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archive: It's Sonia's competence, not foreign origin, that is the issue

It's Sonia's competence, not foreign origin, that is the issue

K Balakrishnan and GVL Narasimha Rao
Times of India
August 14, 1999

    Title: It's Sonia's competence, not foreign origin, that is the issue
    Author: K Balakrishnan and GVL Narasimha Rao
    Publication: Times of India
    Date: August 14, 1999
    NEW DELHI: When after the fall of the Vajpayee
    government last April Sonia Gandhi had staked her
    claim for prime ministership, it set the stage
    for a new phase of polarisation in Indian
    politics - between Prime Minister Atal Behari
    Vajpayee and his BJP-led alliance and Sonia
    Gandhi and her Congress.
    While the BJP opted for a strategy of broadening
    its alliance to take in key regional parties, the
    Congress decided on a plank of offering a single
    party government at Centre.
    With the Kargil crisis intervening, it is the BJP
    that now seems to be gaining on all fronts - on
    account of the ``feel-good factor of Kargil, the
    enhanced stature of Prime Minister Vajpayee; and
    not least the formidable line-up of allies adding
    their strength to the broadened alliance.
    A big majority of 64 per cent of the respondents
    to the Timespoll survey say that they are
    satisfied with the performance of the Government;
    this is a much improved rating compared to the
    level of around 40 per cent estimated in early
    1999. Mr Vajpayee's rating as Prime Minister, at
    74 per cent, is even higher than that of his
    It is the Kargil crisis that seems to have turned
    the tide and proved decisive - with 72 per cent
    approving the Government's handling of it.
    Overall, 57 per cent ``feel good'' about the
    nation's success, while only 23 per cent feel
    that the Government is to blame for failure in
    preventing Pakistan's intrusion and the
    consequent loss of our soldiers' lives.
    Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin does not seem to be
    an issue with the voters; however, only 38 per
    cent feel she will make a good PM as against 45
    per cent who feel she will not. It is significant
    that while Vajpayee's personal popularity rating
    against Sonia (57 per cent to 27 per cent)
    exceeds that of his party's versus the Congress
    (51 per cent to 32 per cent), it is the reverse
    for Sonia.
    The projected seats tally for the BJP-led
    alliance of 332 represents a gain of 77 over
    1998. According to the Timespoll survey this
    comes mainly from a near-sweep by the TDP/BJP
    combine in Andhra Pradesh and gains in nearly all
    states barring Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
    Obversely, the Congress is set to lose heavily in
    Andhra and Maharashtra; and gain in Madhya
    Pradesh, UP and Punjab.
    For this pre-poll survey, Development & Research
    Services (DRS) employed a sample size of 8,000
    voters spread over 51 representative
    constituencies in 15 major states of the country.
    The field work for the survey was conducted
    between August 5 and August 9.
    The margin of error of the votes forecast in the
    present survey will be within three percentage
    points of the actual value at the national level.
    The poll was conducted by GVL Narasimha Rao,
    leading psephologist and director, Development &
    Research Services (DRS).

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