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Cong has an upper hand in polls: US think-tank

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
April 17, 2009 09:29 IST
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Observing that the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party would not be able to get a majority in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, a US think-tank has predicted an intense political horse trading following declaration of results next month as both the parties would compete with each other to win the support of smaller parties.

'Congress appears to have a slight edge over the BJP in key states, but neither party is likely to win a clear majority of seats,' Stratfor, a think-tank based in Texas said in its analysis on Indian election released after the first phase of polls were conducted across India.

Observing that the influence of these national parties has faded over the years while smaller regional and caste-based parties have proliferated, Stratfor said as a result, intense political horse-trading will ensue after the election.

'Both Congress and BJP therefore will need to throw all their efforts into cobbling together a coalition with smaller parties to have a chance at taking office June 2,' Stratfor said, without explaining how it expected the new government to be formed on a particular date.

However, it said there is small chance that a Third Front could emerge in these elections should the communist parties link up with key regional parties to challenge Congress and the BJP.

The Left-wing front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist was vital to forming Congress' coalition in the 2004 elections, but became an annoyance as the ruling UPA sought to ink the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

Stratfor said there is unlikely to be change in the foreign policy of the country by a government led by either the Congress or the BJP. However, any government with the support of the Left parties would experience pressure for change in the nation's foreign policy.

'The left-wing parties will use their political clout to try and sway the ruling party away from the United States, though they are unlikely to have much success in determining how New Delhi conducts its foreign relations,' it said.

It said the larger national issues in foreign policy field or even economic status of the country is unlikely to impact the election results because of the very dynamics and nature of Indian domestic politics and electoral preferences.

'India presents a special case, however, in that most middle-class and business elite voters look down on politics and take little interest in voting,' it said.

'As long as the lower classes are getting bags of rice, colour televisions and electricity by the party campaigning in their neighbourhood, the larger issues of the global financial crisis, relations with US or security threat from Pakistan are unlikely to be reflected in the final results,' Stratfor said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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