India ruling party losing public support - poll

NEW DELHI Fri Jan 7, 2011 7:03am GMT

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's ruling Congress party is losing voter support and would lose over 40 seats if an election were called tomorrow as billion dollar scams and corruption allegations take their toll, a poll showed.

A $39 billion (£25 billion) telecoms scam, corruption accusations over last October's Commonwealth Games and the resurrection of a 25- year-old defence contract kickback scandal have all dented public confidence in the party that leads the ruling coalition.

In an election, Congress would see its majority slashed by a loss of around 40 of its current 206 seats, the AC Neilsen poll showed, as 44 percent of respondents said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's previously unimpeachable image had been affected by the scandals.

The Mood of the Nation poll, conducted by AC Neilsen and India Today magazine, surveyed 12,349 voters across 19 states in face-to-face interviews between Dec 4-19.

Opposition protests over inquiries into the corruption allegations have paralysed parliament since November, branding the government as ineffective and possibly leading to early elections in the five-year cycle to break the deadlock.

Congress won a second successive term in the 2009 elections. The poll said its main opposition, the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, would gain over 20 new seats in a election if it were held tomorrow.

Congress slipped in popularity by three percent among India's poor - a key constituent of its vote bank. But 42 percent of respondents thought a Congress-led coalition would still return to power in a general election in 2014.

Party chief Sonia Gandhi, seen as the real powerbroker of the party, saw her popularity as a prime ministerial candidate plummet to 8 percent from 27 percent in January 2006, with 43 percent of respondents saying her image had been affected by the scams.

(Reporting by Henry Foy; editing by Alistair Scrutton and Yoko Nishikawa)

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