. The Congress may also gain in select seats.
In fact, the Congress is in a fighting position in Farrukhabad, Badaun, Rampur, Moradabad, Sultanpur, Kanpur, Padrauna and Pratapgarh. It looks set to get 10 to 15 seats in Uttar Pradesh this time. Raebareli and Amethi are safe and Congress candidate Jitin Prasada should also win.
Rampur is interesting where Jayaprada of the SP was ahead of the Congress and the BJP but now it is a photo finish between the Congress, the BJP and the SP. The Congress/BSP can both swing away another 5-6 seats from the SP and BJP if the minority reaction is favourable.
In turn, the BJP may also consolidate its seats. The SP is under pressure in Uttar Pradesh.
Even more heartening and perplexing for it must be Nehru's last words: "If we look at the last six Assembly elections then we see that integrity and good governance have been rewarded. Instinct tells me that a similar situation may well develop in 2009."
Read the full article: Voters will award good governance
Not much has changed in Arun Nehru's over-all numbers, as published in the Deccan Chronicle.
We do not know the likely composition of the Third Front but political reality cannot be ignored. All regional leaders have experience, ability and charisma. I would not write off Mr Nitish Kumar, Mr Sharad Pawar, Ms Mayawati, Ms J. Jayalalithaa or Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav as contenders for the top job in the future. My personal feeling is that a regional group formation today will result in larger cooperation with power-sharing agreements if the parties can find a compromise candidate with a good image for the Prime Minister’s post. This can become the favoured option even if the Congress or the BJP maintain the figures given below.
The Left is still relevant even if their numbers drop from 65 seats to 33 seats, but they will get totally isolated if they obstruct regional forces from negotiating with either the Congress or the BJP. In this context, the Samajwadi Party general secretary, Mr Amar Singh, may well be a major player as he understands politics better than others. The joining together of the SP, RJD and LJP should give a suitable signal to both the Congress and the BJP that their options are limited in the future.
More here: Spoilt for choice after the elections
Arun Nehru's weekly numbers show Congress gaining 4 seats over last week and the BJP losing an equal number over last week.
"While every party is under pressure on alliance pattern and seat selection, the BJP continues to damage its prospect".
And it is not as if the Congress does not have its own share of troubles from the allies. In Bihar, for example, Arun Nehru says he "would be surprised if the Congress wins a single seat".
The reason why the recent Bihar troubles do not make much of a difference in these predictions is that even as of last week, Nehru was giving the Congress 1 seat, which is now down to zero.
For the BJP, the spat between Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, and the Varun Gandhi episode are only two of the problems that are out in the public.
Nehru says "a loss of 10-20 seats in the tally can cause damage to the BJP and this cannot be ruled out if the current chaos continues in the BJP."
But the BJP's biggest problem is its lack of allies. It has already lost Trinamul Congress, AIADMK, TDP, BJD and NC. And realistically speaking, other than BJD, none of the others are likely to support the Saffron party.
Meanwhile, things are heating up with the likes of Mallika Sarabhai contesting from Gandhi Nagar against LK Advani and Shashi Tharoor from Kerala.
But Nehru is more realistic:
I think this election will see the emergence of Mr Rahul Gandhi in the Congress and Mr Narendra Modi in the BJP and both have the talent and ability to lead. There will also be Ms Mayawati who will battle to increase the vote share of the BSP and to establish its position as a credible third force. These three may well be the major players in the political arena.
Graphic Courtesy Deccan Chronicle
If the election schedule is here, can the poll-predictions be far behind? Former union minister and Congressman-turned-BJP strategist Arun Nehru has been regularly publishing his back-of-the-envelope calculations in the Pioneer. His predictions for 2004 LS elections were as highly off the mark as any other scientific opinion poll by reputed psephologists. This time around, he says, it won't be a dull election. As of today, he's predicting, Congress 149, BJP 135.
Tamil Nadu is a good example where the DMK, the AIADMK, the PMK and the MDMK can travel in several directions, both at the Centre and in the State. This will happen sooner rather than later as voter preferences become clear. The DMK has been in power for a decade at the Centre, both with the NDA and the UPA, and its extensive assets have led to a damaging family feud. As a result Ms J Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK are gaining ground with each passing day, and the ruling Congress cannot ignore this development.
Change is in the air and my gut feeling is that Ms Jayalalithaa and her allies will sweep the poll. The AIADMK, if it has the numbers, can travel in any direction, and the same holds true for the BSP, the SP, the TDP, the NCP, or for that matter any other regional party. Alliances and agreements will be flexible — with ideology taking a backseat — and will largely depend on numbers.
Incidentally, the importance of Tamil Nadu results to these elections is being underlined by almost all. Mahesh Rangarajan also had a column today in the Mail Today making the same point: "Tamil Nadu and not UP holds the key to power".
Graphic courtesy The Pioneer