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Third Front? No, it is going to be NDA vs UPA

Various surveys have indicated that both the BJP and the Congress are down in the dumps and the third front or even the mystical fourth front coming up to dictate the national discourse. Most of them, especially a recent C-voter survey, are indicating the possibilities of a hung Parliament. Of course, it is too early to take a call, because neither of the two leading parties have disclosed the cards they hold close to their chest.

Mulayam Singh leading some prospective Third Front members

Mulayam Singh leading some prospective Third Front members

Parkala Observer: Shrikant N Shenoy

News analysts have now started dismissing as a distant possibility a direct fight between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. For reasons obvious, both camps — the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance one one hand and the Congress party-led United Political Alliance on the other — are shy of openly declaring as to who will lead their election 2014 campaign.

A NaMo vs RaGa campaign had excited the media to no end, especially since December 2012. Almost all news anchors, from the right, left and centre, seemed to want the coming elections as a direct fight between the two leaders, a la a US presidential fight.

However, both political sides have been reticent, and understandably so, to oblige the shouting brigade in the media.

Of course, it is not only the media, but also the coalition partners that have been expounding their thoughts, more so in the NDA.

But various surveys have indicated that both the BJP and the Congress are down in the dumps and the third front or even the mystical fourth front coming up to dictate the national discourse.

Most of them, especially a recent C-voter survey, are indicating the possibilities of a hung Parliament. Of course, it is too early to take a call, because neither of the two leading parties have disclosed the cards they hold close to their chest.

The basic issue faced by political pundits from various shades and hues is that they are not yet able to read the stars correctly. The coming monsoon also holds the key. The dark clouds that have been forecast for this year are clearly hiding the skies.

Bravado from either side cannot be an indication, and no one can read the horoscopes nor the minds of the parties which are part of the current coalitions.

Take for example, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the man who hunts with the hounds but runs with the hares. Even Mamatadidi did not know what hit her during the presidential election. Mulayam is the most unpredictable element now.

Others like Nara Chandrababu Naidu have not yet come to terms with remaining out of power for a long time. Events have overtaken him and his Telugu Desam party; they have lost it completely and he — the original reformer — cannot comprehend which side he should go to retain his lustre.

Some like Navin Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa are still keeping their preferences in their hearts, but Patnaik would prefer a third or front rather than joining a coalition led by either the Congress or the BJP.

Nitish Kumar is just a red herring. He faces the same fate which Chandrababu Naidu faced. Leave the NDA and get consigned to the margins or join the UPA and yet be consigned to the margins.

Naidu got infatuated with the Left and he has paid the price. He is now wondering how to get out of the muck which has been has been his own creation. There are indicators that he is now seriously considering getting back into the NDA fold. There is simply no other option for him. Jaganmohan Reddy and his YSR Congress Party and Naidu’s ambiguity over the contentious Telangana issue have made the latter a “no show”, at least in Andhra Pradesh, notwithstanding his attempts to reach out to the populace with his mass contact programme.

A lot has been said about other political combinations and permutations and this will continue for quite some time, may be even after the Lok Sabha elections results have been declared.

No political pundit true to his salt –from either side of the divide — will give a definitive conclusion.

But coming back to the NaMo vs RaGa episodes, which some have still stuck to religiously, let us now take a look at the current situation. Here, we take a look at the much-trumpeted online poll conducted by rediff.com.

Most probably India’s oldest news portal, rediff.com’s results of the online survey shows that a whopping 76 per cent picked up Narendra Modi as their choice for prime minister.

Over some seven days, 64,275 readers cast their votes (figures as on 11 am on Monday, April 15) and the results showed that RaGa was far, far behind with “a mere” 3,577 votes.

Manmohan Singh, destined to be known forever as the man who only kept the “seat” warm for RaGa, got only a few hundred votes behind his political master — or mistress’ — son.

Others followed, P Chidambaram, L K Advani, Nitish Kumar, in that order. The only reason we can comprehend Nitish being in that list of 11 — at two per cent — is because of the noises he has been making against that “iron man” from Gujarat.

We can safely ignore the others on that list.

But then polls are just polls, which we can take with a pinch of salt.

Loathe him as much as you can, but ignore him at your own peril. No one has electrified India as Modi has done. The Modi effect has been felt even deep down south, like in remote villages in Tamil Nadu.

There is one thing we might safely say: We, in the media, enjoy a jolly good controversy. And Mr Modi has always been controversial and will remain controversial, for ever. It helps our “TRPs”, you know!

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Survey: Only Modi can rescue BJP in Karnataka

Modi has campaigned in Karnataka on earlier occasions, but what is going to make the difference is the high-decibel pitch in his favour as a potential prime ministerial candidate, which has set the imagination of the urban and middle class voters in Karnataka — as all over India — on fire. Modi is seen has having a clean, non-corrupt image, and if he can convince the Karnataka voters that that the Karnataka BJP will be following his line of good governance, we might see the voters forgiving the party.

The hopes of Karnataka BJP are pinned only on Narendra Modi The hopes of Karnataka BJP are pinned only on Narendra Modi

Parkala Observer: Shrikant N ShenoyAnother survey, another set of figures, the same old story. The Bharatiya Janata Party is set to suffer a humiliating defeat in the Karnataka assembly elections to be held on May 5 and the Congress party it set to win. Yaaawwnnn!

But wait, there’s something new this time: The same survey shows the BJP may yet be able to turn around its fortunes if Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi campaigns in the southern state.

Sixtyfour per cent of those surveyed for the Headlines Today and C-Voter from January to March 2013 believe Modi can help the BJP recover lost ground in Karnataka.

C-Voter has been carrying out surveys every month for various media outlets since the past few months on voter moods in Karnataka and has been indicating the swings in the fortunes of the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress party in the state.

While earlier surveys showed monthly results, the present survey published by Headlines Today (read here) showed results of the poll carried out over three months, i.e., from, January 2013 to March 2013.

But what is interesting to note that even though the Congress party is set to win, it is seeing a steady decline in popularity from a high of 136 in December 2012 to 118 in the latest C-Voter Survey. Headlines Today website gives the figures for Congress as follows: Jan. 2013: 133, Feb. 2013: 122 and March 2013: 118.

Another give-away from the survey was that former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa will play a spoilsport for the BJP, but his Karnataka Janatha Paksha (KJP) by itself would not gain more than a few seats.

This means that the Congress will be gaining at the expense of the the BJP-KJP rivalry and not due to any any new-found love for the party led by Sonia-Rahul mother-son duo.

Now, let’s see the vote share in terms of percentage. While the Congress is expected to gain from 80 seats in the current assembly to 118, their vote share is likely to drop by one per cent from 35 per cent to 34 per cent.

On the other hand, the BJP is likely to lose a vote share of six per cent from 34 per cent to 28 per cent, resulting in the fall of seats from 110 seats to 80 seats.

In the third place is the JD(S), retaining its vote share of 19 per cent, but gains in seats from 28 to 35. The KJP with a vote share of eight per cent is predicted to gain about 12 seats for the first time in the state. This is not enough for Yeddyurappa to play kingmaker as he so openly desires.

Now, if Modi campaigns in Karnataka, there is a high probability that the vote share loss of six per cent could be arrested and perhaps even reversed.

Modi has campaigned in Karnataka on earlier occasions, but what is going to make the difference is the high-decibel pitch in his favour as a potential prime ministerial candidate, which has set the imagination of the urban and middle class voters in Karnataka — as all over India — on fire.

Modi is seen has having a clean, non-corrupt image, and if he can convince the Karnataka voters that that the Karnataka BJP will be following his line of good governance, we might see the voters forgiving the party. The main reason why the voters are put off in the first place is because of the perceived corruption by Yeddyurappa and his cohorts.

But observers say apart from the corruption issue, the biggest drawback for the party is the issue of non-performance. They see present incumbent Jagadish Shettar as a non-functional chief minister. Some perceive Shettar as Yeddyurappa’s man since it was at the instance of the latter that D V Sadananada Gowda was removed as chief minister. Sadananda Gowda was not only seen as non-corrupt, but also as a dynamic chief minister.

It was Yeddyurappa’s fear that Gowda would prevent his return as chief minister that led him to demand the latter’s ouster. It was seen as foolish if not an outright blunder that the BJP high command led by Nitin Gadkari not only tolerated Yeddyurappa’s shenanigans, but also gave in to his irrational demands.

Incidentally, an earlier survey had shown that Sadananda Gowda was the best chief minister between the three of them.

It remains to be seen how the Modi factor plays out. The BJP also realises this and are keen to utilise his services for as long as possible and for as many regions and constituencies as possible. They have chalked out a programme of 15 conventions over about a week in several districts spread over different parts of the state.

They want his help to mainly attract the youth and women, who are clearly impressed by the Gujarat chief minister.

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