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January 16, 1998


BJP heading for comfortable majority in Gujarat assembly poll: CMS

The Bharatiya Janata Party is heading for a comfortable majority in next month's election to the Gujarat assembly, an opinion poll predicted on Friday.

According to the poll conducted by the independent Centre for Media Studies, the BJP can expect to win between 110 and 120 seats in the 182-member assembly by collecting a little over 39 per cent of the vote. This is significant because the BJP is expected to return to power without any difficulty despite a split in the party's Gujarat unit.

The Rashtriya Janata Party, the outfit floated by BJP rebel Shankarsinh Vaghela, has aligned with the Congress to take on the BJP. But the CMS poll claims the Congress-RJP alliance will not affect the BJP's electoral fortunes in any way.

The opinion poll was conducted in 14 assembly constituencies across the crucial state on January 9, 10, 11. CMS psephologist Arun K Behuria said the constituencies were selected after carefully analysing the voting behaviour of the electorate in previous elections. Six hundred registered voters in urban and rural areas were interviewed.

The opinion poll data reveals that the BJP is likely to win an impressive victory in the state assembly poll by procuring 39.1 per cent of the popular vote. This is 2.7 per cent less than what the party secured in the last assembly election in February 1995, when it bagged 121 seats, collecting 41.7 per cent of the votes polled.

The survey expects the Congress to win 45 to 55 seats by polling 30.1 per cent of the vote. Three years ago, the Congress got 44 seats and 32.8 per cent of the popular vote. However, should the Congress and RJP contest the election together, their vote share would only be 37.2 per cent. Between them they would still get less than 60 seats.

In this scenario, the vote share of other parties and Independents would improve marginally. Even if the Congress and RJP fight the election together, the alliance would not make much difference to the outcome.

Vaghela's RJP may manage to win barely two to four seats by gathering 10.9 per cent votes. The survey suggests that the Bahujan Samaj Party may win one to two seats and poll 2.1 per cent votes. However, Independents and others may collect 10 to 15 seats by polling 17.8 per cent of the vote.

The survey also shows that 45 per cent of the state's voters would like to see the BJP's Keshubhai Patel as the next chief minister. The voters also acknowledge that Patel, who had to resign as chief minister in the autumn of 1995 when Vaghela's rebellion rocked the party, was a better chief minister than Suresh Mehta, Vaghela or Dilip Parikh who have since ruled the state. The Congress's Amarsinh Chaudhury, a former chief minister, was favoured by only 11 per cent of voters.

The survey reveals that the state's Muslims are divided into three equal segments. While one segment backs the BJP, the second will vote for the Congress, and the third is yet to make up its mind.

Another interesting finding is that the Sonia Gandhi factor is unlikely to make any difference to the outcome of the Gujarat assembly election. CMS psephologist Behuria says the state's voters are opposed to her entry into active politics. Enthusiasm for Sonia is not significant even among women voters.

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