Five Forty Three

Revolutionizing Indian Election Analysis

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Rajasthan, the harbinger of political change in India

Rajasthan is a unique, one of its kind, state in India which has always been difficult to classify or typecast into a particular geography or demography. For instance, when the rest of India was divided into different territories by the British – a classification still followed by the Bollywood film distribution business – Rajasthan could not be fit into any of the zones and an independent territory had to be carved out purely for Rajasthan. Thus Rajasthan has been competing as an equal with larger geographies of India spanning multiple states, like say, CP-Berar (Central Provinces and the erstwhile Berar region) or East Punjab (Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, parts of Jammu and Delhi etc.) or even the powerful Bombay circuit (Maharashtra, Gujarat, and parts of Karnataka). It is probably a metaphor of a hopelessly romantic lone Rajput warrior taking on legions of armies in the battlefield.

In the modern era, Rajasthan is classified as a western state but it acts as a bridge between the west, north and central India, thereby deriving socio-political ethos from all the three zones yet managing to remain unique. Unlike her western cousins, Rajasthan neither has Gujarat’s business sense nor Maharashtra’s organization skills (the co-operative model that is). Also unlike her heartland cousins, she has never really been Mandalized and still remains an island of feudalistic-royal over lordship.

Politically though, Rajasthan is a conformist state with neatly divided loyalties and alternate term anti-incumbencies. A group of states in India which have a typical electoral behavior of electing alternate party governments every 5 years can be classified as alternating states, which include – Tamil Nadu and Kerala from south, Himachal, Punjab, and Rajasthan from north-west etc. This electoral phenomenon is a vestige of the 90s anti-incumbent India and has already been challenged by Punjab last year. Rajasthan still follows this alternating state pattern and it remains to be seen if Ashok Gehlot would be able to break this deadlock on December 8th.

This is another state where BJP has had a strong base since Jan Sangh days and has been the only real alternative to the Congress brand of politics. Rajasthan is widely believed to be the laboratory of “Rights-based” dole schemes prioritized by the trio of Sonia, Sen and Drèze. To that extent the Rajasthan verdict of 2013 will tell us if a purely welfarist economy without any focus on creating long term infrastructure is electorally viable, despite corruption. Therefore Rajasthan is a true semifinal to the 2014 battle where not just two adverse political ideologies but also two opposite economic visions would be contesting to capture India.

Rajasthan Vote-ShareFor the last two decades, since 1993, this state has witnessed a bipolar polity where the third set of political forces only play the role of a spoiler for one or the other party, depending on who is in power and facing anti-incumbency. The gap between Congress and BJP, which was much wider earlier has been narrowing with each passing election like a spring that is recoiling. 2013 election will either further recoil this vote-share to produce a close race or will be a breakthrough election that will uncoil the vote-shares from the loop and also in the process take the state out of the electoral vestiges.

If that is the pan-Rajasthan political story, the real devil lies in the detail of sub-regional electoral nuances. The highly localized nature of Indian elections do not give us political analysts the leeway to narrate the story of a state in broad beautiful strokes of preconceived stereotypes, for every smaller division of a state has a story to tell. Thus Rajasthan is also further subdivided into 4 major zones – Shekhawati and Bikaner divisions making up North Rajasthan, Dhundhad, Matsyanchal and Haroti constituting Central Rajasthan, Mewar as South Rajasthan and finally Marwar as West Rajasthan.

In broad electoral terms, we can surmise that in the run up to the Sunday election, there is a BJP wave in West Rajasthan and South Rajasthan, while North Rajasthan is also tilting towards BJP. The real battlefield is Central Rajasthan which should decide who wins 2013. If this overall analysis does not quench your political thirst, then go ahead and read further.

Central Rajasthan – Dhundhad, Matsyanchal and Haroti zones  

This is by far the most populous region of the state and also includes the state capital region of Jaipur. It is made up of almost entire central and eastern parts of Rajasthan and is therefore politically very significant. This is the region which witnessed the Gopalgarh riots and there is still some amount of residual religious polarization. This is also the region where Meenas exert their political power and Kirodilal Meena would play a significant electoral role. This is also the region that has many urban pockets where the maximum impact of criminal tendencies of certain Congress ministers like the rape accused Babulal Nagar will be seen electorally.

The 3 zones of Central Rajasthan are made up of 13 districts and 83 assembly constituencies. Jaipur alone has 19 assembly seats which were equally divided between Congress and BJP with 9 seats each in the 2008 election (1 seat was won by “others”). Only 5 of these 19 seats are seeing a multi-polar contest, while there is a direct fight in 14 seats this time in 2013. BJP is facing rebels and internal dissensions in 3 assembly seats (Amber, Jhotwara and Shahpura), it is also facing the problem of some old leaders and party workers not working actively for the party because they have been neglected. Then there was this unnecessary controversy of Narendra Modi cancelling his rally from Shahpura at the last moment which has led to a great deal of rumors about the cancellation being done at the behest of Gujarat governor, Kamala Beniwal, whose son is contesting on the Congress ticket in Shahpura.

On the other hand Congress is facing dissensions and rebellions in 4 assembly seats (Malviyanagar, Kotputli, Jhotwara and Chaksu), but the biggest problem for the party is its inability to answer the voter’s questions regarding Babulal Nagar, whose brother has been nominated by the party to fight from Dudu. Another major worry for the Congress party is Sachin Pilot’s open opposition to the Gujjar Congress candidate of Viratnagar, Ramchandra Sardhana, which has enraged the Gujjar community of the entire region.

Adarshnagar, Hawamahal and Kishanpol are the three minority dominated areas of Jaipur where there is significant polarization of votes and BJP is ahead in at least 2 of them. Malviya Nagar and Civil Lines are two keenly contested seats between powerful political war horses and may go to the wire. On the whole in Jaipur, the atmosphere is one of anti-incumbency against the Congress and also consequently pro-BJP.

In the other 5 districts of Dhundhad – Ajmer, Sawai Madhopur, Karauli, Tonk and Dausa – the contests are multi-cornered in many seats due to the Meena factor, which, contrary to perceptions, is affecting both BJP as well as Congress, but maybe the former is affected a bit more. Kirodilal Meena himself is contesting from Lalsot, while Golma Devi is contesting from Mahwa. For the BJP, Sawai Madhopur seat is prestigious as Diya Kumari is contesting from here against Kirodilal Meena. For the Congress, rebels are playing spoilsport here, especially because many of the rebels of 2008 have been given official tickets this time – Tonk is a case in point where Saud Sayeedi is hurting the Congress candidate Zakia. Overall in Dhundhad, BJP and Congress are almost on an equal footing.

In the 3 districts of Matsyanchal – Bharatpur, Alwar and Dholpur – which contribute 22 seats to the assembly, Hindu-Muslim polarization is still a strong undercurrent due to Gopalgarh (Bharatpur) riots. Meena factor is also working here and could be the decider in at least 2-3 seats. Alwar used to be a Congress stronghold and Dholpur a BJP favorite whereas Bharatpur may once again vote for the BJP this time. In this region BJP is perceptibly far ahead of Congress and the Meena factor may actually affect Congress more adversely than BJP.

The 4 districts of Haroti – Kota, Bundi, Baran and Jhalawar – contribute 17 seats to the Vidhan Sabha. In 13 of these seats there is a direct contest between Congress and BJP and only in about 4 seats there is a multi-cornered contest. For the Congress party, which had surprisingly performed better than expected in 2008, the big challenge is to maintain its performance in this election too. The strength of BJP here can be gauged by the fact that the party has won some 5-6 seats for at least 6 election cycles (Jhalarpatan, Ramanujganj-Mandi, Kota etc.) This time too both the parties seem to be evenly poised, just like 2008, although BJP may have slight advantage.

Central Rajasthan BattlefieldOf the 75 seats of Central Rajasthan, 15 are classified as battleground seats and whoever wins the maximum number of these seats will emerge on top of this region. In the 2008 election, both the parties were on an equal footing in this region, with a slight edge for Congress. This template was reflected even in the battleground seats as Congress had won 8 out of the 15 seats and BJP had won 7. This time, rebel candidates, Meena factor and the levels of anti-incumbency will decide who wins the battleground. With BJP leading in all other zones, this is the important area for Congress which is banking heavily on others cutting BJP votes.

 CSDS opinion poll survey indicates the Mood Quotient of Central Rajasthan as “BJP leading Congress comfortably”. AC-Nielsen opinion poll survey of this region gives Congress 34 seats, BJP 40 seats and others 9 seats.

South Rajasthan – Mewar

This is really the bell-weather zone of Rajasthan since the last 4 election cycles, for it keeps alternating between winning parties every 5 years. Whichever party wins Mewar forms the government in the state by entering the revolving door; in fact, even more specifically, Salumber assembly seat of Mewar Zone is termed as the bell-weather seat of Rajasthan for its ability to always vote towards the winning side since 1977.

Mewar zone is made up of 35 assembly constituencies of 7 districts – Udaipur, Dangarpur, Bhilwara, Rajsamand, Chhittorgarh, Banswara & Pratapgarh. This is a region of direct fight between the two national parties, therefore in 27 seats Congress and BJP are pitted against each other, while there are 6 strong rebels in the fray in the other seats, of whom 5 are from the Congress and 1 from the BJP. JDU has its presence in two seats of Banswara district and it will decide who will emerge victorious. Even though national media talks about this tribal region as the core zone of the Meena leader, Kirodilal Meena, his NPP is almost completely absent here.

This is Gulabchand Katariya territory for the BJP, where the RSS strongman wields his considerable influence. He has been campaigning here vigorously for all BJP candidates and addressing at least 3-4 public meetings every day. Since it is also attached to the neighboring Gujarat, Narendra Modi is quite popular here and has attracted a lot of crowds for his big rallies. Congress on the other hand has a herculean task of defying history and winning Mewar for two successive terms. It also has many rebels in the fray to contend with. In the Congress, this is C.P. Joshi territory, for he represents Bhilwara in the Lok Sabha and has managed to get tickets to a large number of his followers in this region. Thus Mewar is the fight of the number two’s in both BJP and Congress.

Ground reports in the run-up to the election suggest a reversal of fortunes for both the BJP and Congress in Mewar where they had both won 9 and 24 seats respectively in the 2008 elections. Although Congress had an edge at the start, it has lost most of its advantage after ticket distribution, partly of its own making and partly due to a strong BJP campaign. The most important factor in this region is BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who is enjoying unprecedented popularity in this region, which is possibly far higher than his popularity in his home state, Gujarat.

Mewar BattlefieldOf the 35 seats in Mewar, 6 are classified as battleground seats which will decide who wins this region on Sunday. In 2008, Congress had won 4 out of those 6 battleground seats, while BJP had only narrowly scraped through in 2 seats.

CSDS poll survey, which was done in the third week of October captures the Mood Quotient of Mewar thus, “Congress has an edge over BJP”, which is realistic for that timeframe, but things have changed since then and we get an inkling of that in the AC Nielsen survey which was done much later in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of November. As per Nielsen survey, BJP is getting 24 seats, Congress 10 seats and others 1 seat in Mewar.

West Rajasthan – Marwar

This is another zone that is seeing a BJP-Modi wave in this election despite being Gehlot territory. Once again this is also a direct fight zone between the two main players and there is hardly any third political pole. This is also the zone where voting is mostly on caste lines which makes it very important to get your caste arithmetic right. Of the 43 seats, BJP and Congress are pitted against each other directly in 33 seats and there are some rebels in the other 10 seats who have made it a multi-cornered fight.

For the Congress party the big worry is the anger of Jats after ticket distribution, for many Jat leaders were denied tickets and to add to their woes, Modi is being seen as a messiah of the OBCs and Jats in particular. Another error by Congress in Marwar is not allocating more than 2 tickets in the entire region to Rajputs, which has pushed the Rajputs further into the opposition camp. Rajpurohits and Meghwals are also bitter with the ruling party for their shabby treatment and will affect the party’s chances in at least 2 districts.

For the BJP, Seervi samaj and Patel votes are a cause of worry. There are also a number of BJP rebels in the fray who are hurting the party in at least 5-6 seats. BJP’s ability to sustain its support base among minority votes in Nagaur district will also play an important role in the eventual outcome. Once again, the Narendra Modi factor is working heavily in favor of the BJP even in this region.

Marwar BattlefieldJodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Nagaur, Jalore, Pali and Sirohi districts between them make up the 43 assembly seats of Mewar. There was a tie in this region last time when Congress had won 20 and BJP 19, while others had managed to capture 4 seats. Of these 43 assembly constituencies, 10 belong to battleground category and whoever wins a majority of these 10 seats will have an advantage in this region. CSDS opinion poll survey done in the third week of October gives us a Mood Quotient of “BJP wave in this region currently”, which has probably only increased with the Modi campaign. But, AC-Nielsen poll survey has far more conservative findings from Marwar as it gives BJP 21 seats and Congress 19 seats, suggesting a more even contest, which is surprisingly contrary to all the signals emanating from the ground.

North Rajasthan – Shekhawati and Bikaner zones

Shekhawati is made up of three districts – Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu – which contribute 21 assembly seats to the Vidhan Sabha, whereas Bikaner divisions is composed of 18 seats of three districts – Bikaner, Ganganagar and Hanumangarh. This is a region where Jats form a powerful demographic component and also an en-block vote that decides the winners in many seats.

Traditionally, including the last election of 2008, the Jat vote-bank was tilted towards the Congress, whereas BJP was supposed to garner the Rajput vote, but this time the Jat vote in the entire region is in a flux and it would be difficult for the Congress to retain this vote-bank. For the BJP, the main worry is to contain the rebels, especially in Sikar and Jhunjunu districts where the party had only won 2 seats out of 15 in 2008. If the BJP manages to garner both the upper caste as well as OBC votes, then it can potentially sweep this region.

Bikaner district has been a BJP stronghold and the party has to maintain its strength area if it wants to emerge victorious in this region. Devsingh Bhati, the 7 time BJP MLA (from 4 different parties) is the key to Bikaner politics and he is said to be working tirelessly to encourage all the party workers to fight the battle. Congress on the other hand is trying hard to sell its welfare schemes as having benefited North Rajasthan but hasn’t met with great success. About 3-4 months ago Congress had an edge in this region, but with the polling day fast approaching it is BJP which is emerging stronger.

North Rajasthan BattlegroundOf the 39 seats, 6 are classified as battleground seats and whoever wins a majority of these will have an upperhand in North Rajasthan. In 2008 Congress had won 4 out of the 6 battleground seats, while BJP had won only 2. CSDS Mood Quotient describes north Rajasthan as “BJP leading Congress”. Whereas AC-Nielsen poll survey gives actual seat projections as BJP winning 20 seats, Congress winning 12 seats and others winning 7 seats.

Five Forty Three Pre-Poll Seat Projections:

Seat ProjectionsOne seat, Churu has been countermanded due to the death of BSP candidate, so we are not including that in our projections which is now effective only for 199 assembly segments. We have opinion poll data from 4 out of the 7 regions and the other three regions are projected based on assembly segment-wise ground reports. Opinion poll survey shows biggest swing in Marwar region, where there is a 9% swing in favor of BJP, while in Mewar there is a 5% swing in favor of the BJP.


  • Vasundhara Raje Scindhia is all set to be the next Chief Minister of Rajasthan which is in the grip of a Vasundhara wave right now. Her 8 month long tour of the state is reminiscent of Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy’s campaign in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 which not only changed the fortunes of his party in his state but also became the harbinger of change in national politics.
  • Rajasthan is seeing a potential swing of 3 to 6% in favor of the BJP. At the lower level (3% swing), BJP should get a simple majority as projected by our own survey, but with a 6% swing in its favor, BJP could cross the 130 mark and get an absolute (2/3rd) majority in the state. If BJP achieves the latter, it would be a breakthrough election and get the state out of the vote-share loop of alternate anti-incumbencies.
  • It is very unlikely that the Congress party would mount a rearguard fight to recover lost ground and upset all the waves to win this election, but we will keep an eye on any drastic changes on polling day.

[Note: Opinion Poll Survey was conducted by an organization affiliated to Psephologist Chinmay Krovvidi in Dhundhad, Haroti, Vangad, Mewar and Marwar regions. Seat projections, data points and other valuable inputs were shared by Chinmay. Ground reports were sourced from various social activists, local journalists and other party workers from 6 districts of different zones of Rajasthan.]


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Battlezone Madhya Pradesh Part 3 (Post-Poll)

Indian elections are a veritable treasure trove for anybody who is interested in collating social-science and mathematical modelling. There are some simple socio-mathematical principles that Indian elections seem to follow. For instance, clear verdict of a single party/alliance majority (especially in assembly elections) is a principle that Indian elections have been following since 2000, which is the exact opposite of the principle of invariably fractured outcomes of the 80s and 90s. Similarly, anti-incumbency was a feature of the elections before 2000, whereas “rewarding governance” is a principle which Indian voters follow in the post 2000 elections (pro-incumbency is a misnomer, for the Indian voter is not a fool to keep on voting without any rewards, therefore we use the term “governance reward”).

One more principle that Indian elections invariably follow is “trend sustenance”; we have seen time and again that any dominant trend in the run-up to an election gets strengthened further towards polling day, eventually producing a clear verdict for the dominant political formation or party. Some recent examples of this principle are Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and more importantly the 2009 national elections. In all these cases, there was a dominant party in the run up to the election, but a fractured mandate could not be ruled out due to fractured polity of the states involved. Eventually though the verdict was clearly in favor of the dominant political grouping in all these elections.

In the run-up to Madhya Pradesh elections, the dominant trend was that of BJP being ahead, so the basic socio-mathematical principle of Indian election suggests that the ruling party should get rewarded for its governance. Are there any contradictory signals to such a linear graph in the post-poll scenario of Madhya Pradesh? This is a question that confounds election analysts and must be negotiated by staying true to data inputs.

The first usual suspect that is mostly highlighted by the media as per their own whims and fancies is the turnout figure. Especially in these days of high turnouts, many political pundits start unleashing the age-old anti-incumbency horse. Turnout data on its own is not exactly a great indicator to predict Indian elections, but it does give us some clues when used smartly. One of the specific indicators we have created here at 5Forty3 labs is known as “Turnout Differential Factor” which has been adequately back-tested through some of the past election results.

On the whole, the overall turnout in Madhya Pradesh was just about 2 percentage points higher than last time which indicates status-quo at the outset in these days of general higher turnouts. Interestingly, women voter turnout was a good 4 percentage points higher than last time, which probably gives us some inkling of a thumbs-up to the MP government’s welfare schemes. What really matters though is the Turnout Differential Factor of various sub-regions of Madhya Pradesh which we shall analyze now.

Bhopal, Bundelkhand and Gwalior-Chambal zones

Gwalior-ChambalBundelkhandBhopalThese are the three zones which have stayed true to the pre-poll trends and are showing a status-quo like electoral scenario. As is evident from the charts above, we can easily discern that the battleground seats are behaving similar to our own pre-poll projections. These three zones have a combined total of 85 seats. BJP seems to have an overall upper hand in these three zones and Congress seems to be lagging behind even after the polling. Let us try and correlate this Turnout Differential Data with ground realities;

  • In the Bhopal Division, BJP seems to have maintained its unassailable lead as per all ground reports from that region and the Sangh strategy seems to have worked well at the polling booth level. This division is most likely to produce a status quo result.
  • In Gwalior-Chambal zone, the Congress strategy of putting BJP in a spot of bother through an aggressive campaign by “Maharaja” has not succeeded fully and BJP seems to have got its base out to vote. This region should more-or-less maintain status quo and even if BJP loses a couple of seats, it may make that up. In affect a few seats may change hands, but overall results are likely to remain same.
  • Uma Bharati has clicked for the BJP as per all reports although there were a lot of suspicions in the run-up to the poll. Bundelkhand should stand with BJP even in this election and Congress has not been very successful in changing its fortunes.

Malwa Region

MalwaAs we can see from the above chart of the battleground seats turnouts, although the trend-line has remained unaltered, there are some interesting discrepancies in the Turnout Differential Indicator. What does this mean? There is some micro-anti-incumbency which is showing its impact. Malwa zone also includes the 16 seats of Nimar zone so it makes up a total of 66. BJP had won 40 seats and Congress 25 seats in this zone in 2008, but this time there could be some changes to those numbers. After the polling on Monday, it appears that both the parties are seemingly on a more equal footing in this region. Now let us try and correlate these findings with ground reports;

  • Polling booth level work of BJP was a bit weak, especially in areas which are considered as its strongholds. This has been a problem for the ruling party in this zone, especially in cities of Malwa; for instance, at many polling booths of Indore it was found that BJP workers were missing during crucial polling hours on Monday (there was even talk of internal sabotage).
  • In the lower Malwa tribal districts, Congress seems to have performed better than expected which is quite baffling for many political pundits that we at 5Forty3 talked to.
  • In Nimar zone, many reports have come up which are giving Congress a chance to improve its tally – is happening for the first time in almost two decades.

Mahakoshal and Baghelkhand

MahakoshalBaghelkhandThese are two very interesting charts that are giving us some wild signals. It was expected that Mahakoshal would be a tight race – in fact, CSDS pre-poll survey had projected that this was the only region where Congress was ahead of BJP – but what has come as a surprise is the behavior of Baghelkhand, which has been a BJP stronghold for a long time now. These two regions have also been clubbed together with Narmada zone and give a combined total of 79 seats. The Turnout Differential Factor of the battleground seats of these 79 constituencies is telling us a story of anti-incumbency, can we correlate these findings with ground reports?

  • Baghelkhand seems to be in a flux of some sorts and there is talk of internal sabotage by BJP workers emanating from this region. Polling booth level workers of BJP in this region seemed to have ditched the party at the last moment on polling day. There were inklings of these in the run-up to the polls when Rajnath Singh rallies had to be cancelled.
  • The distressed soya farmers seem to have moved to the Congress and other parties as per reports from this region – the Hoshangabad MP’s shift to BJP seems to have not worked.
  • Vaishyas who had stood with the BJP through thick and thin in Baghelkhand seem to have made a shift in this election, although it is not completely clear as yet.
  • In Mahakoshal, Congress seems to have an upper hand over BJP owing to local anti-incumbency. Also the crowds that Kamalnath and Jyotiraditya Scindhia managed to gather in their public meetings in this region seem to have been converted into votes.

Note on Internal assessments and Satta Bazaar

Although detailed internal assessments of both the parties are not available, we have information on overall assessments of both the BJP and Congress. BJP is claiming a seat tally of 120 to 135, while Congress claims a tally of 110 to 120. Interestingly, Congress, which had taken a very strong view on the rebels in the state, has now decided not to take any action against the rebels as there are reports that at least 3 of them may emerge victorious and the party may need their support if it falls short of clear majority. State Congress leaders are also in talks with the BSP which is expected to win 6 to 9 seats. BJP on the other hand is confident of a majority on its own. Meanwhile the Satta Bazaar of Indore, which is usually more reliable than that of Mumbai as the local political barometer, indicates 112 to 118 for the ruling BJP and 95 to 100 for the opposition Congress. The odds of a BJP government coming back to power are just 25 Paise for each rupee, whereas the odds for a Congress government coming to power are 3 rupees and 50 paise for every rupee bet. The pertinent point to be noted from all these numbers is the overall perception of a close fight in the state.


  • The most likely scenario, after polling, points to a close race between BJP and Congress, although the ruling party enjoys a definite advantage.
  • The possibility of a sweep looks unlikely due to sub-regional discrepancies in voting and whoever wins is likely to win less than 130 seats
  • After tabulating the reports from all the regions, BJP seems to be in the band of 112 to 125 seats and Congress seems to be in the 90 to 102 band

[Disclaimer: Five Forty Three doesn’t have access to exit poll data in Madhya Pradesh and the entire analysis of the post-poll scenario is based on ground reports in correlation to turnout data and pre-poll surveys. Such projections carry a higher percentage of error margins of 2% to 5% range]


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Battlezone Madhya Pradesh Part 2 (Pre-Poll)


This is an important sub-region of Madhya Pradesh where Congress was slightly ahead at the start of the election due to local anti-incumbencies, rebel candidates of BJP and changed demographics. This is also Kamalnath territory and he has been campaigning for the Congress party with vigor this time around, whereas he was almost missing in action in 2008.

If Congress wants to dream of dislodging the decade long BJP government from Bhopal, then Mahakoshal is its one major hope. Realizing the importance of this region, Jyotiraditya Scindhia has also campaigned here along with Kamalnath by burying all internal differences. The only cause for worry for the Congress among their set of top leaders has been Suresh Pachouri whose followers have either stayed away from active campaigning or have been working for the BJP secretly.

On the other hand, in the recent days, BJP has recovered a lot of the lost ground due to three reasons

  • The master strategist of the Sangh and the man who is widely credited with both the victories of 2003 as well as 2008, Anil Madhav Dave has devised a unique polling booth strategy which has rendered many rebels worthless. His ability to treat elections as essentially polling booth level victories or defeats is standing the BJP in good stead throughout the state and especially more so in this region
  • The last moment exit of Hoshangabad MP, Rao Uday Pratap Singh from the Congress party and his entry into the BJP has helped the ruling party to a great extent to blunt the anti-incumbency in this region. For instance, in Narsinghpur district almost the entire Block Congress leadership has joined the BJP, thereby rendering the opposition impotent
  • Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s aggressive targeted campaigning in this region has also helped the ruling party recover some of the lost ground

In Balaghat district Samajwadi Party has some presence and it could be the deciding factor as to who would emerge victorious. In Chhindwara, Kamalnath has put his prestige on the block, whereas Jabalpur is in the midst of a sympathy wave after the death of the speaker of current assembly, Ishwardas Rohani. Narsinghpur, Kathani and Dindori are reeling under the relentless attack of rebels and internal sabotage in both the parties.

Mahakoshal ZoneMahakoshal consists of 8 districts and 38 assembly seats; Jabalpur – 8 seats, Chhindwara – 7 seats, Balaghat – 6 seats Narsinghpur – 4 seats, Seoni – 4 seats, Katni – 4 seats, Mandala – 3 seats and Dindori – 2 seats. Of these, BJP is ahead in 16 seats and Congress in 12 seats right now, whereas 9 assembly constituencies can be classified as battleground seats. Of these 9 battleground seats, Congress had won 5 and BJP 4 in the 2008 election, which gives us an inkling as to how tight the race is in Mahakoshal.

CSDS poll survey has concluded that the Mood Quotient of this region is “Congress has recovered and is ahead of the BJP”, although it must be stressed that this survey was done before the late recovery of BJP and the big shift of Hoshangabad. Even the AC-Nielsen opinion poll survey predicts a marginal loss for the ruling BJP of about 2 seats to take the tally to 22 and gives Congress 14 seats (same as last time). In conclusion, we can safely presume that unlike many other zones where it is way ahead, BJP is losing some of its shine in Mahakoshal but it is not enough to make a big dent in terms of seats and therefore Congress may not gain much in reality.


This is the Thakur heartland of Madhya Pradesh which has large swaths of upper caste population of Thakurs, Brahmins and even Vaishyas. Consequently, this is also one of the strongholds of the ruling BJP and almost a fortress that Congress has been unable to breach. At the start of the electioneering, there were reports of some disenchantment in this region, but as the campaigning has progressed, there is hardly any sign of BJP’s decline. It is mostly business as usual for the BJP in Baghelkhand, while Congress is struggling to hold on to whatever little it has.

This is Arjun Singh territory and also what Ajay Singh, his son, has inherited, but he has almost totally failed to create grounds for the Congress party in this region despite being the leader of the opposition. The appointment of Jyotiraditya Scindhia has literally cut Ajay Singh’s wings and he along with Digvijay Singh has been reduced to a spectator of the unfolding scenarios.

Both BJP and Congress have given a large number of tickets to Thakurs and Brahmins, which has left Vaishyas disappointed and there are reports that the Vaishya voters are possibly looking towards third alternatives which is being exploited by the BSP. Although BSP has some strength in this region, it can at best act as a spoiler. Also a section of the OBCs were said to be developing disenchantment with the ruling party, which had deployed Uma Bharati to contain this rebellion successfully.

Although there are some undercurrents of disenchantment in Satna and Rewa against the ruling BJP, the TINA factor could eventually help the party. Congress on the other hand lacks other caste leaders to take any advantage of the situation and Ajay Singh’s leadership in this region is described as “lazy” at best.

Bagelkhand ZoneBaghelkhand is made up of 7 districts and 30 seats; of these 30 assembly constituencies, BJP is ahead in 19, Congress in 3 and others in 1 seat. There are 7 battleground seats, of which BJP had won a whopping 6 and Congress merely 1 in 2008 – this gives us an idea of the total domination of the ruling BJP, which is unlikely to change much even this time around.

CSDS opinion poll describes the Mood Quotient of Baghelkhand as “BJP is comfortably ahead of the Congress”. AC-Nielsen poll gives BJP a tally of 23 seats, while giving Congress 5 seats and others 2 seats in Baghelhand. Both these findings are similar to our own assessments.


This is the decider region of Madhya Pradesh politics, for whoever wins Malwa usually has an upper hand in the government formation process. In fact this is a state within a state with big cities like Indore and tribal districts like Jhabua and Dhar all co-existing in this zone. Interestingly, in 2008, BJP and Congress were almost equal in this region with 25 and 24 seats respectively, while 1 seat had gone to an independent candidate.

Elections here are localized to a great extent and national issues do not make much of an impact apart from some urban pockets. The fight here is also totally direct between the two national parties and “others” almost have no impact. It is also in this region that mostly there are no strong rebels in fray from both the parties and the fight is along party lines. Traditionally, BJP derives its strength from big cities, towns and other urban areas, whereas Congress is strong in the villages and tribal regions.

Once again, there is a close contest between BJP and Congress, so a repeat of 2008 cannot be ruled out. Although some political pundits believe that Congress is winning Malwa and that this would pave the way for a change in government, such an outcome looks unlikely from what is visible from the ground reports. Yet, one must keep a close look at turnout figures to see if there are any drastic changes envisaged by the voters here. Although, since the development record of the Shivraj Singh government is much better in this region and voters do tend to compare that with the Digvijay Singh government of the past and the UPA government at the centre, BJP seems to enjoy a certain advantage over Congress.  Also the fact that Congress bungled up ticket distribution in some key constituencies is also not helping the party, especially in Ratlam and surrounding regions.

Malwa ZoneMalwa is composed of 11 districts and 50 assembly constituencies; Indore – 9 seats, Ujjain – 7 seats, Dhar – 7 seats, Dewas – 5 seats, Ratlam – 5 seats, Shajahpur-Agar – 5 seats, Mandsour – 3 seats, Neemuch – 3 seats, Jhabua – 3 seats and Alirajpur – 2 seats. Of these 50 seats, BJP is ahead in 23 seats and Congress is ahead in 18 seats currently, while there are 9 battleground seats which will decide who wins Malwa. Whoever wins, Malwa would be a narrow victory with just 2-3 seats or even lesser separating both the parties. In 2008, BJP had won 6 out of those 9 battleground seats while Congress had won 3.

CSDS opinion poll survey clubs together Malwa region with Bhopal Division to term it as “Malwa North” and concludes that “BJP is way ahead of the Congress”, but we must remember that it is a combined ‘Mood Quotient’ which is probably getting affected by BJP’s lead in Bhopal zone. CSDS also has another division known as “Malwa Tribal”, wherein it includes the tribal areas of lower Malwa with those districts of Nimar Zone and concludes that “BJP is ahead but Congress is not far behind”. AC-Nielsen pre-poll survey also combines Malwa with Nimar and gives BJP a combined total of 43 seats, while Congress gets 22, which is similar to our own projection in both these regions.

Nimar Zone

It’s a small tribal region where BJP has very strong roots similar to northern Chhattisgarh. This is a region where Congress is again lagging far behind the ruling BJP and gives us an idea as to why the party is unlikely to be back in power any time soon in this central state of India, because it is unable to make any inroads into such bits and pieces tribal districts which had remained loyal to party long after independence. This inability of the Congress to regain lost ground is the systemic problem that the party has to address by building the organization and not just by invoking Indira Gandhi or Nehru.

Nimar ZoneNimar is made up of 4 districts and 16 assembly constituencies; Khargone – 6 seats, Khandwa – 4 seats, Badwani – 4 seats and Burhanpur – 2 seats. Of these 16 seats, BJP is ahead in 10 seats and Congress only in 1 seat, while there are 5 battleground seats of which BJP had won 4 and Congress 1 in 2008. Both CSDS and AC-Nielsen poll surveys of this region tend to agree with our overall assessment.


  • Strategically as well as popularity wise, BJP is way ahead of the Congress party in most regions of Madhya Pradesh, whereas Congress seems to be underprepared for this election.
  • The only way Congress can challenge the BJP is by comprehensively winning at least 3 out of the 8 divisions – Mahakoshal, Malwa and Gwalior-Chambal – as of today Congress and BJP are on equal footing in all these 3 regions and far ahead in the other 5 regions.
  • At the end of this pre-poll analysis, BJP is ahead in 112 seats, which is tantalizingly close to the halfway mark and Congress is ahead only in 56 seats, which is exactly half the tally of BJP. 57 seats are in the battleground category.

[If there are any major changes during the polls we would revisit the seat projections after assessing the turnout figures in our third and concluding part of the Madhya Pradesh election series]


Battlezone Madhya Pradesh Part 1 (Pre-Poll)

“The party is fighting the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time with a wrong enemy and is led by a wrong general”

– A recent quote attributed to Ahmed Patel by a senior Congress leader

If Chhattisgarh saw a battle of nerves between the two national parties, Madhya Pradesh certainly seems to be a wrong war at the wrong time for the Congress party. It is ill-prepared to fight an ill-timed battle with a deeply entrenched enemy in the state. Had it worked for at least a year in the ground with a declared commanding general, maybe, just maybe, it could have waged a much stronger attack against the ruling BJP.

The lack of homework by the Congress was visible in the way tickets were distributed arbitrarily and then withdrawn only to re-nominate newer candidates, leaving many leaders red-faced. In all this shenanigans, Congress managed to give a walkover to the opposition in at least 2 seats. Rahul Gandhi-Madhusudhan Mistry team on one side and Sonia Gandhi-Ahmed Patel team on the other side seemed to have bungled up the entire ticket distribution drama in a big way.

It is not as if the BJP was in any great position itself, for it had to drop dozens of sitting legislators due to anti-incumbency and face strong rebellions in various seats. But the problem is that the huge lead that BJP enjoys in the state ensures that despite losing 20 odd seats, it can still win the state in balance whereas Congress can ill afford to lose even a single seat.

Vote Share 02The real gap between BJP and Congress is roughly around 10%, which is also borne out by the fact that Uma Bharati’s BJSH took away almost 5% of exclusive BJP votes in the last election. It is also true that in the overall scenario some 6 to 9% of the BSP vote-share affects Congress far more than the BJP. Such big gaps in any state assembly election are difficult to breach in a single election cycle without strong waves. Whatever is the scenario of Madhya Pradesh this time in 2013, what is absent is a wave for the Congress to ride on.

The 51 districts of Madhya Pradesh are variously divided into different administrative and political zones by various classifications, ranging from 4 to 10. With electoral-politics as the central theme we divide MP into 8 zones, namely; 1) Bhopal Division, 2) Gwalior-Chambal Division, 3) Bundelkhand, 4) Narmada Zone, 5) Baghelkhand, 6) Mahakaushal, 7) Malwa and 8) Nimad. In Battlezone Part 1, we will be analyzing the first four divisions.

Bhopal Division                

Whenever one talks of BJP and its core strength, Gujarat is mentioned in the same breath variously as the “laboratory of the Sangh” or as “saffron territory” etc. Curiously though, it is here that we see the real roots of the party. Quite a few seats in this division have been electing BJP candidates ever since its birth in the mid-80s, in fact the umbilical cord goes further back in time to the erstwhile Jan Sangh days.

Two districts in particular, Sehore and Vidisha are considered as pocket-boroughs of the Sangh and BJP, the former is Chief Minister Chouhan’s home district (he contests from Budhni) and the later has been chosen as the second seat from where the CM would contest this time. It would be a herculean task for the Congress to prevent a clean sweep in both these districts even in this election, which is why it is even more baffling that Shivraj Singh was forced by the party to contest from Vidisha at the behest of Sushma Swaraj who represents the constituency in the parliament.

One interesting move by the BJP this time was to nominate a Muslim, Arif Beg, for the Bhopal North constituency, which was an island for the Congress where the party continued to win despite a BJP sweep in the neighbouring areas. Apart from North, Bhopal Central is also once again witnessing a keen contest in what is known in the local parlance as a fight between Samata Chowk (BJP’s Surendranath Singh) and Shahjahanabad (Arif Masood of Congress). Although BJP is well placed to win this region, there seems to be some amount of complacency and fatigue among the local Karyakartas as evidenced by the thin gathering for Modi Rally last week.

Bhopal ZoneThis zone is comprised of 5 districts and 25 seats; Bhopal – 7 seats, Rajgarh – 5 seats, Vidisha – 5 seats, Sehore – 4 seats and Raysen – 4 seats. Of these, BJP holds 17 and Congress the remaining 8 currently.  This time, at Five Forty Three, we have analyzed each seat through our robust system of ground reports combined with mathematical modelling to conclude that BJP is set to win 13 seats outright and Congress 3 seats. The remaining 9 seats are battleground seats, but again, 3 of those 9 are leaning towards Congress and 1 towards BJP. Thus we are left with 5 true battleground seats – Bhopal North, Bhopal Central, Narela, Narsingharh and Udaipura. In 2008, Bhopal North and Udaipura had gone to the Congress and the remaining were with the BJP.

What the Opinion Polls say about Bhopal Division?

The problem with many opinion polls is that they have these black-box systems wherein we do not get to see either the sub-regional numbers of respondents or projected vote-shares. The one rule that we follow at Five Forty Three is to discard such surveys which have a black-box approach (c-fore being the prime example) and instead concentrate on surveys which give out full details and also have a robust track record when back-tested. Frankly, only two organizations withstood our back-testing – Nielsen and CSDS – so we are going to only use the projections from these two opinion polls.

The other problem with co-relating these surveys is that they tend to have different classification from ours in terms of dividing the states. CSDS clubs together Bhopal Division along with 7 northern districts of Malwa and terms it as Malwa North in its surveys. CSDS hasn’t given either seat share or vote share for any of the sub-regions, instead it only measures the “mood quotient” of the voters. In Bhopal Division, as per CSDS survey the mood of the people indicates that “BJP is way ahead of Congress”, which is similar to our own assessment.

AC-Nielsen also clubs Bhopal Division with Narmada Zone, but although no vote-share details are divulged, it does give sub-regional seat shares. As per AC Nielsen poll, BJP is possibly winning 20 seats in this division, while Congress is winning 5 seats. Once again these findings are similar to our own assessments

Gwalior-Chambal Division

This is the area where caste plays a major role and partially replicates the politics of the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh. Yadavs, Lodhs, Jatavs and Tomars play a major role here in deciding the outcomes. This is also the region where BSP has some presence and the party had won as many as 4 seats in this region. This is also Scindhia territory and Congress is hoping to do a lot better here because Jyotiraditya is leading the campaign, but its performance depends on how badly BSP vote-bank is dented after Mayawati’s UP defeat.

The one problem for the Congress is its internal strife which is out in the open here in the beehads of Chambal. Although party workers are trying hard, the top leaders of the state, namely Jyotiraditya Scindhia and Digvijay Singh are in a race to cut each other to size. Scindhia junior has flatly refused to campaign for Digvijay Singh’s protégées. For instance, despite campaigning in the neighborhood, he deliberately skipped public meetings in Chachoura and Lahar where Singh’s followers have been given tickets. On the other hand, when Jyotiraditya Scindhia travelled to Morena for electioneering, thousands of Congress workers showed black flags and shouted him down. It was speculated widely that this was done at the instance of Digvijay Singh.

For the BJP, the real worry is the rebellion by many local party leaders and workers who are contesting from other parties and as independents. At least 3 ministers from this division are facing massive anti-incumbency and local rebellions. There are half a dozen BJP rebels in fray here. In fact, the rebel factor in BJP is so strong that at least two Rajnath Singh public meetings had to be cancelled at the last moment and even during the Modi rally in Guna, there was some sloganeering by party workers. The entire weight of carrying the party’s fortunes in this division is on Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s able shoulders. He is still immensely popular and has addressed some very successful public meetings here in the last fortnight.

This division is made up of 8 districts and 34 seats; Gwalior – 6 seats, Morena – 6 seats, Bhind – 5 seats, Shivpuri – 5 seats, Guna – 4 seats, Ashok Nagar – 3 seats, Datia – 3 seats and Sheopur – 2 seats. Of these 34, BJP is ahead in 11 seats and Congress also in 11 seats, while BSP seems to be holding forte in 2 seats. The remaining 10 seats are where the battle is being fought. In the 2008 election, BJP had won 7 of these 10 battleground seats, while Congress had won only 3. This time, Jyotiraditya Scindhia is trying hard to win as many of these seats as possible.

Gwalior Chambal (2)

CSDS opinion poll survey’s “Mood Quotient” of this region also indicates that there is a “Close race between BJP and Cong, while BSP also in the fight”. Interestingly, AC-Nielsen is projecting status quo vis-à-vis 2008, by giving 17 seats to the BJP, 13 to Congress and 4 to the BSP. What is pertinent from both these surveys is that BSP is not dead in this region, despite losing in the neighboring UP. This finding by polls should be a cause for worry for the Congress party which was trying to improve its performance here by bulldozing Mayawati’s elephant.


This is the Uma Bharati region which is shared partially by the neighboring Uttar Pradesh. It was here that Ms. Bharati’s regional outfit had got the maximum votes in the 2008 elections. This time too, it would be her campaigning that would make the big difference for the party. Although she was a reluctant campaigner at the start of the election, she did go on a whirlwind tour of this region which has reinvigorated BJP workers once again. Her caste Lodh votes also play an important role in this region, especially in Tikamgarh district. Her nephew, the little known Rahul Singh, is contesting from her home town and pocket borough, Kharagpur, which has always stood by her through thick and thin since 1984.

Once again the feature of micro-anti-incumbency against BJP leaders is seen here too, but what is far more worrying is that many internal surveys of the party had shown that the people of Bundelkhand were unhappy with the state government over basic development issues which is not the case in other regions. Uma Bharati’s aggressive campaigning towards the end and the TINA factor due to Congress’s inability to convert the anger into votes for itself is probably helping BJP.

Yet many BJP sitting MLAs are staring at defeat no matter what the opinion polls say. For instance, both the ministers of Shivraj Singh’s cabinet from Damoh, Jayant Maleya and Dasharath Lodhi, are on a sticky wicket this time and it wouldn’t be a surprise if both lose their seats. The fact that Congress is quite weak in this region is the only solace for many sitting BJP legislators who would have otherwise lost this election handsomely. What has also helped the BJP in recent days is the entry of Raja Bundela, the actor turned politician, who has been fighting for a separate statehood for Bundelkhand and has some influence over the voters of this region through his Bundelkhand Mukti Morcha activism.

Due to its shared geography and demography with UP, the Samajwadis and BSP are also active in this region and in at least half a dozen seats they are the main rivals for the ruling BJP rather than the Congress party. The thrust of Congress campaign is missing in this region, which is surprising considering that there are definite undercurrents of anti-incumbency. With better leadership over a longer period of time and better imagination, maybe Congress could have defeated BJP with a big margin in this region were jobs are scarce, water supply is erratic at best and dilapidated roads welcome you to a land of the forgotten.

Bundelkhand (2)5 districts and 26 seats make up Bundelkhand; Sagar – 8 seats, Chhattarpur – 6 seats, Tikamgarh – 5 seats, Damoh – 4 seats and Pannah – 3 seats. BJP is definitely ahead in 13 seats out of 26, while Congress is winning only 3 as of now. The Smajwadis are set to retain Niwari. Thus there are 9 battleground seats, of which Congress had won 5 and BJP 4 in the 2008 elections. If the undercurrents of anti-incumbency work in favor of the opposition by default, then BJP may lose a large number of these battleground seats, but if Uma magic works then people may overlook local factors to repose faith in the redoubtable Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

CSDS opinion poll survey for Vindhya Pradesh on the whole (which includes the 5 districts of Bundelkhand) suggests that “the BJP leads Congress fairly comfortably”, although it is not clear if the undercurrents of dissatisfaction of this region have been accounted for. AC-Nielsen on the other hand actually projects that BJP is gaining 6 seats from the 2008 tally due to Uma Bharati’s return to the party fold and is winning 21 seats, whereas the Congress is only winning 5 seats. Thus both these surveys tend to suggest that Uma-Chouhan magic has worked for the BJP and that Congress is simply too weak to put a fight.

Narmada Zone

This is also referred to as Hoshangabad belt and was another distress zone for the BJP because of agricultural problems arising out of heavy rains. Soya is the lifeline of this region but the crop has failed almost totally this year which has led to a lot of hardship for the farming community and the BJP government has been slow in addressing this issue. Yet, the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh is adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of the victory. Strong farmer leader and the sitting MP of Hoshangabad resigned from the party last week and joined the BJP because of the ill treatment meted out to him and his followers by the Digvijay-Scindhia leadership. His joining the BJP along with half a dozen powerful local leaders has totally altered the situation in this region from an anti-BJP atmosphere to a pro-BJP wave.

Narmada (2)This is a small zone with only 3 districts and 11 seats; Betul – 5 seats, Hoshangabad – 4 seats and Harda – 2 seats. Of these BJP is ahead in 6 seats and Congress in 2 seats, whereas the 3 battleground seats are all in Betul district – Betul, Ghoradongri and Multai. In 2008 Congress had won Multai and BJP the other two.

Interestingly, both the opinion poll surveys have contradictory findings from this region. While CSDS clubs this region with Mahakoshal and gives a general mood quotient of “Congress recovers and ahead of BJP” verdict, AC-Nielsen projects 8 seats for the BJP and 3 for the Congress. Crucial point to be noted here is that the CSDS poll was done before Rao Uday Pratap Singh’s (Hoshangabad MP) defection from Congress to the BJP, whereas the Nielsen survey was purported to be done after the event.


  • Congress is organizationally weak and vertically divided into camps to take advantage of any anti-incumbency whereas BJP has its strong roots and the power backing of the Sangh along with the unfading charisma of Shivraj Singh Chouhan
  • BJP’s rebellion is at the local level with many more rebels contesting against official candidates but are united at the top with all the leaders working together (even Uma Bharati is now working tirelessly). Congress on the other hand is united at the local level but is divided at the top with Scindhia and Digvijay working at cross purposes while Kamal Nath and Suresh Pachouri also contributing to the factional feud
  • Midway through after analyzing 4 divisions, we can conclude that BJP is ahead in 44 seats while Congress is ahead in exactly half that number of 22 and others are ahead in about 3 seats. 27 seats are in the battleground zone.

[This is the Madhya Pradesh Election Trilogy, wherein the first two parts would be pre-poll and the concluding part would be a post-poll analysis.]

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The first salvo of battleground 2014: Chhattisgarh Phase 2

The last week of campaigning by star campaigners & top leaders and effective ground advertisement (not just by print/electronic media, but also by door-to-door pamphleteering etc.) is said to be the make-or-break feature of any Indian election, especially closely contested state assembly elections. Past fieldwork done by this author at polling booth levels has almost conclusively proven that close to 30% of the voters in state assembly elections and almost 20% of the voters in national elections are in the “undecided” or “fence-sitters” category till about 5 days before polling (will publish this work separately some other time). In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that on an average, approximately 5 to 10% of the fence-sitter voters decide on their voting choices either just a day before the polling or on the polling day itself. This is why the organizational strength of established political parties score over independent contestants and neo political entrants in converting popular support into votes and eventually seats.

Chhattisgarh election is a particularly close contest mainly fought along local issues no doubt, but the last mile campaigning could prove to be decisive as in most cases. As phase one had ended with a slight edge for Congress because of its 2008 washout in that region, phase two had to be the decider. Now let us try and analyze the 6 important factors of the last week of campaigning that could potentially leave an indelible mark on this election;

  1. Like all powerful mass leaders, Ajit Jogi is a consummate politician who doesn’t always play the game by the rule book. Thus his tacit understanding with Chattisgarh Swabhiman Manch (CSM), a third political force of the state, was a personal masterstroke in this election. An unlikely combination of Satnamis (Dalits) and Sahus would be a big winner in any election in central Chhattisgarh and Jogi had a winner on his hands. Although CSM had fielded some 54 candidates, they were serious contenders only in about 8 seats. The Jogi-CSM pact transcended even the Congress party’s high command, because it was rumoured that in the last week Jogi was tactically helping CSM candidates in a couple of seats – Urvashi Sahu (daughter of Tarachand Sahu) in Durg rural, former minister, Derhu Prasad, in Nawagarh and Ganguram Baghel (another former minister) from Arang are a few examples. As a return favor, he was getting the support of CSM in almost a dozen seats for his family and protégées.
  2. To counter this poaching of the numerically powerful Sahu votes, BJP had deployed Narendra Modi as not only their most popular national leader but also as a symbolic gesture to the Teli (Sahu) community to remain loyal to the party. Not surprisingly, almost 50% of the 8 odd, well attended Modi rallies were held in the Raipur-Durg belts which are the core areas of strength for CSM. One of the underlying themes of these Modi rallies was also about his “humble origins” which was a subtle way of attracting his fellow caste voters along with other backward castes
  3. Not for nothing is Ajit Jogi famous as the double-edged sword of Chhattisgarh, for he can be equally beneficial and detrimental for the Congress party’s chances in the state. In the last week of campaigning he once again proved his duality when he went haywire. What provoked Jogi is difficult to tell, but two factors could have worked; A] Narendra Modi’s constant mocking of Congress party not declaring the CM candidate and B] The total silence of Congress leaders when repeatedly asked as to who their leader is by the news media (Jogi expected his name to be spelt out by at least a few state leaders). So Jogi went ahead and acted in the only way he knows. He campaigned for votes in the name of “future CM’s family” for his wife in Kota and son in Marwahi, which he later reiterated in Gunderdehi. This created a great deal of consternation in the Congress camp leading to various factions working at cross-purposes in the last few days.
  4. Without sitting in moral judgment, let me discuss this interesting fourth factor. It is a well-known fact that almost 100% of the Muslim votes go against BJP in Muslim dominated polling booths and the party can do nothing about it… well, almost, at least till now. As an innovative strategy (maybe unethical) this time, hundreds of Muslim families were sent on a sponsored pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharif on the polling day by certain unknown (BJP leaning) local business entities in at least two divisions – Raipur and Bilaspur. Thus a vote that could have gone against the party was never cast
  5. In a surprising move, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi (who had campaigned extensively in the much smaller phase one) were mostly missing in action in phase two. Instead Congress deployed other leaders, prominent among them was Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who camped in the state for two days and countered Modi. Although not as effective a public speaker as Modi, he did bravely counter the claims of development of Gujarat by pitting Haryana as a far more developed state. Hooda is emerging as the OBC counter of the Congress for the development plank of Modi and Chhattisgarh could be his first test
  6. Polling-booth level management by the trio of Saudhan Singh, Sachidanand Upasne and Rasik Parmar for BJP had been lackluster in phase one, but there seems to be a marked improvement in phase two. Although Vanwasi Kalyan Parishad was more active in the polling booths of Surguja in phase two rather than in Bastar of phase one, Dilip Singh Judeo’s calming effect is being missed sorely by the BJP which could have proven to be fatal for the party. But, for the first time, even the Judeo women also campaigned for the party who otherwise never move out of the palace. On the other hand Congress had almost totally outsourced its booth management strategy to a group of Charandas Mahant’s “non-political friends”, which is also an interesting strategy in a faction ridden state unit and has the potential to be a winning move by the Congress high command.

Opinion Poll indicators

Poll data

  • The two extreme ends of the spectrum are C-fore and CSDS, with C-fore predicting a dead heat and CSDS predicting a more than 2/3rd majority to the BJP
  • In terms of vote-share, no pre-poll surveys indicate Congress party crossing the 39% mark, whereas BJP vote-share varies between a low of 39% and a high of 46%, which gives us a trend-line that is advantageous to the BJP
  • Except for CSDS all other pre-poll surveys are projecting a neck-and-neck fight similar to 2008, with just about 1-2% margin separating both the parties – this can go eitherways in a close bipolar contest with a 3% error margin
  • Both CSDS and C-Voter project a better performance by BJP in central Chhattisgarh and by Congress in south Chhattisgarh (other surveys only give overall data) as compared to the previous election of 2008

Turnout Differential Factors

The overall turnout figure of 77% in phase two, which is up by about 5% as compared to 2008 in the same 72 seats is consistent with the turnout trends of recent years. What does it mean? Well, the old “high-turnout-equals-anti-incumbency” days are over for starters, but the new lazy analysis of high turnouts being pro-incumbency is also way off the mark. The devil lies in the details.

One thing is clear, in Chhattisgarh there is no anti-incumbency against the ruling party, but there is definitely micro-anti-incumbency against sitting legislators, which is why political parties try and drop unpopular MLAs and give tickets to new faces. But how does one pick up these signals of micro-anti-incumbency in such a crowded election? There is one system that we have devised and it is known as the “Turnout Differential Factor”.

As a first step, we pick the battleground constituencies based on two filters; A] low (less than 5000 vote) margins in 2008 elections and B] strong multi-polar contests in this election. So there are 13 battleground seats out of 49 in central Chhattisgarh. Now let us plot a turnout chart for these 13 seats.

Turnout Differential factor (CC)

Six of the 13 battleground seats were won by the BJP, while Congress had won 5, and 2 seats had gone to the BSP. As is visible from the above chart, the battleground seats of BJP have similar turnout patterns in 2013 as in 2008 indicating status-quo (except for Gunderdehi where a strong rebel CSM candidate is in fray). Whereas it is clearly visible that the turnouts in 2013 for Congress battleground seats are much higher and diverging from turnouts of 2008, indicating change.

Usually a party’s weakest link is the low margin battleground seats and in a small bipolar state this is the crucial difference between forming a government and being in opposition (as we have seen in Himachal Pradesh last year).

Now let us try and expand this to north Chhattisgarh to see if the same system holds true here too. In northern Chhattisgarh there are 23 seats, of which there are only 6 battleground seats since BJP and Congress have their own traditional strongholds in this region. Of these 6 battleground seats, BJP had won 2 and Congress 4 in 2008

Turnout Differential factor (NC)

Once again we see the same pattern; in fact, there is much lower turnout in Dharamjaigarh seat held by BJP and Ramanujganj is maintaining status quo, whereas the gap is wider in the Congress held battleground seats, once again indicating change.

Thus we can safely surmise that if turnout is a factor, then it is possibly favoring the ruling BJP more than the opposition Congress in phase two. Micro-anti-incumbency is not hurting the ruling BJP as much as it is impacting the opposition Congress. There are three important reasons why turnouts are helping the BJP rather than the Congress;

  1. Unprecedented women voter turnout suggests that Dr. Raman Singh government’s welfare schemes centered around women members of the family has had its positive impact on the fairer sex – there has been 6% more female turnout this time
  2. Despite promises galore by both the parties, voters seem to have greater faith on the ruling BJP because it has seemingly delivered on most of its past promises
  3. The general lower voter turnout in BJP held battleground seats is indicative of a relaxed voter attitude who do not want to punish the ruling party

Exit Poll Survey:

Methodology 1

This survey was limited to phase two only as it was extremely difficult to conduct an exit poll in the Naxal affected phase one. So effectively it was an exercise limited to 72 seats of 19 districts of central and northern Chhattisgarh only.

The aim was to cover at least one out of every three constituencies, picked randomly but by keeping the state’s composition intact – 15 General category seats, 6 ST reserved ones and 3 SC reserved seats made up the 24. About 3 to 5 random polling booths were chosen in each constituency by ensuring adequate geographic spread and urban-rural representation – 24% urban polling booths and 76% rural polling booths overall. 1647 random respondents were achieved by strictly adhering to the following criteria;

Methodology 2

Percentages have been rounded off for ease of usage. Urban and woman respondents were kept lower than the actual data by design, because urban turnouts are usually lesser than rural turnouts and men voters still tend to decide the voting preference of a family unit in greater numbers than women. About 3% of the respondents in semi-rural polling booths were difficult to qualify either as “rural” or as “urban”.

Lesser number of SC and ST respondents were achieved than the actual data – a lesson on why SC-ST voter turnout is usually underrated by psephologists – but this anomaly was addressed in the final percentage derivatives to the extent possible, adjusting for noise.

Exit poll predictions

[Only for the 72 seats of phase 2 and percentages have been rounded off]

BJP is gaining marginally (about 1%) and Congress is losing about 2% votes in phase two, while they had almost equal vote-shares in 2008 and were separated only by 0.40% in these 72 seats. Not surprisingly, the “others” are gaining most and the swing is away from the BSP (one caveat though, lesser SC votes were reported in the exit poll and despite “noise” adjustments, there could be errors).

This exit poll only goes on to confirm two aspects that many opinion polls have predicted;

  1. The contest is tight and only 1 or 2% separates both the parties
  2. BJP has a slight advantage over Congress

We have not attempted seat conversion based on exit poll findings because it was done only partially (18 seats of phase one missing). But this exit poll data can be used for trend confirmation. Having calculated a margin of error of about 4%, three following scenarios can be assumed;

  1. If there is an error of 4% and the margin moves towards the Congress, then Congress would have a lead of 2% over the BJP and the scenario predicted by the exit poll would be reversed
  2. If there is an error of 4% and the margin moves towards the BJP, then the gap would widen to a big 6%, which would ensure a sweep by Dr. Raman Singh of the proportions predicted by the CSDS pre-poll survey
  3. If there is an error of 4% and the margin moves towards “others”, it would be a status quo election vis-à-vis 2008.

[In case Congress sweeps the election, this exit poll survey would have erred beyond the assigned margin of error and the findings would be null and void]

A note on internal post-poll surveys:

After the elections, political parties usually have their own internal assessments which is a deeper level district wise analysis and throws much better light on what is likely to happen. BJP has claimed that it is winning 52 seats and Congress has claimed that it is winning 48 seats based on their own internal assessments.



Note: The Exit poll survey was sponsored and conducted by two independent organizations in collaboration. Questionnaire was kept simple by just putting all the names of the ballot paper of that corresponding polling booth along with party symbols and not asking for any other inputs from the respondents. Five Forty Three’s role was limited to analyzing the numbers only. Since this is a one of a kind exit poll survey done without preceding historic tracker survey data (unlike larger organizations like CSDS and C-Voter etc.), the usual error margin of 1-3% is calculated to be higher, at about 4%.

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Miniature battlefield in Chhattisgarh phase 2: Narendra Modi v/s Rahul Gandhi

If Chhattisgarh phase one was all about the tribal heartland’s conflict with Naxalism and the political juxtaposition of the two national parties, phase two is a microcosm of the real battlefield of 2014. On one end of the spectrum it would be a real test of Narendra Modi’s ability to deliver the one demographic that he is supposed to deliver to the BJP – the OBCs; while at the other end of the spectrum it would be the ideological fight of the Gandhis against industrialization and their affinity for more leftist interventions as the nirvana that India seeks.

Phase two polling would include two parts of Chhattisgarh – the central OBC belt and the northern adivasi belt. The central OBC belt consists of 49 seats, of which the Congress had won 23 and BJP 24 in 2008 (2 had gone to the BSP). The northern adivasi belt consists of 23 seats, of which Congress and BJP had won 12 and 11 respectively.

The spectacular rise of the BJP in the 90’s across India is widely and wisely attributed to the Hindutva agenda and the Ram Mandir agitation, but there was another feature to that rise which is less well-known; that of BJP’s ability to attract a section of OBCs and other powerful non-Brahman-Thakur-Bania mid-caste Hindu votes (ex: Lingayats in Karnataka, Lodhs in UP etc.)

In Chhattisgarh too, BJP’s rise had been due to revolutionizing the OBC votes in central Chhattisgarh. Before the arrival of BJP on the scene, the entire OBC leadership of this region was captured by the Kurmis despite being in numerical minority of just 8% of the OBC pie. BJP systematically targeted Sahus, Ahirs and other hitherto underrepresented OBCs to create a sustainable vote-bank in Chhattisgarh and in the process the party was able to attract a section of Kurmis too.

Phase 2 caste vote matrixBoth 2003 and to a lesser extent 2008 victories of the BJP in Chhattisgarh were due to the steadfast support of the Sahu-samaj to the party. Now after the expulsion of the tallest Sahu leader, Tara Chand Sahu, BJP’s grip on this vital vote-bank has loosened considerably; especially after the formation of Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch by Tarachand Sahu’s son as a third alternative in this region.

The total population of Sahus (Telis) in central-Chhattisgarh is estimated to be about 22 Lakhs. This means that roughly a 10th of the entire Teli population in India (of about 23 million) is concentrated in this small landlocked region of 12 districts. This is where Narendra Modi becomes important in Dr. Raman Singh’s scheme of things, especially because there are rumours that a section of BJP leadership is secretly trying to cut Dr. Raman Singh and Modi’s wings by sabotaging Chhattisgarh.  Although Modi has never really played the OBC card, he will have to exercise this option sooner or later to make inroads into vastly mandalized regions of Hindi heartland. And what better opportunity to test the waters than in Chhattisgarh where it is his own sub-caste that has a rare numerical advantage?

This may sound easily achievable on paper, but the ground realities are stacked against the ruling BJP. The OBC vote-share of the party has been declining steadily over the last 6-7 years and it has reached an inflection point in the run up to the present election. OBCs are particularly unhappy regarding their reservation in the state and the apathy shown by both Congress and BJP to their cause.

Congress has its core-vote of SCs, a section of STs and “others”, whereas BJP’s core votes here have been the OBCs. This is why BJP is facing an uphill task in trying to recover lost ground from phase one election of Monday. 2008 electoral data also demonstrates the loosening hold of the party in the form of two distinct features

  • The total turnout in the 24 seats that BJP won last time was lower by 4 percentage points as compared to the turnout in 23 Congress seats; meaning a general apathy towards the former
  • The overall victory margin of BJP was also 2% lower than that of Congress in central Chhattisgarh; meaning that BJP seats are more vulnerable than that of the Congress party.

Cong BJP performance 2008If Narendra Modi can tap the Telis and other OBCs to help BJP win the state after a lackluster phase one and an expected under-performance in northern Chhattisgarh, then this, to use a cricketing analogy, would be nothing short of a miraculous Kapil Dev innings against Zimbabwe in the 1983 world cup which rescued a totally down and out India. Indian cricket team, by the way, went on to then win the ultimate prize, the Cricket World cup, exactly 30 years ago!

If central Chhattisgarh provides BJP an opportunity to come back into electoral reckoning, it is the northern tribal belt that is ideally suited for the Rahul Gandhi brand of politics. It is here in these 7 northern districts that we find large displacements of population due to industrialization and power projects. There is definite discontentment in the air among tribal and farming communities who are almost always unhappy to give up their ancestral land for large-scale projects.

The Congress party has been targeting this area through their ground campaign as well as advertisements to woo the voters by promising to restore their old way of life. In fact, this has been one of the pet themes of Rahul Gandhi to recapture the original Congress vote-bank of Dalits and Adivasis.

2003 vs 2008 North ChhattisgarhA Rahul-Sonia campaign in northern Chhattisgarh should help the Congress party in at least a dozen seats out of the 23. After all this is Gandhi territory where families are still living in a frozen timeframe of Indira Gandhi and her largesse. When Rahul Gandhi invokes his grandmother, there is actually a method to his madness, at least here in the tribal heartland. His campaign could be the crucial differentiating factor as to who would emerge victorious in the state.  Yet, there are three important aspects for Rahul Gandhi to consider in phase two;

  • As is evident from the vote-share of the two parties, delimitation has helped Congress to consolidate its core vote bank as the SC-ST vote is now equally well distributed. Rahul Gandhi’s task is to ensure that this process of consolidation is furthered in this election
  • The absence of Dilip Singh Judeo to campaign for BJP is a boon for the Congress in 2013 in and around Jashpur. Rahul Gandhi’s task is cutout: the party has to now try and garner the Hindu ST vote over and above the “missionary” vote that it already gets
  • Tactful handling of Ajit Jogi by the Congress party, especially on the preceding nights before the polls when he creates all hara-kiri is going to be another X factor of 2013

Thus, before the actual battle of 2014, Chhattisgarh phase 2 provides a dress rehearsal for the two principal protagonists to fine tune their strategies and sharpen their knives before they finally enter the warzone. Over the next 3 or 4 days, the men will be separated from the boys and the battle shall commence.

[Past election data source: and Caste percentage representation derived from: CSDS-Lokniti, Jafferlot Studies, Census data of 1931 & 2001 and author’s own field surveys of past]


The Eighteen trumpeters of Bastar – Chhattisgarh Phase 1

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”

(New Testament, Corinthians 14:8)

As the eighteen warzone assembly seats of the tribal heartland of India began playing the trumpet today for the battlefield of 2014, this ancient nation awaits with baited breath for a judgment that shall decide her future and the jurors shall be her unwashed masses. It is indeed the irony of Karma that this godforsaken land that all of India has forgotten for more than six decades – so much so that Maoists and Naxals control the destiny of her people – should now possess the eighteen trumpeters who shall announce the battle for India.

Not only do these eighteen assembly seats hold the key to the next government in Chhattisgarh but also possibly to the throne in Delhi. BJP was able to form a government in this tribal state because it was able to win a vast majority of these seats in both 2008 as well as 2003, whereas Congress has remained organizationally weak in this region. The dominance of BJP is so total that it has a whopping gap of about 9% and Congress is a distant second. Thus, of the 18 seats, BJP has won 15 and Congress merely 3 in the last election of 2008.

Bastar-RajnandgaonUsually, about 20% of the vote share in this region is accrued to the “others” and that should either remain mostly unchanged or may see a slight increase this time around. A 1 to 2% swing away from BJP and towards Congress would mean a commensurate swing of two assembly seats in the same direction. In the case of 3 to 4% swing away from the BJP, about 5 seats can potentially shift to Congress and others. Thus it is safe to conclude that any negative swing of 3% or more away from the BJP (in the first phase poll) would put the Raman Singh government in an extremely vulnerable position.

Is there a possibility of a swing away from the BJP in the Bastar-Rajnandgaon region in today’s election? In order to answer that question we shall have to consider 6 important signals preceding this election:

  1. Micro-anti-incumbency and local rebellions are hurting the BJP far more than the Congress, which has in fact set its house in order for most part and has found an upper hand as far as ticket distribution goes (at least in the Bastar division) – for instance, BJP is in a very delicate situation in Khujji (Rajnandgaon dist.) where former minister Rajinderpal Singh Bhatia is contesting as a rebel and has the support of a large number of party cadre
  2. Dr. Raman Singh’s popularity is still intact although the “chawal wale baba” has lost some of the sheen of the PDS magic which is being seen as an achievement of the past
  3. There is a sympathy factor for the Congress, which is more pronounced in the villages where a section of the tribal populace is angry with the daylight murder of Congress-Salwa Judum leadership in May this year by the Maoists – but how many will gather the courage to actually go out and vote is questionable
  4. The fact that the Modi rallies of last week were thinly attended (less than 4000 people) which apparently forced BJP to cancel his Dongargarh public meeting and Rahul/Congress’s ability to garner much higher crowds (almost triple at about 12000) at the same venue is being seen as a sign of definite anti-incumbency
  5. The Ajit Jogi factor may cancel out all the positives for the Congress as a large section of (Congress) voters may not be inclined to have another Jogi-regime which reminds them here in Bastar of an extremely oppressive government
  6. Another worry for both the national parties is the presence of “others” (especially the left parties) in certain key constituencies which has made the contests triangular. For instance; a polling booth level survey conducted by the RSS had suggested that CPI candidate Manish Kunjam (who played a crucial role in the release of Sukma district collector, Alex paul Menon) was enjoying a slight edge over both BJP and Congress in Konta as of late last month.

Now that we have determined that there could most definitely be a negative swing against the ruling BJP, we must try to work out as to the extent of this swing.

As it is the complexities of Indian elections in their simplest form can still baffle even the best of analysts, which get compounded many fold in a Naxal affected regions like Bastar where ordinary politicking is almost impossible to practice. Consider this; 2 out of 3 polling booths in these districts is either classified as “sensitive” or “hypersensitive” – of the 4142 polling booths, 2828 were in the sensitive/hypersensitive category.

In constituencies like Antagarh, Bastar, Bhanupratappur, Chitrakot, Dantewada, Kondagaon, Keshkal, Kanker etc. campaigning was possible only in about 50% of the urban areas and political parties did not even dare venture into the villages due to Maoist fear. The situation in Bijapur, Naryanpur and Sukma was even more distressing as campaigning was possible only in about 30% of the areas. It must also be stressed here that political parties do not even nominate their polling agents in 50% of the polling booths.

So how does one gauge the mood of the voters, or understand the swing in such hopeless circumstances? How does one conduct surveys or opinion/exit polls without the ability to reach out to the voters? How does one even reach out to these people when only 1 out of every 5th man and 1 out of every 9th woman possess a mobile phone in this region?

TurnoutsOne factor that can give us a superficial inkling into the minds of the voters here is the turnout. In 2008, the total polling percentage in this region of 18 assembly seats was 67%, despite the boycott call by the Naxals and the threat of violence. In fact, in the last 3 elections in these 18 seats, increased turnouts have been directly proportional to BJP’s improved performance and inversely proportional to that of the Congress party. A decade ago, increased voting percentage almost always meant anti-incumbency, but these days there is no such hard and fast rule. Thus we can superficially assume that a voter turnout of under 60% is beneficial to the Congress, whereas above 60% is BJP territory (especially optimum in the 65 to 68% band). This relationship of low turnouts helping Congress is also borne out by 3 of the 5 individual seats that the party has managed to win in the last 2 BJP wave elections – Konta, Bijapur & Dantwada all produce very low turnouts.

This time the provisional turnout figures till late evening suggest voting percentage of 67%, which is almost equal to the turnout of 2008. Usually this is a good indicator of a status-quo election, to that extent Dr. Raman Singh can breathe a sigh of relief.

In order to further understand the trends and the swing factor, we have to look at the 10 battlefield seats and see if there are any discrepancies from the overall turnouts, which can potentially give us a clearer picture. These 10 battlefield seats have been picked by adhering to the following three criteria;

  • Less than 5% victory margins in 2008
  • Closely contested seats (5% margins) in either of the last two elections
  • Changed political scenario this time due to either a third strong candidate, internal rebellion or visible anti-incumbency against sitting MLA

Battlefield turnout

The individual turnouts of the ten battlefield seats give us a clear picture of a more-or-less status quo election, except for Dantewada, Antagarh and possibly Khujji. Increased voting in Dantewada could be due to the sympathy factor for Mahindra Karma, where his widow is the Congress candidate. Forest minister, Vikram Usendi, widely believed to be facing huge anti-incumbency in Antagarh (a seat he had won narrowly in 2008) also seems to be in a bit of trouble.

Khujji is possibly seeing a rise in the turnout because of a strong triangular contest necessitated by BJP rebel Rajinderpal Singh Bhatia. Bastar is the odd one out with lower turnout which could be due to a certain level of fatigue. Bhanupratappur also seems to be suffering due to ticket distribution and internal rebellion issues of BJP.

Bottomline: Dr. Raman Singh seems to be definitely walking on the razor’s edge as far as phase 1 is concerned, for BJP is now vulnerable in about 5 seats and may end up losing a minimum of three. Can BJP recover some of this lost ground in phase 2 remains to be seen. Although Congress has possibly once again failed to convert favorable political atmosphere into an anti-incumbency wave, it can still head into the next phase with a lot more confidence than in 2008 when it was wiped out of the Bastar region.

The trumpets for battlefield 2014 have been blown from the tribal heartland and the sounds that are emanating from them are the sounds of uncertainty. How can Modi or Rahul be prepared for the battle ahead amidst such ambiguity will be the test of character that India shall witness. For Rahul Gandhi, the task is an uphill one to rebuild a party from the ashes of a nationwide anti-incumbency. Whereas Narendra Modi should try and realize that battles are not just won by a massive social media campaign or huge political rallies, getting the quotient of local politics right is essential for any electoral victory. Chhattisgarh phase 1 is another example of why 50% of all elections in India are local in nature.

[Data sources: and ]

{Updated at 9:00 hours on 12-11-2013 after new turnout data became available}