Second poll too gives Congress the edge in State

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Is the Congress doing well by default in Karnataka, and has the BJP ‘s stock sunk deeper than the party will acknowledge?

Close on the heels of the CNN-IBN-Deccan Herald pre-poll survey that gave a slim majority to the Congress in the State, an opinion poll conducted for rival media organisations in Bangalore is said to have arrived at a similar podium finish: Congress first, BJP second, JDS third.

Significantly, the media houses for which the new poll has been conducted are closer to the BJP and JDS than to the Congress. The fieldwork for the poll using random sampling was done last weekend. The sample size was smaller than that used by CSDS for the CNN-IBN-DH survey.

The CNN-IBN-DH survey gave the Congress 114 seats, the BJP 60, and the JDS 37 (against the 2004 tally of 65, 79 and 58). The latest poll, which will be published early next week, doesn’t predict a cakewalk for the Congress, but it does suggest that the party will end up with more seats than the BJP for that all-important crown of the coalition era: “single largest party”.

“Our reading is that the Congress will end up with around 90 seats. That’s nearly 25 short of the majority, but it will leave them well-placed to dictate terms in an alliance,” a source close to the pollsters revealed.

In Bangalore, which goes to the hustings in the first phase, and where the poll dynamics have undergone a sea-change due to the redrawing of the constituencies, the new poll predicts a sweep for the Congress.

Of the 28 seats up for grabs in the capital, the new poll suggests that the Congress could walk away with as many as 16 in its kitty; 18 if it gets lucky. The BJP is expected to end up with between nine and seven seats, and the JDS three seats.

Of the 12 seats that formed Bangalore in the 2004 elections, Congress had eight, BJP three, and JDS one.

“The poll suggests that the Congress is not only holding its own in Bangalore despite the delimitation exercise, but that it seems to have established an almost 10 per cent gap with the BJP in terms of vote-share,” the source revealed.

“In some ways, holding the elections after the delimitation exercise seems to have worked for the Congress, at least in Bangalore. And it seems to be feeding off a massive 9% swing against the JDS in Bangalore.”

In the Vokkaliga-dominated Old Mysore area (89 seats), which votes in the first phase along with Bangalore, pollsters say the BJP is holding its own and will get around 20 seats. But the Congress is benefitting from a 6% swing against the JDS and could get around 40-45 seats.

An internal Congress poll, done before the candidates were announced by the Centre for Media Studies, had predicted a neck-and-neck race between the Congress and BJP, but the CNN-IBN-DH poll and the new poll seem to indicate that the ground has shifted somewhat.

It could shift again, of course, but will it be enough to install the BJP in power?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should EC ban pre-poll surveys?