Debating India

Rise in popular support for Congress and UPA

Sunday 13 August 2006, by KARANDIKAR*Rajeeva, KUMAR*Sanjay, YADAV*Yogendra

Ruling coalition could win over 300 Lok Sabha seats, finds The Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey

For a Government besieged with a midlife crisis and controversy - the Volcker disclosures, Mandal-II, farmer suicides and rising prices - here is some good news. Had a Lok Sabha election been held in the first week of August, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) would have won a comfortable majority on its own.

The ruling coalition’s tally could have crossed 300 seats, substantially more than the 222 the Congress and its allies won in the 2004 elections. This gain is mainly at the expense of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). An election in August would have seen the NDA’s tally reduced from 189 seats in the last elections to only 120.

These are the main findings of The Hindu -CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey, conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). The poll, conducted between August 1 and 6, is based on interviews with 14,680 respondents, spread across 883 villages and urban areas in 19 States, including Delhi.

The UPA owes its gains almost entirely to the Congress. The party is projected to get 240 seats, some distance away from a simple majority, but more than what it secured in any Lok Sabha election since 1991.

The survey shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party would have registered its worst performance in 17 years. It is projected to get 82 seats, four short of its tally in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. The Left parties are likely to retain their current tally of about 60 seats.

A similar survey, conducted by the CSDS in January 2006, found that the UPA and the Congress had registered major gains since the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. This survey projected 274 seats for the UPA and 150 for the NDA. Since then, the UPA’s total vote share has increased by another two percentage points (a total gain of about eight percentage points since 2004).

While the NDA shed about one-and-a-half percentage points (a loss of about five percentage points since 2004), the vote share of the Left has remained stable. There is a small decline in comparison with 2004, but this is confined to areas outside West Bengal and Kerala.

The Hindu -CNN-IBN survey provides an insight into the reasons for the UPA’s rise. The overall level of satisfaction with the Central Government is higher than it was for its NDA predecessor. At the same time, the number of people who think that the Government has performed worse than expected exceeds the number who think it has performed better than expected. Voters also feel that the situation has worsened in key areas such as corruption, national security, prices and the condition of farmers.

Three factors seem to be working for the Congress. First, the popularity ratings of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are robust and only getting better. The leadership crisis within the BJP has left no one in a position to occupy the space vacated by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Secondly, there is a subtle but clear nationwide shift from regional parties to national parties. The Congress, and to a lesser extent the BJP, are beneficiaries of this in many States.

Finally, the cycle of incumbency favours the Congress at this juncture as it is not in power in many States. In Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, the Governments have not completed the first half of their five-year term. As a result, anti-incumbency is less of a factor. On the other hand, the NDA is at the receiving end in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which went to the polls in 2003.

Factional fights in Jharkhand and an incongruous alliance in Karnataka have swung things further against the NDA. It is only in Bihar, Orissa and, to an extent, in Gujarat that the NDA has escaped voter fury.

The survey suggests that a long-term political trend may be at work here. Since the 1989 Lok Sabha elections, which signalled the end of the Congress dominance, the space vacated by the party had been occupied by regional formations. The 2004 Lok Sabha election results indicated that this trend had been halted. The findings of The Hindu -CNN-IBN survey show that the Congress is beginning to regain some of the social ground it lost in the 1990s.

See online : The Hindu

SPIP | template | | Site Map | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0