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February 13, 1998


Close shave in 150-plus seats the last time round

With the victory margin being less than five per cent in 150-odd constituencies in the previous polls, even a swing of less than 2.5 per cent can decisively alter the outcome in the ensuing election.

This cliffhanger phenomenon, a feature of all previous elections, has been keeping most candidates on tenterhooks, as they pull out all stops to gel with the voters's preferences.

Of the 150-odd constituencies, where the contest sizzled into a photo finish, the North accounted for 46, followed by the South with 40, East 30, West 29, North-East six and the Union territories two.

In the North, where electoral fortunes were decided in 46 constituencies by a slender margin, Uttar Pradesh accounted for 26, Madhya Pradesh 13, Punjab three, Haryana two and Delhi and Himachal Pradesh one each.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party won eight seats each, followed by the BSP with three, the Congress two, the Indira Congress one and Independent one.

An interesting feature in those constituencies where the BJP won, the trailing party was the SP, except in Ghatampur where the BSP lost in a photo finish. Thus, the factors of caste, religion and personality resulting in even the slightest division in votes, can impinge vitally on the poll outcome this time.

However, in those constituencies where the SP won and the BJP lost, the gap of votes polled was very high except in the Aonla, Etawah, Kairana and Moradabad constituencies. Here also, caste and religion have emerged as important factors, while the inclusion of local heavyweight Raghuraj Pratap Singh can tilt the results in Pratapgarh, according to a UNI-C-Voter computer analysis.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress had won six seats including Chhindwara, Mahasamund and Rajgarh, the BJP three (Bhind, Durg and Raigarh), the BSP two (Rewa and Satna), the Indira Congress (Bastar)and Independent one (Sidhi).

Of the three seats in Punjab, the Akali Dal won two while the BSP romped home in one. In Haryana the Congress won both seats. In Delhi, the only close fight was witnessed in Delhi Sadar constituency where the BJP won and the Congress was the loser. In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress, however, turned the tables on the BJP, winning one seat in the state with a narrow margin.

The spectacle of a close finish was also witnessed south of the Vindhyas in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Janata Dal won five in Karnataka, including Chikmagalur, Gulbarga and Tumkur, while the Congress emerged triumphant in five constituencies in Karnataka, seven in Andhra Pradesh and four in Kerala.

The BJP had its share of two seats in Karnataka, the CPI got away with one seat in Andhra Pradesh, two in Kerala and one in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, the Telugu Desam Party managed victories in five seats in Andhra Pradesh and the CPI-M won two in Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, in a close fight, the Tamil Maanila Congress won one seat.

Some of the prominent constituencies in the South where a close fight was witnessed include Bagalkot, Chikmagalur, Gulbarga and Mandya (all in Karnataka), Amalapuram, Cuddapah, Kurnool and Medak (Andhra Pradesh), Alleppey, Idukki, Palghat and Trichur (Kerala), and Nagercoil and Sivakasi (Tamil Nadu).

A keen tussle for electoral sweepstakes was also witnessed in the East with West Bengal accounting for 17 seats, followed by Bihar with 10 and Orissa three. In Bihar, the Janata Dal and the BJP-Samata combine won four seats apiece while the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Independents accounted for one each.

In the Marxist redoubt of West Bengal, the CPI-M had a narrow victory margin in as many as 10 constituencies which included Diamond Harbour, Dum Dum, Hooghly and Krishnagar. In those constituencies where the Left party won, the trailing party was always the Congress or vice versa. In those constituencies where the ratio of victory is very less between the Left and the Congress, the Trinamul Congress, led by Mamta Banerjee, can have an important bearing on the poll outcome this time.

Of the three seats in Orissa, the Congress emerged victorious in two while the Janata Dal won the remaining one where the battle of ballots was tantalisingly poised. The gap between winners and losers was very less, but if the Biju Janata Dal's alliance with the BJP marginally alters the voting pattern, there can be major alterations in poll outcome.

The prominent constituencies in the East where a close fight was registered included Aurangabad, Banka, Begusarai, Bikramganj, Chapra and Dhanbad (Bihar), Bolangir and Sundergarh (Orissa) and Dum Dum, Hooghly, Howrah, Jadavpur and Uluberia (West Bengal).

In the North-East, there were six constituencies -- five in Assam and one in Mizoram -- where the close contest phenomenon was in full play. In Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad won two seats while the BJP, the Congress and Independents accounted for one seat apiece. These constituencies were Koliabor and Lakhimpur (AGP), Karimganj (SC), which was won by the BJP, Tejpur (Congress) and Kokrajhar (Independent). In Mizoram, the Congress defeated the Mizo National Front opponent by a slender margin.

In the West, of the 29 close contests, Maharashtra accounted for 14, Rajasthan nine, Gujarat five and Goa one. The BJP and its alliance won eight in Maharashtra, and five in Gujarat and Rajasthan each, while the Congress won six in Maharashtra, three in Gujarat, and three in Rajasthan. Further, the Indira Congress won in Rajasthan while the MGP won one seat in Goa.

In Maharashtra, the margin of votes between the winning and losing parties was very less. Now the fledgling alliance among the Republican Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress may cause a dent in the voting bank of the saffron brigade if there is a swing in the voting pattern.

In Gujarat also, it turned out to be a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP in these seats. But if the Rashtriya Janata Party led by Shankarsinh Vaghela is able to siphon off 2.5 per cent votes of the BJP, the previous election results may go into a tailspin. At the same time, if the RJP cuts into the Kshatriya vote bank, then the latter may be in for a rude shock.

Some of the prominent constituencies in these states where it turned out to be a close fight included Akola, Kolaba, Nanded, Satara, Solapur and Wardha (Maharashtra), Baroda, Bhavnagar and Bulsar (Gujarat) and Alwar, Bhilwara, Jalore, Kota and Tonk (Rajasthan).

In the Union territory zone, it turned out to be a very close encounter -- one in Lakshadweep and one in Pondicherry. The lone constituency of Lakshadweep was won by the Congress while the loser was the Janata Dal. The Congress also won the lone Lok Sabha seat of Pondicherry defeating the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Now, the alliance between the AIADMK and the BJP may impinge on the poll outcome.

Elections ' 98

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