The NDA will win by a thin majority in the election that begins shortly, an average of four opinion polls showed, with a focus on national security appearing to trump concerns over jobs and farm prices.
The NDA is expected to win 273 of the 543 parliamentary seats at stake, one more than the halfway mark required to rule. In the last election, it had won more than 330 seats—the biggest mandate in three decades.
Most of the polling agencies that released surveys in the last four days said Modi got a boost from recent tension with Pakistan following the February 14 Pulwama attack that killed over 40 CRPF jawans.
“In today’s India, we have seen perhaps for the first-time security issues competing with, and outdoing, a bread and butter issue like unemployment,” CVoter said in a statement. “Primarily, the BJP has been unable to sufficiently distinguish itself from Congress when it comes to making people feel the difference in terms of their livelihoods and economic interests. However, when it comes to controlling and responding on terror the same set of respondents do feel a clear and visible difference.”
CVoter’s poll is the most conservative, predicting 267 seats for the ruling group, while the Times Now-VMR’s poll is the most bullish, with 279 seats.
The Congress and its allies are expected to more than double their seats to about 141on average.
Pre-election opinion polls in India, with thousands of respondents, have proved unreliable several times in the past.
The Congress has accused the BJP of using retaliatory air strikes on Pakistan as a political tool and has instead highlighted job creation, tackling farm distress and empowerment of women among its top priorities. But the BJP has doubled down on national security issues.
Modi has said he will retain power with a bigger mandate than before, while the Congress says its NYAY scheme that aims to give a dole of Rs 72,000 to the poorest of the poor will help fuel its comeback.