But says Congress will not do as badly as is being predicted

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has conceded that there is a “trend” in favour of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election.

Speaking to The Hindu and another newspaper on board a special flight from Mumbai to Nagpur on Friday, ahead of a series of Congress rallies for the April 10 polls in the Vidarbha region, the Chief Minister, however, flatly denied the suggestion that the Congress was being “half-hearted” in its approach towards the election.

What was the best case scenario for the Congress in Maharashtra? “We will not do as badly as is being predicted,” he said adding that “The ground reality will be different.”

Asked about the latest opinion polls that showed the Congress performing poorly across the country, Mr. Chavan pointed out that opinion polls had been wrong in the past. “They have been way off,” he argued.

“Translating vote percentages into seats is not an exact science,” the Chief Minister said.

Talking about Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) not contesting against the BJP, he said: “It will make a difference in a couple of constituencies. It will help the BJP.”

Mr. Chavan alleged that Mr. Thackeray had made deals ahead of the polls, and cited his decisionnot to put up a strong candidate in the Nasik seat where the MNS had a good chance.

On public meetings and their importance, the Chief Minister felt that if people came “naturally” to public rallies it was a good thing. There was no appetite for large public meetings in this election. Television channels would play an even greater electoral role in future.

“If a very great orator made new points, then that will have an impact,” he said. “Right now, crowds have to be collected by political parties. Or, it was a case of preaching to the converted.”

Asked about the impact the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, was making, Mr. Chavan responded by saying that this was due to the “curiosity factor.”

*The report has been corrected for a factual error