With election campaigns nearing their last leg, media organisations in collaboration with poll trackers have been busy gauging which way the political winds blow.
Opinion polls are, of course, subject to partisan manipulation and limited sample space. But, so far, most of them have portended that the national mood is in favour of giving the BJP-led NDA a second term.
Others have focused on state-wise opinion polling for regional parties, key issues that can swing votes in either favour, and approval ratings for the prime ministerial candidates in the fray; all this has yielded valuable information for both candidates and the demographic dividend.
Here’s what Lokniti predicts
A pre-poll survey conducted by Lokniti of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies indicated in its report, “Over the last one year, the ruling party appears to have overcome the emerging mood of anti-incumbency and turned the tide in its favour.”
Despite an increase in vote-share, the BJP is likely to lose seats due to a “more united Opposition” in key states. The pre-poll survey pegged BJP’s vote-share estimate at 35% as opposed to 31% in May 2014, whereas Congress’s vote-share, which was 19.3% last election, may increase to 23%, according to the survey.
“As things stand in the last week of March 2019, the NDA appears close to the majority mark, though the BJP itself seems well short of securing a majority on its own. One must, however, hasten to add that there does not appear to be any national wave in favour of the ruling party,” it said.
The survey pegged BJP’s seat estimate between 222 and 232, significantly lower than the 283 seats that the party won in 2014.
In the parliamentary elections of 2014, BJP had secured a majority on its own, winning 283 seats (the magic mark is 272) and NDA winning a total of 336 seats; Congress had lost, securing merely 44 seats, while UPA had bagged 60.
Let’s turn to IANS-CVOTER’s analysis
On the basis of data mined by CVOTER-IANS (with a cumulative sample size of 1,05,000 since January 1, 2019, and a weekly addition of 33,000 respondents), BJP’s tally has been pegged at even lower (210) than Congress’s (182).
This is the result of an estimated 3% swing against the ruling dispensation, although NDA remains in the lead; there are 167 marginal seats that will determine the extent of its victory.
Given the faltering strength of the UPA alliance and its vote-share coming down from 28% to 19.5%, a repeat of 2004 performance is unlikely; the NDA had lost the elections despite being a favourite.
So, according to this opinion survey too, PM Narendra Modi is probably looking at a second term.
Mainstream media conducted a few polls
Results of opinion polls posted by India TV, Republic TV, Times Now, and India Today have yielded similar results with slight variations in NDA’s lead. But only a few of them accord NDA a clear majority.
The latest India TV-CNX pre-poll survey, updated on April 6, gives the ruling coalition a thin majority of 275. BJP’s tally may fall from present 282 to 230 seats, 42 short of the midway mark of 272 in the 543-seat Lok Sabha, says the opinion poll, while Congress tally may jump from 44 in 2014 to 97 this time, and UPA’s to 147 seats. ‘Others’, including SP, BSP, TMC, TRS, regional parties, and independents are projected to win 121 seats.
According to Times Now-VMR’s pre-poll survey, NDA is predicted to grab 283 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats, UPA 135, and Others 125. In an earlier edition, the poll had shown that the NDA would have been 21 seats short of the half-way mark had 2019 Lok Sabha election been held in January.
Let’s compare with pre-Pulwama polls
India Today-Karvy Insights pre-poll survey, last updated in January 2019, reported that the NDA would be nowhere close to 272 seats that a political party or alliance needs to form the government, if elections were held then. Predicting a hung Parliament, the survey, titled “Mood of the Nation”, said the NDA would win 237 seats, registering a massive drop of 99 seats compared to the coalition’s 2014 tally. ABP News-CVOTER‘s analysis also floated the possibility of a hung Parliament in the event of a January election.
This is indicative of the fact that the Pulwama attack and its aftermath in February may have swung voters back to the government’s favour. A similar uptick in NDA’s approval ratings were noted in a parallel pre-poll survey conducted by Republic TV-CVOTER.
As per the survey for March, the NDA is projected to be a clear winner by bagging 264 seats, while UPA is projected to win 141 seats out of the total 543 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
The rest of the parties are likely to win 138 seats. The survey shows that NDA is likely to get 18 seats less as compared to 2014, while the UPA is likely to make a leap with 81 more seats.
This poll indicated that citizens’ satisfaction with the Modi government has been on an upswing since the February 1 Budget, where a number of significant announcements were made, especially for farmers and middle-class taxpayers.
The satisfaction index skyrocketed following India’s air-strike on Pakistani terror bases in Balakot. Simultaneously, the satisfaction index of Congress President Rahul Gandhi spiralled downward in the same time-frame.
Modi vs Gandhi
A Scroll.in survey to gauge the intentions and sentiments of women voters has been quite revealing. One of the respondents, a Mumbai-based social entrepreneur, told the “Half The Vote” team that she would vote for Narendra Modi because he is a “powerful person”, and she believes in his poll promise to deliver “ease of doing business“.
According to the India Today-Karvy pre-poll survey, Rahul Gandhi was the best alternative to Narendra Modi with 32% approval rating (to Modi’s 62%) in January. Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav, and P Chidambaram received 3% votes each, while Dalit leader and BSP supremo Mayawati had 7%.
- India TV-CNX pre-poll survey: Modi 41%, Gandhi 23% (January 2019)
- ABP News-CVOTER: Modi- 56%, Gandhi- 36% (November 2018)
- ABP News-CSDS pre-poll survey: Modi 60%, Gandhi 34% (October 2018)
State-wise polling and key issues
According to the latest India TV-CNX pre-poll survey, BJD may retain Odisha, while opposition YSR Congress may win Andhra. In Assam, India TV-CNX poll predicts a tough battle, with five seats each to NDA and UPA, and two possibly to the AIUDF. With Congress joining hands with AIUDF, the north-eastern state should be Congress’s to keep if all goes well.
Bihar may go to NDA with the BJP-JDU alliance still going strong, and amidst the possibility of splitting the Muslim vote with Kanhaiya Kumar’s entry as the candidate for the Left in Begusarai. India TV-CNX puts it at 29:11, while Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat extends the margin to 31:9, both updates in April.
When it comes to comparing the economic performance of the NDA government with its predecessor, 49% of the respondents said it was better, 28% polled worse, while 23% were undecided, according to the India Today-Karvy pre-poll survey (January).
Unemployment polled the most pertinent poll issue in the “Mood of the Nation” survey, followed by corruption, farmers’ crisis, and inflation. Majority of the respondents (46%) did not believe enough jobs were created by the Modi government, while the government seemed to get a pass on alleged corruption in the Rafale deal by just 2%.
Overall, poll arithmetic shows a distinct head-start for the ruling dispensation, but the impact of Modi’s aggressive campaign over the last few days before the nation votes will be telling, experts say.
That said, opinion polls skew data in order to arrive at these precise conclusions and are conjectural; they are, at best, a feeler for how voters perceive poll promises and prioritise based on their perceptions.
The Lok Sabha election begins tomorrow, April 11, and will run in seven phases till May 19; the counting of the votes will start on May 23.
The ‘silent period’ – a moratorium on electioneering ahead of voting day – kicked in Tuesday night in the Telugu states, Uttarakhand, most of the Northeast, Vidarbha and parts of central India, as well as parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius.
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