April 19, 2014

On the Road before E Day

Day 15: Stop cribbing about opinion polls, enjoy them.

In recent days, we have seen four opinion polls related to the 16th Lok Sabha election and conducted by different news channels and their partner agencies. In the case of West Bengal, the findings and predictions have varied but conformed to a trend:

The NDTV-Hansa poll gives the Trinamool Congress 44 per cent of the vote and 28 seats

The CNN-IBN-Lokniti-CSDS poll gives Trinamool 38 per cent of the vote and 23-29 seats

The ABP News-Nielsen poll gives Trinamool 41 per cent of the vote and 28 seats

The Headlines Today poll gives Trinamool 35 per cent of the vote and 23-27 seats

Never mind what our internal assessment is, but it is not our style to crib and dispute opinion poll figures - have never done, will never do. Let's look at the broader picture. First, the opinion polls have got the trend and the sense of the Trinamool domination right. Second, having studied opinion polls before, I know conversion of votes into seats is very difficult in a multi-cornered contest. As such, honest mistakes, misappraisals and underestimations can happen.

To me the big story of the opinion polls – and of the election of 2014 – is not the determined march of Trinamool. That was expected and our curve is still rising across the state, especially in central and north Bengal (Trinamool has always dominated south Bengal).

The big story is not even the decimation of the Congress, which is widely expected to have the lowest poll percentage among the 4 major parties in West Bengal. The Congress is still breathing in only two of Bengal’s 19 districts: Malda and Murshidabad. The ABP-Nielsen poll was the cruellest to the Congress, giving it a mere eight per cent of the vote. If true, this will lead to irreversible decline.

The big story is the battle for the silver spoon – or, as we say in friendly corporate football tournaments, the Loser's Plate - a pointless contest for number two between the CPI(M)/Left Front and the BJP. The first is slipping rapidly and the second is rising from a very low base. Yet, it needs to be understood that the BJP will still end up with a big zero in Bengal.

While the Left-BJP tussle is fascinating for political observers, it doesn’t really make a difference to Trinamool and doesn’t threaten us in the least. It does tell us though that CPI(M) supporters are frustrated and troubled by the state of their party. In a desperate attempt to stop Mamata Banerjee, they are even willing to do a Faustian pact with the BJP.

Looking ahead, in the 2016 assembly election, the BJP, the rump Congress and the CPI(M) will fight each other. They will diminish the Index of Opposition Unity and split the anti-Trinamool vote. That can leave only one party the winner to continue their work of development for Bengal.

No wonder there is a sense of quiet satisfaction in Trinamool Bhavan, where I write this blog.

Derek O’Brien
Member of Parliament
Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson, Trinamool Congress