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Cong on a roll, says poll

JUST IMAGINE this. Sonia Gandhi returns from Hyderabad and asks Manmohan Singh to recommend the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. In the snap polls that follow, the UPA secures a clear majority and is no longer dependent on the Left. The BJP is crushed, while the Congress consolidates its presence within the UPA. Sounds like a post-biryani Hyderabadi pipe dream? The findings of the latest and the most comprehensive survey of the Indian voters confirm this scenario.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2006 01:21 IST

JUST IMAGINE this. Sonia Gandhi returns from Hyderabad and asks Manmohan Singh to recommend the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. In the snap polls that follow, the UPA secures a clear majority and is no longer dependent on the Left.

The BJP is crushed, while the Congress consolidates its presence within the UPA.

Sounds like a post-biryani Hyderabadi pipe dream? The findings of the latest and the most comprehensive survey of the Indian voters confirm this scenario.

The Hindustan Times-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Poll was conduced by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies among 15,141 randomly selected, eligible voters in the first half of January. A team of over 500 researchers travelled across all the 28 states and Delhi, and asked the selected voters to indicate on a dummy ballot who they will vote for if Lok Sabha elections were held tomorrow. The findings show that the UPA government is enjoying a delayed honeymoon with the electorate.

It enjoys a very comfortable lead of 10 percentage points over the NDA -- a big leap since the last elections when both the alliances had nearly the same share of votes. In the past 20 months, there has been a 5.8 per cent swing in favour of the UPA, while the NDA has lost 3.6 per cent.

The Congress's biggest gains have come from the sections it lost in the 1990s: urban voters, upper and dominant castes, and minorities.

In terms of seats, this would mean 274 seats for the UPA, just above the magic figure of 272. More than the UPA, the Congress is likely to be the sole gainer in this scenario. It is expected to increase its tally from 145 to 214, while its allies, like the DMK and the RJD, are likely to suffer reversals.

The NDA is likely to end up with only 150 seats. And that too if the BJP managed to retain all its allies of 2004, including the TDP and the AIADMK. On its own the BJP might slip to 92 seats, its lowest since 1989.

The Congress would carry greater clout within the UPA, while the BJP's presence within the NDA would shrink.

If elections are held tomorrow, the Congress would manage to hold on to most of the states that it took in 2004, while the NDA is likely to face reverses in states, like Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, where it dominated last time. The NDA may be able to check the Congress tide only in Bihar, Gujarat and Orissa.

The Congress appears to have come close to the long-awaited breakthrough in Uttar Pradesh, where the popularity of the ruling Samajwadi Party is fast dwindling.

Political parties present a programme of action to the voters, get a mandate and form the government. We are witnessing a reversal of this sequence. The Congress formed the government first and took one and a half years to get a mandate. Will it start thinking about a programme of action now?

First Published: Jan 24, 2006 01:21 IST