New Delhi: After trailing for weeks, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party may now be gaining momentum against a fumbling ruling Congress party-led coalition, thanks to some savvy alliance building.
The BJP-led alliance, which ruled India from 1998 to 2004 on a pro-business platform, was plagued by internal dissension, withdrawals and poor campaigning just a month ago, and polls gave Congress an advantage.
But on the eve of the last stage of the staggered month-long election, the BJP has won over more allies, showcasing them at a large rally in Punjab’s Ludhiana last Sunday, in marked contrast with the squabbling inside the Congress-led coalition United Progressive Alliance.
After initial organizational hiccups, the BJP has managed to unite and has boosted its campaign firepower with a media blitz. Potential allies have taken heart from internal surveys that show the party is doing better than expected, BJP insiders say.
The Congress and the BJP, only won around a quarter of the votes each in the last 2004 general election, so their ability to secure coalitions with regional and caste-based parties will be key to forming a government.
“The indications on the ground is that it will be a hung parliament,” said BJP top election strategist Sudheendra Kulkarni. “So everything will depend on the party’s ability to maintain alliances -- and the UPA is in complete disarray.”
In the last few weeks, smaller parties -- many motivated by political expediency -- have joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with the perception the party has a better chance of forming a government.
The regional Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party decided to join the NDA in the swing state of Andhra Pradesh.
“We lost one ally but got five,” BJP prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani told Sunday’s rally, referring to a flurry of alliance switching.
With no exit polls allowed during the election, predicting the result is notoriously difficult.
Many investors would be happy to see a stable coalition of either main national party. But a BJP victory may see a market rally given its record on economic reforms such as privatization. Reform stagnated under the Congress-led government. Indeed, Indian shares rose 2.7% on Tuesday afternoon on speculation the NDA would form the next government, traders said.
Some analysts say the only chance Congress now has to form a government would be to ally with the Left, which gave its coalition a majority in the last Parliament until the communists quit in 2008 in protest over a nuclear deal with Washington.