A new opinion poll by Indian news group NDTV suggests that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies could win the majority of legislative seats in national elections that are now underway.
Over 800 million Indians are eligible to vote in a new Lok Sabha, India's lower house of parliament. The polls started on April 7 and are taking place in nine phases over a five-week period, with results expected May 16.
The latest NDTV poll suggests that the BJP and its allies are slated to pass the crucial 272 mark and win 275 legislative seats — a very narrow majority in the 543-seat legislative body, but still enough of a lead to give the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition the mandate to govern without the support of powerful regional parties.
The BJP, which has been in opposition since the center-right National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition lost power in 2004, is widely seen as benefiting from the rising popularity of its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who led a strong campaign in the run-up to the vote.
Despite the strong anti-incumbency mood in the nation, Modi remains a controversial figure in many sectors of Indian society, having been chief minister of the western state of Gujarat when violent anti-Muslim riots broke out on his watch. Many analysts have predicted that the Hindu nationalist party and its allies would not get a clear majority needed to go it alone.
Then again, two years ago many in liberal India in particular would not have predicted Modi would be this close to the prime minister's seat. The NDTV poll suggests this could be the BJP's strongest showing in decades, and conversely suggests that this could be the ruling Congress Party's worst performance yet.
But the vote is far from over, and opinion polls have been wrong before. In 2004, when the then-incumbent BJP ran its miscalculated "India Shining" campaign, polls favored the NDA to win, but it was defeated by the Congress, which has been at the helm of the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition for the last ten years.