Change is the theme for most poll pundits

After intensive electioneering for 2 months, barely 48 hours are left for results to be declared. Change appears to be the theme of the season. HT reports. UP hung, Cong edge in two states, say exit polls | Lining up for a photo finish? | The poll story | Big debate
Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondents
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2012 03:07 PM IST

Uttar Pradesh
The month-long jamboree came to an end on Saturday. The result is anybody's guess but most pundits are saying change is the theme of the season.

There are some straws in the winds to catch. Experts are unanimous that Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party will emerge as single largest. But, if it falls short, it may have to seek support from the Congress. But neither seems keen on it.

The Congress, which came back into reckoning in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls thanks to Rahul Gandhi's tireless campaign, may not be able to capitalise on his goodwill because of poor organisational structure and infighting. Its alliance with the RLD is set to pay dividend in western UP. Congress leaders are betting on 125 of the 403 seats, but pollsters predict half the number. Regardless, the Congress is no longer seen as a has-been.

The BSP is the only party that is expected to lose ground. CM Mayawati’s famed rainbow coalition of castes has collapsed. There is anger over the misuse of SC/ST Act, restriction of development to Ambedkar villages and the NRHM scam.

The BJP would win seats by default and would have the Congress to thank for going overboard on the Muslim quota issue. It could polarise votes on communal lines on some seats.

It is a high stake contest for state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh and Shiromani Akali Dal head and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal as a comeback would not be easy for either.

Though many consider the Congress to be the favourite, the results are too close to call. Punjab has traditionally voted Akali Dal and Congress governments to power alternatively. The former Maharaja of Patiala will be hoping history repeats itself. A loss for the Congress could, however, result in his marginalisation, given his indifferent health.

Though age is on the side of Sukhbir, 49, a loss would make it difficult for him to keep his flock together, especially when his father and CM Parkash Singh Badal is already 84.

Though the Congress is a divided house — with six CM candidates — it may still ride on anti-incumbency wave. New outfit Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha has twisted equations in several seats. The BJP hopes to salvage its reputation, squandered by former CM Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, through incumbent BC Khanduri, who has a clean image.

Manipur's Mandate 2012 was on the heels of a marathon highway blockade. The subsequent electoral debut of Naga People's Front probably turned the tide in favour of the incumbent Congress. With the Trinamool Congress having fielded the most candidates, 47, after the Congress's 60, Manipur, nevertheless, expects a close fight.

This election coincides with 50th year of Goa's liberation and pollsters are hoping the state will be able to shrug off its
long tradition of political instability — it has had 19 CMs since 1961. The odds are heavily stacked against the incumbent Congress as a result of the mining scam, corruption charges, politics of dynasty and internal bickering.

Battle of states: The poll story

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