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Survey sees Atal win by whisker
- Congress projected to drop under 100

New Delhi, April 3: The National Democratic Alliance is predicted to retain power at the Centre. Only just.

An opinion poll — Pehli Tasveer Chunav 2004 — conducted by the Star News channel projects 277 seats for the NDA, only a shade over the magic mark of 273 and not enough for its poll strategists to feel safe. The prediction is in a range of 271 to 283.

The survey bodes ill for the Congress. The party, which lost its hold over power in May 1996, is projected to drop below 100. The seat projection is 92, a drop of 20 from its 1999 tally.

As against a drop for the Congress, the BJP is predicted to improve its 1999 tally of 182 by 29 seats, exceeding the 200-mark for the first time. The projected tally is 211 seats.

The bad news for the BJP is that its allies would fare poorly, because of which the NDA’s overall number could drop by around 20 seats, compared to the 300 it won in 1999. From 118 seats in 1999, the BJP’s allies are projected to have a combined total of 66. But for the gains the BJP is projected to make, the NDA might well have surrendered its majority with the allies losing 52 seats.

Ironically, while the Congress is not expected to do well at all, its allies would fare better, pushing the combined tally up to 164.

Outside the two main groupings, others like the Left, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are projected to command a combined strength of 102 in the new Lok Sabha.

The Left parties are expected to improve their tally in Bengal and Kerala. In Bengal, the Left Front is projected to win 34 seats by wresting four from the Trinamul-BJP combine and one from the Congress. In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front is expected to bag 13 of the 20 seats, snatching four from the Congress-led combine.

The NDA is projected to lose heavily in Tamil Nadu and Bihar. In certain other states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand its losses will be substantial. In Orissa and Delhi, the losses will be moderate.

To an extent, the loses will be offset by the projected big wins in Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Chhattisgarh. The gains, however, will be overwhelmingly for the BJP and all at the Congress’ cost.

While the largest improvement is expected to be in Karnataka in a drubbing for the Congress, in Uttar Pradesh, it is expected to retain its top position with a marginal improvement of five seats.

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi, too, is projected to raise its tally to 30, an increase of four seats over 1999.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the single biggest trump card for the BJP, though it is not helping the NDA allies. Half of the electorate is shown as favouring Vajpayee’s return as Prime Minister.

The survey, done for Star News by C Voters, involved interviews with over 12,000 people spread across 120 constituencies.

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