The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Forecast close call for BJP
- All opinion polls narrow Gujarat edge

New Delhi, Dec. 6: Faint furrows have started creasing the BJP’s brow with several opinion polls in Gujarat predicting a close finish and the most rosy forecast scaling down the party’s tally.

The India Today-Aaj Tak combine, which conducted two rounds of opinion polls, has brought down the BJP’s projected total to 100-110 seats from 120-130 last month.

The same group’s survey, carried out by ORG-Marg, has predicted the Congress’ new tally will be between 70-80, up from the 45-55 forecast after the first round of the opinion poll.

The disclosure of the new figures coincided with the survey results of another magazine —The Week — which forecast a neck-and-neck race.

The survey was carried out by TN Sofres Mode.

Most opinion poll results (see chart), barring that carried by Outlook which gave an edge to the Congress, forecast a close call or a thin advantage for the BJP, casting a cloud on the ruling party’s private assessment of a more or less comfortable victory in Gujarat.

The projections came with a safety clause. The India Today survey referred to “black boxes”, one of which consisted of 18 per cent respondents who refused to share details of the past and future intentions and a second of 29 per cent who gave information but said they could change their mind on polling day.

ORG-Marg chairman Titoo Ahluwalia was quoted as saying: “This second black box is huge with about a third of the voters. This chunk is the one uncertain element in what is otherwise an opinion poll that points to a clear BJP victory.”

The survey said “polarisation and better candidate selection” by the Congress helped it recover some ground but added that the BJP’s advantage derived from Narendra Modi’s soaring popularity among all, except the Muslims, the ideological agenda he set through Godhra and Akshardham and a “feeble” anti-incumbency factor.

According to the survey, while state Congress president Shankersinh Vaghela’s ratings had improved, they could not compare with Modi’s.

Gujarat BJP sources conceded that in the absence of a Hindutva wave in large parts and the failure of terrorism to crystallise into a major plank, the party is pinning hopes on the Modi factor.

“This is not a BJP election or an Atal Bihari Vajpayee or L.K. Advani election. It is a Modi election because his image as a macho man with a no-nonsense outlook has captivated the imagination of women and youths. These two huge segments are bound to vote lock, stock and barrel for the BJP,” said one of its key strategists.

However, the crowds drawn by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Vaghela to their public meetings have become a cause of concern for the BJP.

Despite initial attempts to pooh-pooh Vaghela’s re-emergence on the Gujarat political landscape as a “flash in the pan”, there was an admission that his past as a “rebel” who dared to take on leaders like Advani, Modi and Keshubhai Patel at the height of their glory made him a “formidable” challenger.

Sources said he could take away a chunk of the votes of his Kshatriya community.

In the past, it was the Patel-Kshatriya community that enabled the BJP to worst the Congress.

With the Dalit, Muslim and tribal votes supplementing the Congress Kshatriyas’, BJP sources conceded that their party’s task was cut out.


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