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Cong butterflies flutter in BJP stomach

New Delhi, Nov. 26: Three days before polling, the BJP is getting the jitters in Delhi because its latest internal survey shows the Congress edging ahead in the neck-and-neck race.

The party has got a professional agency to conduct the survey, which it is updating at regular intervals.

Sources said the survey suggested the BJP was losing steam and could end up winning only 30 of 70 seats, short of the halfway mark of 35.

The Congress could win a few more than the BJP, the survey claimed. The BSP, seeking to make a big impact on the fortunes of both the national parties, might not gain much in terms of seats, it said.

The BSP, which polled 5.56 per cent votes in the 2003 election, could significantly enhance its base but the BJP’s assessment was that it would not win more than three seats.

The BJP’s internal survey suggested that the Congress, which won 47 seats in the last elections, might just emerge as the single largest party even if it fell short of majority.

For the BJP leadership, the survey results have come as a shock because Delhi provided an ideal platform for the party. The Congress’s Sheila Dikshit government, in power for 10 years, is facing anti-incumbency and the savage rise in prices has multiplied its problems.

The BJP, on the other hand, was buoyant after a resounding victory in the municipal elections and a powerful campaign run by its master strategist, Arun Jaitley.

The early internal surveys also gave the party a clear victory margin. But as the electioneering dragged on, the Congress appeared to be catching up and the BJP leaders’ confidence waned.

The leadership factor, which has been the BJP’s selling point in many elections, became its handicap in Delhi. Leaders admit that a comparison between the suave Dikshit and a rusty Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the BJP’s candidate for chief minister, hurt the party.

Another unforeseen factor that popped up late was the dual effect of the BSP card. The party has traditionally eaten into the Congress votebank of the poor, Dalits and the Muslims. But Mayavati’s wooing of Brahmins, which helped her get a two-thirds majority in Uttar Pradesh, appears to have begun to show results elsewhere, too. She has fielded a large number of rich and upper caste candidates who are making a dent in the BJP’s support base, sources said.

The BJP leadership still believes the “Maya magic” is restricted to the slums as urban voters are not enamoured of the BSP. But the feedback from those working on the ground is that the BSP sword is cutting both ways.

Delhi will be a test case for the BJP, which has ignored the damage Mayavati’s “social engineering” did the party in Uttar Pradesh and has been counting on the BSP to hurt the Congress’s prospects across the country.

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