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Two big parties,one big number

One of these two parties has to go wrong on that fateful day.

Written by Shishir Gupta | New Delhi |
May 10, 2009 8:51:26 pm

There is uncanny similarity of numbers among the key strategists of the Congress and the BJP forty eight hours before the final round of LS 2009. Both the parties now individually quote a magical number of 165 seats and,of course,the tag of single largest party even though May 16 is exactly a week away. One of these two parties has to go wrong on that fateful day. But,just like the Russian roulette,the odds are even at the beginning of the new game. Let us take the two mainstream political parties one by one after discounting theory of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani’s Boswell,Sudheendra Kulkarni,that the two parties could even join hands to form a national government.

Although Congress party spokesman and a die-hard optimist Kapil Sibal gives Congress 200 seats in the final result tally,the key players in the party give a band of 160-165 seats in LS 2009. Even if we assume a figure of 165 seats for the Congress,then the total UPA tally should be around 200 seats with allies and others contributing another 35 seats. Add the Samajawadi party conservative tally of 20 seats and another 35 of the Left– on the grounds that communalism is a greater threat than the Indo-US nuclear deal—and the magical figure of 272 is well within grasp.

However,if the Congress is so sure about its numbers,then it is pertinent to examine the reason behind party general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s unabashed praise of Nitish Kumar,Chandrababu Naidu and even J. Jayalalitha. And one must not forget the “ Kabbhi Ha,Kabhi Na” on the alliance with the Left. A political cynic would attribute it to the Congress and its allies not doing well in Bihar,Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The jitters in the Congress that led to firing of loud mouth Veerappa Moily and a self important Ashwini Kumar from the media cell reveals that the party is certainly not as confident about the final tally as it would like to be.

A good electoral performance by the Congress rests on its ability to hold on to a maximum number of seats in Andhra Pradesh. It was AP that gave Congress the wining push in LS 2004. Although AP Congress chief minister Y.S. Reddy has predicted a 30 seat performance to the party high command,the realists in the party say that the Congress may come down to 20 seats from 29 in 2004. The reason is that the TDP,TRS and Left alliance has apparently done well in Telengana and the Praja Rajyam Party of Cheeranjeevi has made strong inroads into coastal areas.

A downturn in Congress AP results,this time,may not get neutralized by its party’s performance in neighbouring Tamil Nadu as it will get hit by the anti-incumbency against ally DMK. Relief should come to Congress in south only from Kerala results where the ruling LDF is vertically spilt between the party and the government. Although this is subject to correction but the Congress’ perceived good electoral performance in one state is getting neutralized by weak showing in the next. Consider this : the Congress will do well in Punjab but it is showing rather weak performance in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh; the grand old party will ramp up its seats in Rajasthan,only to be let down in Gujarat and the up in Orissa and West Bengal will get evened by the down in Assam and Jharkhand. In a nutshell,the final tally for the Congress will be around 150 with an error of plus/ minus five seats,a marginal increase from the 145 seats of 2004. The party is at optimum in Delhi,may retain its UP seats and do marginally well in Madhya Pradesh.

Now cut to BJP. Its electoral position is also no different from the Congress. The key to BJP victory lies in its electoral performance in Uttar Pradesh or western UP in particular. From a poor 10 seat result in 2004,the BJP now expects anywhere between 20 to 30 seats in Uttar Pradesh as it is banking on return of Brahmin,Jats and most backward classes to its side. Along with ally JD (U),the BJP will add numbers even in Bihar as dominant parties like the RJD and LJP look heading for a poor result. With the NDA alliance working to its advantage this time unlike 2004,the BJP will again accrue in Assam and may pick up a couple in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The confidence of the BJP stems from the fact that the Congress has not been able to dent its optimum performance in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh though the party will yield no less than additional nine seats to Congress in Rajasthan. The party expects to offset its Rajasthan and marginal MP losses with an improved performance in Gujarat and Jharkhand. BJP’s ally Akali Dal is expected to take a significant hit in Punjab with Dera Sacha Sauda delivering a hefty electoral blow in Malwa region. But then there are gains to be picked up by the NDA in Haryana,where the Congress is at optimum levels. The big picture emerges is that if the BJP does as well as it predicts in western UP and picks up in Maharashtra,then its overall seat tally of 138 in 2004 will increase perhaps dramatically. Yet all the same,given the BJP’s no show in Tamil Nadu,Kerala and West Bengal barring the Darjeeling seat,the electoral results will not be spectacular but settle down again in the same 150-160 seat band. It is only after number crunching based on perceptions on ground in the battleground states does one realize that why the both sides are giving themselves 160 seats and the other around 130 seats. Except that the BJP-led NDA appears more confident as of today than the Congress to face the D-Day on May 16.

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