From the editor- in- chief
There is a common adage: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” It could well apply to the electorate whose mandate has been scorned and betrayed. Our latest Mood of the Nation poll reflects this in ample measure against the misrule of UPA 2. Since 2009, there has been a steady decline in its popularity but in August 2012, it has turned decisively against the regime. INDIA TODAY’s biannual opinion poll, conducted by The Nielsen Company, makes sorry reading for the Congress and its top leadership. It will bring some cheer to the BJP, which now sits in pole position with its allies in the NDA. And it will let loose the ambitions of non- Congress, non- BJP parties which are set to be kingmakers when the next General Elections are held.
According to our poll, if elections were to be held today, the UPA would get between 171 and 181 seats, far fewer than the 259 it won in 2009. The biggest loser in the UPA is the Congress. It is set to lose badly in many of its strongholds. In Andhra Pradesh, which propelled both UPA 1 and UPA 2 to power, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress is set to get a lion’s share of the seats at the expense of the Congress which has engaged in a witch- hunt against the son of the popular late chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. In Rajasthan, where the Congress won 21 out of 25 seats in 2009, it is likely to suffer heavy reverse because of the incompetence of the Ashok Gehlot government. The bad news isn’t restricted to these two states alone. The simmering anger against the non- performance of the Manmohan Singh Government has now reached boiling point.
People are pessimistic about this Government’s ability to push through economic reforms. They are angry about corruption. They are angrier about inflation. The fury of India’s citizens and the unpopularity of the Union Government are reflected in the poor personal ratings Prime Minister Singh gets— a steep fall for a man once regarded as one of India’s finest minds in public life. The problems for Congress run deeper. While heir apparent Rahul Gandhi remains the most popular candidate for the leadership of UPA, his popularity as a future prime minister has steadily been falling below that of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The leadership question is also a troublesome one for the BJP and the NDA. Modi’s popularity is hardly pan- Indian, restricted to the North and West. He is also a deeply polarising figure. However, the BJP’s central leadership in Delhi is even less popular. Only a minority of respondents in our poll could correctly recall the name of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. The NDA would get around 200 seats if polls were held today. It, therefore, has the additional challenge of broadening the alliance to actually reach the majority mark. For that, the BJP needs to present a leader acceptable across several allies. If it fails to do so, the ball may fall in the court of a non- BJP NDA leader. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has emerged as the most popular choice for prime minister among non- BJP candidates in the NDA.
Technically, the General Elections are a year and a half away, and that’s not a long time to resurrect the fortunes of Congress and UPA. The NDA needs to get its act together and gather more allies if it is to harvest this anger against the present Government. The need of the hour is a stable coalition alternative to the UPA, not a disastrous Third Front- led arrangement.
OUR AUGUST2011 COVER