April 7, 2009 / 11:19 AM / 10 years ago

ELECTION - Reuters poll sees food prices as major issue

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - High food prices and the impact of a global economic slowdown are the major issues for voters in India’s April/May general election, a Reuters poll of 14 leading analysts has predicted.

A shopkeeper packs vegetables for a customer at a streetside shop in Mumbai in this March 19, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Arko Datta

An alliance led by the ruling Congress Party has been losing ground over the past few weeks amid coalition squabbles and may need leftist support to win office, the analysts added.

The main battle of the April 16-May 13 election will be between the Congress Party-led coalition, known as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Many reforms have often been blocked during the Congress-led government, often due to opposition from former communist allies.

A group of smaller political parties, including the communists, have launched a “Third Front” in a bid to provide an alternative to the two main national coalitions. The Third Front has gained ground slowly in the poll over the past three weeks.

Congress has struggled to put together its alliance, unable to secure agreements for seat sharing with some key partners in states like Bihar and Tamil Nadu.

On average, analysts said there was a 21 percent chance a Congress-led alliance without communist support would win, little changed since last week’s poll.

There was a 33 percent possibility the Congress would win with communist support, again the same as the previous week.

The chance of an NDA victory was 22 percent, down from 23 percent last week.

There was a 24 percent possibility of a Third Front government, up two points from last week and five points from the week earlier.

Counting in the election will be on May 16.

Reuters surveyed analysts from a variety of backgrounds, including universities, pollsters and banks, on Monday and Tuesday. The poll does not aim to be scientific but to give readers a snapshot of how some of the leading India analysts are thinking.

The following are the results of their replies. Reuters will repeat this survey each Tuesday. Last week’s results are in brackets.

1) WHAT WILL BE A MAJOR ELECTION ISSUE FOR VOTERS?

a) High food prices - 4 choices

b) Economic slowdown - 3 choices

c) Security - 2 choices

d) Communal issues - 1 choice

* Two analysts were unsure about their choices and two were unavailable for comment.

2) HOW MANY SEATS DO YOU THINK CONGRESS AND THE BJP WILL

WIN?

CONGRESS Average 139 (138) - Median 140 (140)

BJP Average 129 (127) - Median 130 (130)

(There are 543 elected seats in parliament)

3) ASSIGN PERCENTAGES TO THE FOLLOWING SCENARIOS:

a) A UPA-led government with communist support

Average 33 pct (33) Median 34 pct (38)

b) A UPA-led government without communist support

Average 21 pct (21) Median 23 pct (23)

c) An NDA-led government

Average 22 pct (23) Median 20 pct (24)

d) A Third Front-led coalition

Average 24 pct (22) Median 20 (20 pct)

4) WHO WILL BE THE NEXT PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - 11 choices

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee - 0

Mayawati (Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister) - 2

Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi party chief) - 1

L.K. Advani (BJP leader) - 0

* These analysts were not available this week, so their previous week’s predictions were included.

Those polled were: 1) AMULYA GANGULI, independent analyst; 2) MAHESH RANGARAJAN, independent analyst; 3) PHANI SEKHAR, fund manager, Angel Broking; 4) T.K. BHAUMIK, chief economist, JK Organisation; 5) * ALASTAIR NEWTON, senior political analyst, Nomura International; 6) RUPA REGE NITSURE, chief economist, Bank of Baroda, MUMBAI; 7) PRAN CHOPRA, independent political commentator; 8) D.H. PAI PANANDIKAR, The RPG Foundation; 9) Dr N. BHASKARA RAO, Centre for Media Studies; 10) Professor SUDHA PAI, Jawahar Lal Nehru University; 11) * SEEMA DESAI, Eurasia Group; 12) VINOD MEHTA, Editor-in Chief, Outlook Magazine; 13) V. ANANTHA NAGESWARAN, Chief Investment Officer, Asia Pacific, Julius Baer; 14) YASHWANT DESHMUKH, Head of C-Voter Polling Agency.

(here)

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