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BJP Eyes First Sole India Majority Since 1984, Leader Singh Says

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party may become the first party in 30 years to win a parliamentary majority on its own in general elections due by May, BJP President Rajnath Singh said.

“It’s possible the BJP alone will get 272,” Singh, 62, told Bloomberg TV India in an interview aired today, referring to the number of seats needed to win a majority out of 543 up for grabs. “This can’t be ruled out.”

The BJP is set to win 188 seats in the election, surpassing the 182 seats it won in 1999, according to a C-Voter poll for India Today published on Jan. 23. Congress may get as few as 91 seats versus 210 now, dropping to its lowest tally on record, the poll indicated.

The BJP is seeking to harness voter anger over higher prices of everything from onions to medicines as it seeks to end Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decade-long rule. The Congress-led government has been beset by corruption scandals, elevated consumer-price inflation that averaged about 10 percent in 2013, and the weakest economic growth in a decade.

“Bringing new allies is the real challenge to touch 272,” said Jai Mrug, an independent political analyst in Mumbai who conducts opinion polls. “The BJP has lots of public support, but to claim that they will get 272 on their own is typical political bravado.”

Rajnath Singh, no relation to the prime minister, said the BJP is speaking with regional parties he declined to identify to widen its coalition to ensure victory. No single party has won a majority since the 1984 elections, when Congress took almost 80 percent of all seats.

“With our allies if we are getting 220 seats now, then in four months the number will exceed 272,” Singh said.

BJP Surge

The BJP and its allies would win 212 seats, more than the 159 seats they took in the 2009 elections, while the Congress-led alliance would get 103 seats, the C-Voter poll found. A separate survey on Jan. 24 showed the BJP winning as many as 210 seats, with a maximum of 108 for Congress.

Singh, a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, said a BJP government would seek to curb inflation, boost output of food grains and spur investment in infrastructure.

The former federal agriculture minister also advocated “time-bound” clearance through a “single window” for easier and faster approval of projects. Singh said the BJP is concerned about the depreciation of the rupee, which has dropped about 14 percent against the dollar in the past year.

Singh said the party is “seriously considering” a review of the country’s tax system, describing it as too complicated. The BJP won’t change its opposition to overseas investment in supermarkets selling multiple brands as that would lead to job losses among small shopkeepers, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

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