The UPA is likely to come close to the half-way mark with 267 seats in the Lok Sabha if there are snap polls now. It is likely to get 45 seats more than the 222 it presently has. But in a sign that anti-incumbency is beginning to catch up with it, the UPA would have got 300 seats and a clear majority if the Lok Sabha polls had been held in January 2007.
According to a CNN-IBN-Indian Express opinion poll conducted in 23 states in the last two weeks, 56 per cent of the respondents supporting the ruling coalition believe Sonia Gandhi is the preferred choice as prime minister for a UPA regime. Among those who back the NDA, 58 per cent want AB Vajpayee as the PM.
The survey also shows an improvement in the NDA's numbers, with its projected tally increasing from 115 seats in January to 133 seats if elections are held. <b1>
But unlike the NDA allies that are seen holding on to their states in Orissa, Bihar and Punjab, the BJP is found slipping in the three main states it is in power-Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
In the event, the allies that presently have 40 Lok Sabha seats could add another three while the BJP's numbers from the three states would dip from the existing 56 to just 21 if elections are held now.
However, the saffron party and Narendra Modi appear comfortably placed in Gujarat, with 56 per cent of the state's respondents rooting for him over the Congress in the run-up to the year-end assembly polls.
The nuclear deal and the attendant UPA-Left crisis do not figure high on the agenda of the 18,000 respondents. The mid term projections show the Left losing ground in its bastions. Its present Lok Sabha tally may decline from 55 seats to 43 in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, says the survey. It pegs the BSP's numbers at 35 and that of the UNPA at 49.
According to the survey, the respondents see inflation and the condition of farmers as main election issues. Only six per cent rate the deal and reservations as poll issues.
The findings show that 64 per cent of the respondents have not even heard of the nuclear deal. Among those who had, 19 per cent supported it and 16 per cent opposed it.
The opinion poll also suggests an indictment of the UPA on its handling of terrorism, corruption and inflation: 44 per cent feel terrorism has deteriorated; 49 per cent believe corruption has worsened and 56 per cent believe inflation has gone up.