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Pollsters spring hung House hint
- Surveys point to reduced NDA majority

New Delhi, April 17: Would the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance get a wafer-thin majority or is India headed towards a hung Parliament' This is the question being thrown up by pre-poll surveys released over the weekend.

If pollsters are to be believed — and psephology is not a developed science in India — the “feel good” factor seems to be wearing thin, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

With two days to go for the first phase of polling, opinion polls are pointing to a reduced NDA majority. If a 3 per cent margin of error is assumed — a reasonable statistical assumption with sample sizes of around 12,000 — then in the worst-case scenario, the country may even be headed towards a hung Parliament.

Because pollsters do not rule out the possibility of the NDA falling short of a majority by 10-20 seats, a hung Parliament is a distinct possibility. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and even the DMK — likely to do well in their respective states — may then end up being kingmakers.

Pollsters, however, caution against drawing any firm conclusions as this Lok Sabha poll is spread over three weeks. Public opinion may still change, they warn.

But the fact remains that most opinion polls conducted over the last 10 days show an erosion in the fortunes of the NDA, although they still give it a lead over the Congress-led alliance.

They show the BJP improving on its tally of 182 seats in the last Lok Sabha, while a slide is predicted for its allies. The BJP is expected to sweep Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan (where it rules) and even Congress-ruled Karnataka. It is also set to improve its fortunes marginally in Uttar Pradesh.

According to the latest STAR News survey, the NDA will get 270-286 seats, the Congress-led alliance 154-170 seats and others 95-111 seats. It predicts the Congress “sinking to its lowest ever tally” with less than 100 seats. An earlier poll conducted in the last week of March had shown virtually similar results.

Yashwant Deshmukh of C-Voter, who conducted the STAR News poll, said: “The two states where the swing away from the NDA is most visible are Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.”

Some other opinion polls made public over the last few days show that there has been a decline in the NDA’s popularity. The Indian Express-NDTV poll conducted by AC Nielsen, which had given the NDA 287-307 seats in March, has brought the tally down to 260-280 seats. Another one conducted by Outlook magazine in the first week of April gives the NDA 276 seats and 166 seats to the Congress and its allies.

How significant is this erosion in the NDA’s electoral support' “What is to be watched is whether the fall in the NDA vote is a one-time fall before the first phase of elections or whether the slide would continue,” said noted psephologist Yogendra Yadav.

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