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WEST BENGAL

Left Front heads for clean sweep in West Bengal

Wednesday 12 April 2006, by BASU*Suprio, KARANDIKAR*Rajeeva, KUMAR*Sanjay, YADAV*Yogendra

The Hindu-CNN-IBN Poll indicates 3/4th majority

NEW DELHI: The Left Front is all set to sweep West Bengal - winning a three-fourths majority - for its seventh successive electoral triumph. The first phase of the five-phase Assembly elections is still a week away. By current indications, the Left Front is likely to match or even better its best-ever performance in the elections.

The Left has consistently won a two-thirds majority in the State since its winning streak began in 1977. This time it can look forward to securing a three-fourths majority. The findings of The Hindu-CNN-IBN pre-election survey in West Bengal conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) indicate that the Left Front could win as many as 233 to 243 seats in the 294-member Legislative Assembly. The Left’s best performance in the Assembly elections was in 1987 when it won 251 seats and secured 52.9 per cent of the popular vote.

Both the rivals of the Left are expected to finish way behind, with 24 to 30 seats. This will mean the Congress stays where it was, while the Trinamool Congess (TMC) suffers a big loss from the 60 seats it won last time. The Congress seats are concentrated in a few pockets and are less vulnerable to negative swings.

Increase in vote share

The poll indicates that the Left Front’s vote share has increased in the State since the 2001 Assembly elections and the 2004 Lok Sabha general election. Even after adjusting for the usual over-reporting in favour of the Left Front, it is estimated that 54 per cent of the respondents will vote for the ruling front, if elections were held in the first week of April (the survey period). If the same trend were to continue up to the time of the elections, the Left Front could surpass its performance in the 1987 Assembly elections when it secured 52.9 per cent of the vote.

The Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party combine appears a distant second with only 27 per cent of the popular vote. This represents a decline of 9 percentage points from the combined votes secured by the two parties contesting separately. The Congress looks like a poor third, although its vote share appears to have picked up from 8 per cent in 2001 to 12 per cent in this poll.

In real terms, it means a fall from the 14 per cent vote the Congress secured in the Lok Sabha election when it contested on its own.

Fluidity of choice

Is this the way it will finally be when the votes are cast? The poll cannot answer this question in a definite manner. But there are no indications to suggest a high degree of fluidity in voters’ choice. In this highly politicised and polarised State, 94 per cent of the voters had heard about the coming elections and 78 per cent had made up their minds about who to vote for. If anything, the Left voters are much more firm about their choices and the opposition voters a little more tentative.

The survey was conduced between April 1 and 7, just after the election process began in most parts of the State. A total of 3,535 voters spread across 224 locations in 56 Assembly constituencies were interviewed at their homes. (See methodology box on Page 12 for more details)

The Hindu-CNN-IBN will conduct a post-poll survey to track any changes in voting and report its findings as soon as the five-phase election is over.

See online : The Hindu

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