It’s election time and survey time too!

With the general elections just eight months away, the Times Now ETG seems to be the first to come out with an opinion poll on possible verdicts set to go in favour of which party or alliance. As usual, the emergence of alliances of Opposition parties in a bid to challenge the rightist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has become a common feature since 2014, and the entire media going gaga over possible outcomes. Since the 2014 such opinion polls, which have gone for a six, the media appeared more conscious in their projections. Though the media, by and large, projected the BJP a clear win, yet could not imagine that it would breach the 300-mark on its own. Those negligible poll-strategy agencies, whose allegiance to the BJP, too have gone overboard. Yet, by and large, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-Home Minister Amit Shah juggernaut has become unstoppable, which was the essence of all the past surveys.

And, the media appear to continue with that prism and hence, the Times Now ETG television has taken all precautions in summing up that if the elections are to be held today, the NDA is bound to get little over the simple majority in the 542-member Lok Sabha. It claims NDA is securing anywhere between 296 and 326, around 15 to 20 seats less than in 2019.  Interestingly, the survey admits, the BJP continue to retain its 2019 tally of 303, if not add on another half a dozen seats. On the contrary, the newly-formed 26-member Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.) bloc of getting 180-190 seats, about 40-50 seats more than it won in the last Lok Sabha polls. It also gives the Congress 20-25 seats more than its previous outing– from the present 52 to 75-80. But, from where the Congress is going to get these seats, it has not been explained. One has to presume that these seats may come from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana from the south and Maharashtra in the west, while in other regions, especially in the Hindi belt consisting of Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the party is nowhere in the race.

The Congress’ pathetic condition continues, according to the survey, in the biggest state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) where 80 seats are at stake, or West Bengal having 42 seats. Whereas the projections for the BJP-led NDA remain same as in 2019 and, in all probability, may increase by 5-6 seats (especially in UP from 62 to 70-72 and clinging onto the 16-18 in West Bengal). Even in other states like Punjab, Haryana, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Goa, the BJP likely to retain its earlier seats, or add a few more.   The survey claims that Modi is set to equal the record of India’s first premier Jawaharlal Nehru by assuming power for the third consecutive term. And, a confident Modi and his cabinet colleague Shah, besides others have already declared that the NDA’s return to power in 2024 is a certainty. Modi also thundered from the Red Fort on Independence Day and in the Lok Sabha while replying to the I.N.D.I.A. bloc’s ‘no-confidence’ motion that the NDA is coming back to power with much bigger mandate. He also best utilized both platforms to boast of his government’s nine-year achievements with facts and figures with great enthusiasm and frequently pulled punches at the entire Opposition which, in turn, dubbed that Modi failed miserably to justify his government’s misdeeds.

The I.N.D.I.A. bloc continues to attack Modi that he and his party failed to fulfill promises like resolving the growing unemployment problem or handle the economy better or arrest the ever-increasing inflation, besides destroying the Constitutional bodies, including the Election Commission. But, in the public eye, all this criticism has become a butt of ridicule, while the massive infrastructure development all across the country, or bringing the below poverty line (BPL) numbers to an all-time low or taking the Indian economy from the tenth to fifth position or ensuring 40 crore BPL families receive their monthly ration free of cost since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out two-and-half years ago, or strengthening of Indian armed forces to take on their adversaries on both the fronts –  China on the East and Pakistan on the West – besides making greater strides in industrialization, especially in IT sector (today, India manufactures Apple brand iPhones and also exports to several countries), etc, as the list remains endless. Added to that phenomenal drop in graft cases, barring the recent Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) reports stating some discrepancies in Health Sector spending and the high cost of Dwarka Expressway construction all are before the Indian electorate, to see and understand and vote decisively.

Hence the projections, which are  undoubtedly too early as in politics even a week is too long a time, appear to be closer to the reality. Interestingly, even the I.N.D.I.A. bloc spokespersons or their supporters in the television panel discussion on the survey accepted the projections, but were optimistic things are bound to improve as their chances of performing well in a few states which go to polls this year-end are bright, ahead of the 2024 final battle. Certainly, none should undermine or question their confidence as a challenger, that too against Modi and Shah before them, they should put up a brave face and continue to claim that ‘we are best or better’ as in the case of film “Three Idiots” where in the lead star’s ‘mantra’ happens to be ‘I am the best’ to boost up one’s image. Yet, the ground realities are different and the swing of 3 per cent either way, predicted by the Times Now ETG, may be an acceptable factor close to the poll dates. That way, the BJP-led NDA may breach 350 figures or the I.N.D.I.A. bloc of 200. Either way, the 2024 final verdict looks tilted enviously towards the NDA’s favour. And, that’s the essence of the survey. Hope, other competing channels too come up with their poll projections in days to come, to prove a point or two that they remain the best in such business.