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Best-ever forecast for BJP, worst for Cong

(From left) BJP president Rajnath Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj have jalebis at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Saturday. The occasion was a post-winter session lunch organised by the BJP. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, Feb. 22: The BJP-led NDA was predicted to pull off its best-ever performance but remain short of the halfway mark and the Congress to be decimated like never before, an opinion poll by ABP News-Nielsen said.

The BJP would get 217 Lok Sabha seats and the NDA 236, which is 36 short of the half-way 272 mark. Its national vote share would be 31 per cent.

The Congress would be battered to a double-digit figure of 73, the opinion poll predicted. The UPA would manage only 92 seats, which would be a vote share of 24 per cent.

Narendra Modi, as Prime Minister candidate, seemed to be working as the game-changer for the BJP with 57 per cent respondents endorsing his name for the top post.

Congress mascot Rahul Gandhi lagged behind with only 18 per cent respondents preferring him as Prime Minister. Arvind Kejriwal had a score of 3 per cent, the survey said. But his rookie party was predicted to win 10 seats.

The survey showed that the BJP was way ahead over rival Congress in the north, west and east. The Congress managed to marginally score over the BJP in the south with 23 seats to the rival’s 20.

The Trinamul Congress and rival Left were predicted to tie, each bagging 29 seats. The survey, however, refrained from giving a consolidated figure for the Left-sponsored third front.

It only said the Left parties would get 29 seats and others (comprising regional parties) a total of 186 seats. Put together, the tally of 215 would be a close second to the NDA’s 236.

The BJP, despite not making the magic figure of 272 according to the survey, appeared to have left the exercise of wooing allies till after the declaration of results.

“At present, we are only focused on getting majority on our own. Our slogan is 272+,” Sushma Swaraj said today.

BJP leaders said if the party managed to get the “critical mass” of 200-plus seats, allies would come in the natural course. The optimism may be misplaced given the apprehension of most regional parties over backing a Modi-led government.

However, the BJP could eye the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD, which was part of the NDA earlier, and Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK. Both parties, now considered part of the third front, could tilt to the BJP if their combine fails to win enough seats to be propped up by the Congress.

The BJP may even eye Mamata Banerjee and hope the former NDA ally will offer it issue-based support if Modi announces a financial package for Bengal. But the prospect looks difficult, given Mamata’s substantial Muslim vote bank.

The BJP might even manage to surprise Mamata by winning 30 of the 142 seats in the east, according to the survey. The Congress was shown as getting just 18 seats in the region.

The BJP has hardly any presence in the east, barring Bihar. The survey said the BJP would not win seats in Bengal but would secure a vote share of 10 per cent.

The biggest gain for the BJP, according to the survey, would be from the west. Of 116 Lok Sabha seats in the region, the BJP was predicted to bag 79 seats and the NDA 88.

The Congress would get just 15 seats, the survey said.

The western region includes Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, where the BJP and its allies are strong.