"BJP May Get 350 Seats On Its Own, 5 In Tamil Nadu": Top Economist To NDTV

Lok Sabha elections 2024: Surjit Bhalla, whose new book 'How We Vote' details the voter's mindset, in an interview to NDTV said the BJP may get 330 to 350 seats

Economist Surjit Bhalla also dismissed data by the think tank CMIE as unreliable

New Delhi:

The BJP is likely to perform better this time than what it achieved in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a top economist and psephologist told NDTV today.

Surjit Bhalla, whose new book 'How We Vote' details the voter's mindset, in an interview to NDTV said the BJP may get 330 to 350 seats.

"Based on statistical possibility, they should get 330 to 350 seats on their own. This is just the BJP, not including its alliance partners," Mr Bhalla said, agreeing that the party whose campaign is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi would likely see a 5 to 7 per cent rise in seats won compared to the 2019 results.

"It can be a wave election. Every election has a potential (to be a wave). But it may not also be a wave election," said the economist who has tracked elections in India for four decades.

For the Opposition Congress, Mr Bhalla said the party may get 44 seats, or 2 per cent less than what it won in the 2014 election, the year PM Modi became Prime Minister.

"The problem with the (Opposition) alliance is the leadership. The economy matters the most, the leadership matters second. And both of them are in favour of the BJP. If the Opposition had selected a leader who could have a mass appeal or approximating half the appeal that Prime Minister Modi has, then I think it could be a contest," Mr Bhalla told NDTV.

He predicted the BJP would likely win at least five seats in Tamil Nadu, where the BJP has been traditionally a weak party. "I won't be surprised if, of all the places, the BJP in Tamil Nadu gain over five seats. In Kerala, maybe one or two," Mr Bhalla said.

He attributed this possibility to the improvement in people's living conditions. "India votes on the basis of how much improvement has been in people's lives. That's the basic premise. It's not caste, not gender, not the various factors that people attribute to, but it is precisely what Bill Clinton had said in 1992, 'It's the economy, stupid'," Mr Bhalla said.

"What we say is that because of the significant improvement in their lives, 1 per cent or 14 million are poor by the old definition of poverty. Look, we have developed, per capita consumption has improved, lives have improved, so raise the poverty line. In some sense, maybe a quarter of the population is poor. Poverty is relative now, no longer absolute," the economist told NDTV.

"The poor will always be with us. The rich will always be with us. It depends on how you define who are the poor, and we use the World Bank definition of $1.9 per person per day. We are saying it should be doubled because of the improvement in lives and economy," Mr Bhalla said.

He dismissed data by the think tank Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) as unreliable, and faulted the Opposition of selectively using the CMIE data to target the BJP during election season.

"Everywhere in the world, the Opposition will always say inflation is high, there are too few jobs. But there are less percentage of people unemployed than in 2019 in India, for example," Mr Bhalla said.

"Am not the only one to question the (CMIE) data. Several authors have. THey are saying less women in India are in the workforce today than in Yemen and Iraq, less than 10 per cent? This is the point I want to make. It is so absurd. Why has it got currency? Because the Opposition loves it. The CMIE data I think is one of the most untrustworthy data published anywhere at any time in the world," Mr Bhalla said.

The second phase of the Lok Sabha elections will be held on April 26. The rest will be held in May. Votes will be counted on June 4.