NEW DELHI: Hardline nationalist opposition leader Narendra Modi and his allies were forecast to win an overall majority in India’s elections in a poll Tuesday, dealing another blow to the beleaguered ruling Congress Party.
Eight days on from the start of the world’s biggest election, the survey for the NDTV network predicted for the first time that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would not have to seek new partners in order to govern, giving it more freedom to implement its Hindu nationalist agenda. The poll also forecast that Congress, which has governed India for most of the post-independence era, would hit an all-time low in results on May 16, highlighting the damage wrought by allegations of a split leadership.
Meanwhile, president of Congress Party Sonia Gandhi issued a rare direct appeal to the nation not to return an opposition she said was motivated by “hatred and falsehood” in the country’s general election.
The three-minute TV address was aired at prime time on Hindi-language channels just as an opinion poll showed for the first time that an alliance led by the BJP could win an outright majority.
“Their vision, clouded with hatred and falsehood, their ideology, divisive and autocratic, will drive us to … ruination,” the Italian-born widow of 1980s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said in the clip broadcast.
Gandhi, 67, has taken center stage in a bid to avert what polls predict will be the worst-ever election defeat for Congress, after a weak campaign led by her son and political heir apparent, Rahul.
The BJP dismissed the address as “a farewell speech given in desperation,” driving home an advantage it has reaped from recent accounts by former government insiders that Sonia Gandhi had kept Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a tight leash.
“She wants to give power to the people but did not give power to the prime minister,” Prakash Javadekar, the BJP’s national spokesman, said.
Also on Tuesday, Indian officials seized a record $36 million dollars of cash concealed in cars, private planes and even ambulances that they say was destined to buy off voters and pay for expenses over and above the spending limit.
Despite the dramatic political change it could bring, the 2014 election would appear to be the same grubby game of cash-for-votes that has marred previous ballots, only this time on a far bigger scale. Cash seized in the three weeks since the staggered election was announced has already surpassed the 1.9 billion rupees for the whole of the 2009 ballot period, the commission said.