Barely eight months before the 16th general election in the world’s largest democracy in April-May 2014, India’s economy is experiencing considerable turbulence. Gross domestic product growth has decelerated sharply, the rupee recently collapsed before recovering somewhat, and industrial production has declined or remained stagnant. Investor sentiment remains muted and inflation remains stubbornly high, driven by high food and fuel prices. Under the circumstances, the prevailing political uncertainty is hardly helping.
Recent opinion polls indicate strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition led by the Congress, India’s “grand old party”, which has been running the government since May 2004. But the surveys do not anticipate a sharp rise in the popularity of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which heads the National Democratic Alliance coalition that was in power from 1998 to 2004.
The possibility of a non-Congress, non-BJP coalition forming a so-called Third Front government with outside support from one of the two large political parties — of the kind that took place in 1989 and 1996 — cannot be ruled out.
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