Unhappy Indians clamour for change at election: poll

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's Hindu nationalist opposition is set to trounce the ruling Congress party in upcoming elections with 70 per cent of voters unhappy with the state of the country, a poll showed Wednesday.

Sixty-three per cent of voters surveyed by the US-based Pew Research Center said they wanted the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to lead the next government against 19 per cent who opted for outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress.

And while 78 per cent said they had a favourable opinion of the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, just 50 per cent said the same of Rahul Gandhi, who is Congress's election frontman.

Mr Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, is a hugely divisive figure.

He is despised by many Muslims and liberals after his state in 2002 witnessed some of the worst communal violence since independence in 1947. But he is popular with middle-class voters who admire his economic stewardship.

The 43-year-old Gandhi has struggled to convince voters that he has the experience or the desire to follow in the footsteps of his father, grandmother and great-grandfather, who all served as prime minister.

Congress, which has dominated Indian politics since independence, has seen its rating nosedive as it struggles to reverse a slowdown in economic growth, now at its lowest in a decade, and appease anger over corruption.

The survey found that just 29 per cent of Indians were satisfied with the country's current situation while 70 per cent were dissatisfied, a trend which cut across various demographic groups.

The survey did not specifically ask about voting intentions. Most analysts predict that the BJP will win the largest number of the 543 seats up for grabs but fall short of an overall majority.

It would then have to forge alliances with smaller regional parties. No party has won an overall majority since 1989.

The survey did however say that "dissatisfaction with recent developments in India is remarkably widespread" and that backing for the BJP is roughly equal in both rural and urban areas.

A total of 2,464 people were interviewed for the survey, which has a 3.8 per cent margin of error.

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