Five Forty Three

Revolutionizing Indian Election Analysis


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The 2014 Electoral Map of India Part 1

Twelve Crore voters, if they decide to vote similarly, would determine the fate of India in 2014. Yes, as low as less than 10% of India’s total population hold the key to the future of a nation of more than 1.25 billion people. Such is the mathematical construct of our Westminster system of first-past-the-post democracy that a political party can rule this country by just about managing to get 12 Cr votes. Yet every day we get to hear such banal intellectual discourse based around secular definitions of Majority and Minority. In the real world of Indian elections, the ultimate minorities are the group of voters who actually end up electing a government!

Congress Votes IndiaBJP Votes IndiaThis figure of 12 Cr is absolutely the key to getting anywhere beyond the 200 mark for any single political party in 2014. Current estimates suggest that a total of 73 Crore voters would be eligible to participate in the 2014 elections. Assuming a voter turnout of roughly 60% or about 44 Cr, either of the two national parties; Congress and the BJP; should get closer to about 12 Cr votes if a stable government is to be formed. Past electoral data suggests that stable Congress governments of the last 3 decades have always been possible when the party has been closer to the 12 Cr mark. Although the two BJP led governments of 1998 and 1999 came at a much lower threshold of about 9 Cr votes and 180 LS seats, the party would need to touch the same 12 Cr mark to have a safe mandate in 2014. If either of the two national parties’ fail to get close to 12 Cr votes, then 2014 would see a fragmented verdict wherein the third and fourth front space would then be open to temporary maneuvers. Thus at the outset, looking at the past voting data, the path for Congress to retain about 12 Cr votes should be much easier than say for the BJP to accrue 4 Cr more votes in 2009. But the electoral landscape in India is neither so simple nor so straightforward.

In order to understand how exactly the 2014 election is likely to shape, 5Forty3 has decided to release the 2014 electoral map, a first of its kind exercise in the Indian election arena which will help us gauge the direction of different political undercurrents. For the express purpose of 2014, India can be classified into three zones – The Heartland Zone, The Southern Hemisphere and East India.

2014 Electoral Map Of India

These three zones of the electoral chessboard of India represent the three political quadrants; The Heartland Zone dominated by BJP, The Southern Hemisphere being the Congress citadel and East India representing the third political force of India. Of course there will be minor zonal overlaps, but in broad electoral strokes this chessboard holds good. Each of the political force has to hold on to its quadrant and try to penetrate the enemy zone to win the battleground of 2014.

Heartland Zone

The Heartland Zone is essentially what is referred to as North India plus Gujarat. This is the region where BJP has been strong traditionally and Congress has been in almost terminal decline since the 90s. In fact, Congress is in power in only 4 small states accounting for a paltry 25 out of 272 LS seats (less than 10%) of this region. BJP, on the other hand, has won 4 major states (including Gujarat as of December 2012) in the last one year and is experiencing a general upswing in the entire region. In the run-up to the 2014 polls, The Heartland Zone is one geography where there is a massive anti-incumbency against the central government as witnessed in the recently concluded assembly elections of four states in which the Congress party was almost completely whitewashed. This is also the region where the NaMo wave is at its strongest as we have seen time and again in his hugely successful public meetings attended by almost unprecedented crowds.

Haertland 272 quadrantsOut of the 272 parliamentary seats in the heartland zone about 136 will witness a direct fight between the two national parties, in 86 seats BJP is fighting against the regional parties and Congress is contesting the regional parties in about 20 seats while there are 30 seats where both Congress and BJP are both not in contest. Essentially, Congress has a pool of 156 MP seats, BJP has 222 and regional parties have a maximum pool of 136 MP seats to win from.

The advantage for BJP is obviously due to the larger pool of LS seats it has to choose from, but the problem for the party is that this is the zone from where close to 75% of the party MPs would be coming from, so it needs a huge success ratio of practically winning 3 out of 4 seats it is contesting. Congress, which had performed reasonably well in this region in 2009 is staring at a complete rout, but the advantage for the party lies in its increasing insignificance in heartland which gives it tremendous flexibility to pick up regional allies. Regional parties throw the biggest challenge to BJP in this zone, except in Punjab and Haryana where they are in a symbiotic relationship with the party.

BJP: In 2014, BJP needs a vote swing of 6 to 9% in its favor to achieve its target of winning 3 out of 4 seats that it is seriously contesting. Will Narendra Modi be able to bring such a major swing in this region? Going by the results of the recently concluded assembly elections, he seems to be on course to achieve this but has a huge task of getting the local flavours right. North India usually has a latent national vote in the LS elections (as was witnessed last time in 2009 when Congress performed beyond its means), which should help Modi and BJP in a classical sense. The key factor for the party would be its battle for the OBC votes with regional parties to create a united spectrum of Hindu vote. The other important factor for the party is how well it is able to sell its “good governance model” to the impoverished voters of the heartland. Its big worry is a united opposition.

Congress: The party is definitely losing 5%+ vote share in this region, but it needs to spread that lost vote-share wisely by allying with regional parties. Congress party has two aces up its sleeve – 1) to prime its MAD – Muslim-Adivasi-Dalit coalition and 2) try and ally with as many regional parties as possible. Its biggest drawback is the 10 year anti-incumbency and all the public anger as a result of huge corruption scams and economic mismanagement manifesting into high inflation. In the heartland, Congress should fight the election not to win, because it cannot win in any case, but to limit BJP’s margins, so it has to find allies at any cost. To a large extent, BJP’s performance in the heartland will depend on how well Congress manages the regional parties.

Regional Parties: The obvious dichotomy of different state level regional parties is the biggest stumbling block for them to put up a united face; SP-BSP, JDU-RJD, JMM-JVM etc. The combined vote-share of the regional parties may marginally decline by 1 or 2% as has been evident in the recently concluded assembly elections in the four states, but even if they manage to increase the vote-share it would be essentially redistributed amongst themselves and from the unattached vote-share. The key for the regional parties in heartland is to either form a front to prove their relevance to the national elections or to align with one of the national parties. This is one of the primary reasons why Mayawati is even considering to have an alliance with the Congress party, for the regional parties of the heartland have now discovered that there is a powerful “national vote” in the region which has gained greater weightage in 2014 as compared to 2009.

Key battleground elements: 1) The national vote, 2) Narendra Modi and 3) Anti-BJP alliances

Southern Hemisphere 

Southern 182 quadrantsThe Southern Hemisphere is essentially South India plus Maharashtra and is generically classified as the Congress quadrant, for this has been a traditional Congress stronghold. Now the southern hemisphere is completely fragmented among various small regional and sub-regional political parties due to the general decline of the Congress party. BJP has limited presence in this region and needs alliances to leverage the popularity of its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. The major contests in this region are among regional parties of the third and fourth fronts, which is manifested in the fact that both the national parties are in a direct contest only in 47 of the 182 seats. This is the one region where a maximum number of seats see multi-cornered fights due to political fragmentation.

Congress and UPA: The Congress party had a huge 15% lead over its nearest rival in this region in 2009, but this time in 2014, Congress is in a precarious situation due to a split in the party and the collapse of an alliance. There is a real possibility of a 6 to 9% swing away from the Congress party which could potentially bring the total tally of Congress MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha perilously close to the double digit mark. The party has a very difficult task of bridging alliances and building new coalitions to stay afloat in South India. Keeping UPA intact in Maharashtra and rebuilding UPA in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are the twin challenges that Congress is facing in the run-up to 2014. The party’s performance would be largely decided by how it manages to overcome these two challenges. Congress and UPA need to get anywhere between 70 to 90 seats in this region to have a realistic shot at government formation in 2014, or else a long spell on the opposition benches awaits them.

BJP and NDA: BJP has always been a North Indian party and only has pockets of influence in this region. The best chance for the party to have an impact outside its strength areas is to try and contest the metro-urban LS seats by leveraging brand NaMo and using the AAP model of volunteers, especially of the internet variety. BJP needs to retain its vote-share of around 15% here, but may find it very difficult to repeat Karnataka of 2009. Getting the NDA quotient right in AP, TN and Maharashtra is going to be extremely crucial for the eventual BJP performance and it would also test the skills of Narendra Modi as an alliance builder. The challenge for the BJP-NDA would be about offsetting the obvious losses in Karnataka by winning elsewhere in south India.

Third Front & Fourth Front: These are loose terms used for various political groupings that are amorphous in nature and keep changing in contours with the passage of time. As of now third front consists of the Left, ADMK, JDS and YSRC etc., whereas the Fourth Front is composed of DMK, DMDK, TRS and others. Together these two fronts commanded a respectable 21% vote-share in the 2009 elections and may increase that substantially this time due to a swing away from the Congress party. Even in terms of seats, these groupings are likely to emerge with the largest haul of MPs from South India in the 16th Lok Sabha. This is the big contradiction of today; while the fragmented north Indian polity is stabilizing, the earlier stable south Indian polity is splitting up. Unlike North India, southern hemisphere doesn’t have a “national vote” even in the LS polls and witnesses localized elections along different sub-regional fault lines.

Key Battleground Elements: 1) The shape of UPA & NDA, 2) The resolution of inter-party contradictions among different fronts and 3) BJP-NDA’s ability to leverage brand Narendra Modi

East India

East India 89 quadrantsEast India, composed of Orissa, West Bengal and the seven sisters of North-East, is a region where both the national parties are absent from vast swathes of geography and is dominated by regional players and the third front. The third and fourth fronts have a big pool of 71 out of 89 MP seats to win from, whereas Congress has 52 and BJP a paltry 11 seats from where it can emerge victorious. East India is also unique in the fact that caste based voting blocks are much less prevalent if not non-existent in this part of the country unlike the other two zones. Another trait that East India shares with the Southern Hemisphere is the absence of a “national vote” and instead it votes on regional, sub-regional aspirations and differentiations. Congress brand of politics used to provide the alternate platform for the national vote in this part of India but it is again in secular decline across the region, while Left-Front has also lost a lot of ground as the third pole of Indian politics. Thus 2014 is likely to be dominated by a regional vote in East India.

Third Front: Mainly constituted by the Left, BJD and other smaller players of North East, this grouping had a massive 11% lead over its nearest rival in 2009. This time the Third Front is likely to see a 3-5% swing away from it mainly due to the decline of the left and only partially due to the BJD’s anti-incumbency. The Third Front is a strong contender in about 63 seats here and would be lucky if it could win closer to 50% of those.

Congress: May spring a surprise in this region by producing a contrarian result from rest of India. Although the party is now on a weaker wicket in West Bengal, it seems to be in an upswing in Orissa (especially among Adivasi & Dalit votes) and ahead of the pack in Assam. There is a possibility of an overall 1-2% swing in favor of the party in this region despite loss of vote-share in WB. Come 2014, this could be the one saving grace for a beleaguered Congress party leadership.

Fourth Front: This is mainly formed by Trinamool Congress (TC) which cannot go with either the Left or the Congress in 2014, but we have also added the Vote-Share of AUDF to this block. It is generally expected to gain a 2-3% swing in its favor in 2014 and perform reasonably well. The amorphous nature of Fourth Front gives it post-poll flexibility but faces restrictions in the pre-poll scenario due to inherent regional contradictions and the risk of antagonizing vote-banks.

BJP-NDA: BJP has very limited presence in this region and also very few possibilities of forming formidable alliances. The two possible NDA allies are AGP and a Sangma led NCP; BJP’s performance in this region largely depends on how it can create an NDA with these two allies. In any case, whatever the party or the alliance wins here would be a bonus, for this is one region where Narendra Modi may have no impact whatsoever.

Key Battleground Elements: 1) The Muslim and Adivasi vote, 2) The extent of decline of the Left and 3) The redrawing of Hindu-Muslim fault lines after Assam riots

[P.S: These numbers are true as of today and will be updated in the run-up to 2014 as and when ground situations keep developing]

In the next part we will further divide these three zones into 7 territories in order to have a more deeper analysis of the unfolding electoral scenario and also make projections for different territories based on a unique survey experiment conducted for the first time in India.

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The Heartland Secrets: What women want?

This post is dedicated to Jyoti Singh Pandey and all the women whom we failed as a nation

Women VotersIndian elections are always measured in terms of different social coalitions and the relative percentages of voting by caste and religious groupings. For instance, minority voting (a euphemism for the Muslim vote) is possibly one of the most analyzed voting pattern in the history of Indian elections (so is possibly the Dalit vote). This slicing and dicing gives us a clearer measure to understand the electoral landscape, but unlike in western democracies, there has always been a reluctance on our part in India to divide electoral blocks along gender lines. Thus all our electoral groupings are gender neutral – for instance, when we speak of the Muslim vote or the Dalit vote or the OBC vote, it is understood that we are speaking for both the genders collectively and no gender based discrepancies are expected or incorporated into our electoral models.

The patriarchal nature of Indian society has always provided us with very little incentive to invest our electoral studies with gender differentiation and it is far easier for us to assume that men make all the important decisions, including that of exercising the democratic franchise. Another factor that helped sustain this view for long was the lower participation of women voters in the electoral process. All of this has quietly changed in the last decade or so and we are left with our archaic election analysis systems which are hugely error prone because of such gaps in our understanding. This is an attempt here at 5Forty3 to rectify this anomaly and contribute to our understanding of the women vote.

Rajasthan TurnoutIncreased Turnout RajathanIn the Rajasthan election of this month something unique happened for the first time in the state when the women voter turnout was higher than that of men by more than one percentage point. Let us try and put this in a historic perspective; in 1998, the male voter turnout was a good 6 percentage higher than that of females. Going back a decade further in time, in the 1985 elections marred by the assassination of Indira Gandhi, when Congress swept back to power in the state, men voters outvoted women voters by a solid 12 percentage! Even in the last election of 2008, men had a gap of two percentage points over women. From being perennially behind, suddenly Rajasthani women seem to have decided to jump the queue and defeat their male counterparts in the race to democracy. A whopping 33 lakh 14 thousand extra women voted in this election as compared to 2008 (a 29% increase), contributing substantially to the 37 lakh votes overall lead of the BJP over Congress. This is a story that has been largely missed by a vast number of political commentators in India.

Chhattisgarh TurnoutBastar Division 2013This women voter turnout story is not limited to Rajasthan alone, for this happened even in other states, including the tribal dominated, Naxal affected state of Chhattisgarh. In Chhattisgarh too, women voters covered a 2.5% gap of 2008 to vote almost as much as the men in percentage terms. What is interesting is that they actually out-voted the men in absolute terms in the Bastar division, which is quite commendable because of the looming Maoist fear. It is indeed no small achievement for the women voters to outvote their male counterparts by casting 12 thousand extra votes in a region where there was a clear threat of violence by Naxalites.

How did this miracle of women outvoting the men happen? Or rather, why did this happen? To answer that question, I will first narrate an incident that happened in the month of August, when I was in a small town near Jaipur, where the then Rajasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot was addressing a small public durbar. As soon as he finished his speech, the male members among the crowd walked out of the venue, while the women formed a neat semi-circular queue and started chatting excitedly. A group of three officials of the Rajasthan government then set up an impromptu counter and started distributing 100 rupee bills to the women. This exercise was apparently part of the state government’s direct cash transfer (DCT) scheme which was then recently introduced.

RajasthanAfter the DCT exercise, we conducted a straw poll of some 18 women and were surprised to note that 50% of them very frankly asserted that they would vote for Vasundhara Raje’s party in the upcoming election – while only 30% wanted to vote for Congress and 20% were yet to decide. This enthusiasm to throw out the incumbent government, despite the immediate memory of the state largesse was quite extraordinary irrespective of our sample size or the randomization process. On probing further, many women told us that they would use the 100 rupees to buy milk for their children, but most asked the question as to what would they do after 3 days when the money would have all been used up?

What is common between Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh? Or to be more specific, between Rajasthan and Bastar? In both the states, there were massive government dole-schemes especially centred around the women members of the family unit, thus classically we would have expected the women to go and vote for the sitting governments for their largesse. What happened is quite the opposite, women went out to vote in large numbers no doubt, but they went out to vote out the dole-serving governments. In Bastar, where the women clearly outvoted the men, the ruling BJP lost a massive 7 seats as compared to the previous election by winning only 4 out of 12 assembly segments, whereas the opposition Congress won 8 out of 12 seats while it had won only 1 seat in 2008. Raman Singh government literally survived this election by the scruff of the neck due to a huge helping hand of Narendra Modi. In Rajasthan where the women voters again went out to vote in unprecedented numbers, the Congress government was literally and totally wiped out of the electoral landscape despite spending 3000 crore rupees on various dole-schemes ranging from free medicines to free clothing to free food and free money in the last one year.

MP agri growthContrast this women voter behavior with that of Madhya Pradesh, where the women voters achieved a historic high of 70% turnout and the ruling BJP won a massive mandate for the third term. It was clearly a vote for development, for two of the biggest stories in Madhya Pradesh that have been mostly missed by the media narrative are Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s improvement of the power situation of the state (as most parts of the state now get 24 hours bijli) and the remarkable agricultural growth of the state. The almost consistent double digit agricultural growth in MP over the last few years has completely transformed not only the rural economy but also has metamorphosed the state from being a food grain dependent economy to a food grain surplus state – so much so that it is now competing against traditional agri-giants like Haryana and Punjab. Thus women voters have rewarded Shivraj Singh Chouhan with a third term, mostly because of his governance record than what the left-leaning news media touts as welfare schemes like Ladli Lakshmi or Kanyadaan Yojana. This has been the theme of women voters all across the heartland, from Uttar Pradesh to Himachal Pradesh to Rajasthan and even extending to Gujarat in the west – voting for progress and development.

On the first phase voting day in last year’s Gujarat elections, I was covering various polling booths in the Rajkot-Junagarh circuit of Saurashtra to just gauge the voters’ mood. Till about 2 PM in the noon, there was a discernible difference between rural voter’s interest in voting and the empty polling booths of urban pockets and towns. Saurashtra had witnessed a drought last year and also the presence of Keshubhai Patel’s GPP had queered the pitch in that part of the state. Around 2 PM in Jetpur town, when we had to literally wait for close to 20 minutes to interview about 3-4 voters (the voter turnout was so low), suddenly the tide started turning. At first it was a trickle, but in less than an hour it was almost like a hurricane, when large groups of women visited the polling booths of urban areas after finishing their daily chores. 70% women voted in Gujarat in last year’s election and it is an established fact that the women voters saved Narendra Modi from any anxious moments, especially in Saurashtra.

What exactly is this women voting pattern? Although by no means exhaustive, this blogger has conducted small field studies in the past and here are the findings, which are corroborated to a large extent by poll surveys conducted by other reputed organizations, like CSDS and AC Nielsen, in the past;

  • Women voters are generally less amiable to last minute inducements of cash and kind or alcohol unlike the male voters
  • At least 25 to 30% of women voters do have independent political choices from their male family members
  • Women have longer memories and tend to weigh the pros and cons much better than men, so they would rather vote for better governance that improves their lives in long-term than for immediate doles (for instance many women voters ask the question, how long will the government give these doles?)
  • At least 15% more women voters tend to vote beyond caste considerations than men
  • Inflation, especially food inflation, is the biggest issue for women who are entrusted with weekly/monthly budgeting for food in most households and no amount of state doles help ease inflationary woes
  • A clear pattern of women voting for better governance rather than doles emerges from the heartland – for instance, in Bihar women outvoted men by a solid 3 percentage points in 2010 and helped BJP-JDU sweep the election because of their better governance track record, whereas in Rajasthan women outvoted men to vote out the Congress government’s dole-nomics. Similarly, we have seen this discernible change in female voting patterns of MP and Chhattisgarh; while there was an overwhelming pro-incumbency vote in the former, there was voter anger in the later which was only blunted by a Modi campaign in central Chhattisgarh.

Our political class has been consistently reading the signals of empowered women voters wrongly. While women are voting for prosperity, policy makers are busy designing schemes of higher degree of state sponsored welfarism. In fact the situation in most parts of heartland is such that there are only different degrees of rights based economic packages, while the voters, especially women voters, equate state welfarism as merely a temporary patchwork for actual lack of governance. The Congress party, which has wrongly believed for almost 5 years that its stupendous victory of 2009 was only due to NREGA and farm loan waiver, has become a fulltime prisoner of rights based economic policies. Whereas on the other hand, when Narendra Modi talks of 24 hours power supply, or about skill development and women cooperative business models in his speeches, his message is attractive to even the rural and small town women voters. It is time now for Congress to acknowledge its mistake and change its messaging, if it wants to survive the 2014 hurricane.

UP turnoutAnother classic example of how most of the political class is behind the learning curve of empowered women voter’s choices is seen in the state of Uttar Pradesh. In 2012, historic participation of female voters in the UP election gave an almost unprecedented mandate to the Samajwadi Party and its young new leader, Akhilesh Yadav. As per CSDS post-poll survey: 32% women voted for SP, while only 28% men voted for the party. In less than 2 years, it is one of the most anti-incumbent states in India today as various poll surveys and ground reports have started indicating. The vote of hope in 2012 UP may well turn into a vote of despair by 2014. The Samajwadis have read their 2012 mandate so wrongly that it is almost a crime against the voting public. A vote for better governance has been converted into a vote for unemployment doles and free laptops and a myriad other freebies combined with the usual goondaraj associated with SP.

In the Mahakumbh of February this year at Allahabad, I was witness to an interesting new phenomenon. Like all Kumbh Melas, this one too had a lost-and-found counter where loudspeaker announcements are made continuously, but the general traffic was almost 50% less this year as compared to the past according to many veterans because of mobile phone penetration. On an average, four out of ten women who did come to the lost and found counters at the Kumbh had their own mobile phones and wanted loud announcements of their cell numbers so that the missing family members or friends could call them. A vast majority of these women belonged to what is classically described as lower economic strata of the society. What does this tell you? These are mobile phone owning empowered women who are now aspiring for a better life despite their economic hardships. They would any day want 24 hour power supply and better education for their children than FSB or free cash doles; this is why Modi’s message is more popular among these women than say Rahul Gandhi’s or Akhilesh Yadav’s.

The electoral signal from women voters is clear – better governance is what they want, not welfare schemes or doles, at least not in isolation or as a compensation for lack of development. In Madhya Pradesh or Gujarat for instance, state welfarism goes hand in hand with better governance models and economic growth, so the vote is clearly pro-incumbent in nature. In Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh needs to reinvent himself beyond the ‘chawal wale baba’ epithet if he wants to continue to rule; a job that was made easier by the Congress this time because it had no alternate narrative and simply promised more of the same dole-nomics like free rice instead of BJP’s 1 rupee per kilo (competitive welfarism is now passé). The argument that voter enthusiasm would be much lesser in the 2014 national elections as compared to state assembly elections is outdated, for we have consistently seen how the voters, women in particular, differentially apportion inflationary blame on central government than state governments. For those who want to take on Modi in 2014, your time starts now, create an alternate message of governance instead of relying on doles, for the women of heartland are likely to turnout in the largest numbers ever for a parliamentary poll and their vote may totally surprise policy makers, leaders and intellectuals alike.


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What 2013 means to 2014?

The four states that gave a verdict on Sunday could not have been clearer, but we can continue to obfuscate and try to mold the verdicts as per our own whims and fancies. For the media in Delhi and the intellectual elite it is the arrival of AAP that defines the victory which only goes on to show how shallow Delhi is, for it cannot see an India beyond the national capital. For the BJP supporters it is the ultimate wave in their favor, but they tend to forget that these states were essentially their strongholds and bipolar in nature. For the Congress, well, it continues to live in denial, at least publicly.

The result of this round of assembly polls may mean different things to different people, but what actual impact will it have on 2014? That is the question we will try and answer from a neutral perspective. To answer that question we will dissect these assembly elections with cold neutrality and try to capture the signals.

BJP

It is quite obvious that BJP was the big winner on Sunday, for the party got something to the magnitude of 72 lakh additional votes over and above its nearest rival, the Congress party. This is a significant set of elections for the party because it seems to be finally on the path that it had originally chalked out for itself when the party was born in 1980. Uniting the Hindu vote under one umbrella has been the BJP’s raison d’être despite whatever politically correct statements its many leaders make from time to time. It might yet be impossible to unite the whole spectrum of Hindu vote, but BJP under its new leadership is now positioning itself towards acquiring large sections of Hindu vote.

Rajasthan Vote ShareThe BJP experiment of a united Hindu vote, if ever there was one, is best elucidated in Rajasthan. It is here in this western state that BJP has won 81% of the assembly seats with a whopping 37 lakh more votes or roughly a 13% gap margin over Congress! This is a socially unprecedented election result for the BJP, a party that starts every election with a handicap of minus 10 to 20% vote-share due to adverse minority voting. How did this happen? This happened because of the united Hindu vote, for BJP was able to add to its core votes of Rajputs, Brahmins and trading communities with OBC vote like that of Jats, Gujjars, Ahirs etc.

This broad social coalition of upper-castes, middle-castes and OBCs is almost insurmountable in a first past the post system of India. In Rajasthan, for instance, all the 15 Muslim Congress candidates lost because non-minority voters refused to vote for the party. In Madhya Pradesh too all Muslim legislators of the Congress party lost barring one. This is the ultimate polarization of votes, wherein the entire Hindu vote rallies behind one party and gives it a solid block of 35 to 40% of votes. It is a combination of governance model of Gujarat and the OBC status of BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, which is delivering this impossible Hindu vote to a party that has been historically limited to a Brahmin-Bania demographic. What is significant is that this is a scalable electoral model, especially in North and central India. For instance, the Jat vote that BJP has accrued is not limited to Rajasthan alone, but has happened even in Delhi for almost the first time and is developing into a wave in western UP.

Under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, Congress party had an umbrella social coalition of sorts through what was then famously known as KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi & Muslim) which did not consider the OBCs as a vote-bank. The first generation of OBC mobilization happened in the post-JP, pre-Mandal era and completely swept out the Congress party from the core heartland states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – an area which has never returned back to the party fold since then. The second generation of OBC mobilization was attempted by BJP by building a broader coalition of a section of OBCs and upper castes through regional satraps like Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati etc. It is the third generation of OBC mobilization that is now being attempted by Narendra Modi by marrying governance to a complete coalition of the Hindu vote in which OBCs are an important part.

Central CG 2008This third generation mobilization of Hindu vote is the deadliest of them all and has the maximum disruption potential, especially in the whole of heartland. We could see the impact of this coalition in Chhattisgarh, where the ruling BJP was facing an impossible task of a loss of large number of seats in the northern and southern tribal belts. The entire game-plan of BJP rested on its performance in Central Chhattisgarh, wherein the party needed to make-good all the losses from north and south. The problem for the party was compounded by the presence of CSM – Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch, which was formed exclusively to tap the OBC votes and had many strong Sahu community leaders in its ranks (the largest OBC group of Chhattisgarh), such as Dehru Prasad and Urwashi Sahu et al.

Central CG 2013Narendra Modi addressed 5 well attended public rallies in Central Chhattisgarh, especially in the Durg-Raipur belt where CSM was putting up a strong fight and changed the entire political scenario by preventing large-scale leakage of OBC votes. For instance, Dehru Prasad who was widely expected to win his Navgarh seat, ended up being number two behind BJP, despite garnering 42 thousand odd votes. Similarly, Urwashi Sahu (daughter of Tarachand Sahu, a 4 time MP from Durg and the tallest Sahu leader), lost her Durg rural seat to BJP. It is indeed a minor electoral miracle that BJP managed to win a whopping 32 of 49 seats from central Chhattisgarh (BJP had won only 23 in 2008) despite 3% vote-share of the CSM, while BSP’s performance (which always hurts Congress) was much debilitated this time.

BJP Vote-share shift MPSimilarly in Madhya Pradesh, BJP not only added 4% of the vote-share that it had lost in the last election of 2008 due to Uma Bharati leaving the party, but also added an additional 4% of vote-share because of the Modi-OBC-vote-mobilization factor. Even in Delhi, the OBCs have voted overwhelmingly in favor of the BJP, which is why its performance is much better in the outer parts of the national capital region than in the central parts dominated by AAP.

There are 218 parliamentary constituencies in what is termed as North India or the Hindi-Heartland – UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand. BJP’s new found total Hindu vote has the ability to win a lion’s share of LS seats in the heartland and even a tally of 150+ cannot be ruled out if the present set of election results are any indication. BJP will face major electoral resistance only in UP and Bihar due to the presence of regional caste-based parties, but if the experiment of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh holds true then expect major socio-political churning in UP and Bihar too. The problems in smaller states of Haryana and Jharkhand are related to forming proper alliances. In conclusion, this set of assembly elections have provided a perfect Launchpad for a Narendra Modi led BJP into the battleground of 2014.

Congress

First let us state the obvious problem, Congress has been decimated in the latest round of elections and has an almost insurmountable 10% gap to cover in order to put up a fight against BJP. There are three ways of going about this business, one is what the party is doing in the TV studios, living in denial and just giving up on 2014. The second way is what Rahul Gandhi prescribed on Sunday – the AAP way. The problem with the second path is that you are becoming a victim of your own propaganda. Congress must realize that the Delhi media is a propaganda machine that simply churns out eulogies to the newest challenger to Modi-BJP without any substance (Nitish Kumar, L.K. Advani, Shivraj Singh Chouhan have all had their seasons). So if you believe that AAP is really the big story of 2013 then good luck to you and Nandan Nilekani or whichever technocrat you would want to choose for your 2014 sojourn. Rest assured, a tally of double digits awaits you at the end of the dark tunnel.

If, on the other hand, you are willing to accept your shortcomings and the existence of a NaMo-wave, then there is a third path, the old-fashioned political pathway to take on the bull by its horns in the electoral arena. You may not win 2014, but at least you would have put up a fight and would have ensured that you would live to fight another day. If Congress continues to live in denial, then the defeat in 2014 may actually be a deathblow to the party than just a minor setback.

To some extent, Sonia Gandhi does seem to still have her legendary political instincts intact, for she did address the basic problem of Congress not having a face to oppose Modi and that is a good starting point. There are hundreds of problems with the Congress party, but the two biggest ones are big ticket corruption scandals and economic mismanagement. You can’t do much about the former because it is already too late, but there is a lot that can be done about economy and the biggest problem that has the simplest of solutions is inflation. How on earth did Congress go into elections with prices of onion, tomato and potato sky rocketing? It was such a simple basic mistake. In the next 6 months, the biggest priority for Congress should be to control inflation at any cost (and it is not that difficult, mind you).

There are also two specific signals that have emanated from this round of assembly elections – maybe feeble signals, but signals nonetheless – and the Congress party needs to work on this. First of all let us be very clear, Congress cannot hope to win an election purely on minority vote-mobilization as we have clearly seen in Rajasthan and MP etc., so unnecessary minority appeasement of the Shadi Bhagya variety will only backfire and play into the hands of BJP. Minority vote gets converted into seats only when combined with sections of Hindu vote and Congress is in the danger of being pushed out of the Hindu vote spectrum in North India.

Seat Share Tribal CGThe first signal is an obvious one from Chhattisgarh where the tribals and Dalits seem to have reposed faith in the Congress party once again after many years. This should give the party hope, but is this model scalable beyond Chhattisgarh is the big question. The Dalit vote of North India for instance, gets splintered in multiple directions; the largest chunk goes to the BSP, and other part gets divided between Congress, BJP and others. By and large, we can surmise that the Dalit vote has the least incentive to be a part of the BJP-Modi-Hindu-vote-spectrum. It is this aspect that the Congress needs to tap aggressively in the next few months, either by trying to form an alliance with BSP or by entrusting Congress leadership to Dalits.

Baghelkhand Vote ShareThe second signal has come from Baghelkhand in Madhya Pradesh, but Congress needs enormous political capital to latch on to this. In an otherwise overall sweep of MP, Baghelkhand is one of those rare sub-regions where BJP has lost seats to the Congress party as compared to last time (which was accurately predicted only by 5Forty3). Just 10 seats out of 30 may not be a great advertisement of Congress revival, but it does give us something to work on. Especially because not only the vote-share gap between BJP and Congress has been reduced to just 3%, but also BJP’s vote-share has decreased drastically.

Baghelkhand has been a BJP stronghold for long now due to the fact that it is dominated by upper castes – Thakurs Brahmins and Vaishyas. In this election a section of the upper castes and Vaishyas rebelled against the BJP and voted for other parties (mainly Congress and BSP). The ostensible reason for the minor rebellion has been attested as wrong ticket distribution, but the real reasons are a little more than that. There has been a simmering discontent, especially among the Brahmins and Thakurs, about the growing importance of OBCs in BJP and therefore a section of them actually started to look favorably at Ajay Singh (the son of Arjun Singh and the leader of the opposition in MP), but the singularly non-talented Mr. Singh just couldn’t build on the discontent. This is just a toe-hold for the Congress party, but it provides a template for the rest of North India, wherein Congress should try and break the big Hindu coalition that Modi is attempting to build and Brahmins can turn out to be Congress’s best friends in this venture.

Of the 218 LS seats in North India, Congress is in realistic contention only in about 50 seats as of today. The party must try and at least double that tally if not more by building social coalitions and political alliances. It is absolutely vital for the Congress party to put up a fight against BJP in the heartland and mobilizing Dalit-Brahmin vote as an addendum to the core minority votes is the only way forward as it cannot hope to get any traction in middle castes and OBCs. Bottomline is that the Congress party is in grave danger of being reduced to the level of erstwhile Muslim league in Northern India if it doesn’t take corrective measures soon.

Third Front

Others Vote ShareContrary to what the TV studio debates are propagating, the fact is that the third front space has actually shrunk in these assembly elections, in fact, the third political pole has never had it this bad in assembly elections. For instance, BSP’s vote-share has gone down from 8% to as low as 3.5% in Rajasthan, from 9% to 6% in Madhya Pradesh and from 6% to 4% in Chhattisgarh. The overall vote share of “others” has been drastically reduced by anywhere between 40 to 70% in all the three states as we can see in the chart. Delhi is not the rule but the exception where AAP has altered the vote-shares.

The one big message that has come from this set of assembly elections is that even in the state assembly elections there is a latent national vote. India is heading for bipolarity and that actually is a good news for the tottering Congress party. The shrunken third space as evidenced in these assembly polls will invariably shrink further in the national elections as we have seen in the past. With Narendra Modi and BJP targeting the whole spectrum of Hindu vote, the position of small regional parties in the LS polls would be extremely vulnerable in North India.

A note on AAP

The problem with frivolous intellectualism is it always hyper-reacts. Before the Delhi election everybody was busy under-estimating AAP and now everybody is busy over-estimating and over analyzing the AAP phenomenon. We get to hear such humungous theories from TV studios as to how AAP would now be a national party and how Arvind Kejriwal would be the PM candidate of the third front! Nobody bothers to tell us how AAP will replicate its limited success of a rootless city like Delhi in other metros; for instance, how will AAP gather votes in Mumbai where fault-lines are between Maharashtrians and outsiders, or say in Hyderabad where there are agitations for and against Telangana or even in say, Lucknow, where the politics of identity is foremost.

Even the success of AAP in Delhi is a one-off phenomenon that has come about through a string of coincidences – a very unpopular government, agitations of the past year on a range of issues from corruption to women’s safety, passionate participation of youth (who have long-term attention deficiency as always) and a moribund opposition which woke up much later in the day and yet managed to be the single largest party. Arvind Kejriwal is making a classic mistake once again. He is taking this one-off support of the people of Delhi for granted and wants to go for polls once again based on some ludicrous suggestions that AAP has the momentum and will gain a 2/3rd majority in a re-poll.

What is more likely to happen is quite the opposite;

  • Voters passion would have come down a couple of notches in about 3-4 months and AAP would never be able to get the same kind of volunteer participation as they got this time, no matter what kind of funds they manage (this is exactly what happened with the Anna movement which eventually fizzled out despite huge initial success)
  • With the passage of time, basic every day governance delivery issues will become important and the greenhorn MLAs of AAP would be answerless to voters queries especially in a situation where there is no government
  • The Voter anger against Sheila Dixit would also be much reduced in a few months’ time and all Congress needs to do is regain some 3-5% of the vote share to overtake AAP
  • If Delhi elections are held along with LS polls, which is the only practical possibility as far as the EC policy on repolling is concerned, then AAP would come a cropper as it is a well-established fact that almost 65% of AAP voters want to vote for Modi in the LS polls
  • Even if Delhi elections are held separately, all that BJP/Congress have to do is manage better ticket distribution by giving more tickets to young professionals rather than tired old faces and AAP would lose its only USP
  • At least half a dozen seats are such where AAP has won by a very narrow margin and as such it won’t be sustainable in another election

At the end of the day, far from going national, AAP stands vulnerable in the only state that it has performed, as we move closer towards 2014 elections.


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Editorial: We got it Right!

“We got it right!” those four magical words that we can now proudly proclaim. These were difficult elections to predict and project, even those giant media companies and survey organizations couldn’t fully comprehend many aspects of these set of assembly elections, but we at 5Forty3 with near zero resources got most aspects of four state elections right;

  • Rajasthan: 5Forty3 had clearly predicted that this is a wave election, much before the exit polls had even arrived into the horizon. Also, we had made it a point that seat projection for a wave election like in Rajasthan could be anybody’s guess since it could be anything above 120.
  • Chhattisgarh was a state that we had all along projected as “touch and go” with slight edge for the BJP and we have been proven 100% accurate.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, once again 5Forty3 had projected the return of the BJP government, but the only error was that we had predicted a better performance by the Congress and had over-estimated the strength of a party that is completely moribund.
  • In Delhi again, we were almost accurate in our projection of BJP leading the pack, with AAP and Congress vying for the number 2 position. Our vote-share projections based on 3rd party exit poll data was nearly perfect, but for a minor over-estimation of Congress and under-estimation of the new entrant AAP, which has led to this humiliating defeat of the Congress.

At the end of the day we at 5Forty3 strongly believe that predicting seats in Indian election is nothing but astrology and actual psephology is about assessing sub-regional undercurrents and capturing political trends. To that extent, 5Forty3 has been a resounding success in these set of assembly elections. Let us try and elucidate this aspect by highlighting 6 specific points;

  1. Predicting the rout of Bastar for BJP in the phase 1 election of Chhattisgarh was unique because no other media house or opinion poll survey had made that projection at that point. We were the first to capture that signal clearly and even elucidated it with the specific examples of how many strongholds of BJP were vulnerable using Turnout Differential Factor
  2. 5Forty3 was the only place on earth which captured a very important political development of sending hundreds of Muslim families on a paid pilgrimage to Ajmer by some BJP supporting organizations in Raipur-Raigarh-Bilaspur belt. In the end analysis this aspect became extremely crucial for a closely contested state election of Chhattisgarh as BJP won at least 4 seats in this region by very small margins.
  3. Projecting a wave election in Rajasthan based on ground reports, Turnout Differential Factor and exit polls data
  4. In Madhya Pradesh, in an otherwise wave election where BJP has won almost everything, it is in the old stronghold of Baghelkhand that surprisingly BJP has lost many seats, including top leaders and ministers. We at 5Forty3 were almost the only place in this whole world who had projected this particular upheaval! (will write more about it in another detailed piece) It is just that Congress losses were huge in all other regions so it was decimated in the state.
  5. In Madhya Pradesh, clearly projecting that Jyotiraditya Scindhia would have no impact on Gwalior-Chambal region using TDF was another feather in our cap
  6. In Delhi, we specifically targeted New Delhi constituency and projected that the CM would lose the seat. Not only that, we projected clearly that the race is incredibly tight for the number two position between BJP and Congress. This has been borne out by the results.

Today we thank all our supporters and well-wishers for their continuous support. Those who have been ridiculing us, we thank even more, for it is their criticism that has provoked us to improve our mathematical models and electoral systems to achieve near perfection. We will continue to reinvent and improve our tools to change the way elections are analyzed in India. Our aim is to become the final word in Indian election analysis.

A Note on Turnout Differential Factor (TDF)

It was after the Himachal Pradesh election last year – wherein a few specific assembly seats of Mandi and Kangra had gone against our assessment – we started to work on a specific tool to determine these minor changes at the local level that can be captured using some available data points. It is now well established that BJP lost a few seats in Kangra and Mandi due to clear internal sabotage, but the challenge was how does an election analysis account for such shenanigans? After a lot of back-testing and reverse analysis, we zeroed in on what we now term as the Turnout Differential Factor (TDF).

TDF as a tool is simple in its output wherein we compare localized turnout trends to differentiate between general turnout trends based on different party representations. But the most vital part of TDF is to identify the specific assembly segments for which we use a mathematical model that assigns adequate weightage to various criteria – past margin, past 3 election results, demographics, current election ground reports, rebel factors etc. Thus TDF can be used as a leading indicator to determine the overall trends of an election with or without exit poll data.

TDF has been used openly for the first time in these assembly elections and we have shown how it clearly signaled a wave election in Rajasthan and Delhi on the one hand and the sub-regional disparities of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh on the other hand. We are now working on a newer version of TDF known as Modified Aggregate Turnout Differential Factor which is even more precise as our test results for internal assessments have shown in these set of elections. We hope to employ MATDF as a much superior leading indicator in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Epilogue: 5Forty3 was launched as a special purpose vehicle just to analyze these 4 assembly elections. We are not sure if this platform should be continued after today. We thank all of those who visited our blog in the last one month and patronized us.


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Exit Poll analysis and the story of 30 swing seats of Delhi

Congress had 54753 more votes than BJP in the 30 swing seats of Delhi assembly. Of these 30 swing seats, Congress had won a whopping 21, BJP 8 and BSP 1 seat in the 2008 election. With the new additional voters in 2013, everything else being equal, BJP would have needed just 27 thousand more votes in these 30 assembly constituencies to win a maximum number of swing seats. It would have taken just an additional thousand votes in each of these swing seats to make an impact on this election. By and large, it is these 30 swing seats that will decide who wins the election, therefore, instead of focusing on unnecessary hyperbole, we will be concentrating our analysis on these 30 swing seats of Delhi.

The edifice of Congress in Delhi is built on these 30 swing seats, so it has to retain a majority of these at any cost. For instance, 49% (21) of the total Congress seats (43) are from these low-margin-big-fight swing seats, whereas BJP has only 34% (8) seats that fall into this vulnerable category. For the anti-incumbency facing Congress party, the big hope of 2013 is that AAP should manage to garner a chunk of the votes in these 30 swing seats and thereby helping maintain the lead of the Congress party. In many ways AAP’s performance in these swing seats will be the crucial deciding factor of who forms the government in Delhi.

Now consider this, about 61 lakh voters had exercised their franchise in 2008, whereas this time an additional 17 lakh voters voted in the Delhi assembly election taking the total votes polled to a whopping 78 lakh plus! Thus the entire math goes into a spin, for the Congress had a cushion of just about 55 thousand votes which is a paltry 3% of the additional votes polled on Wednesday. If that is mindboggling, then take this, 172000 voters of 37 assembly segments (more than half of the total 70) voted after the 5 PM deadline and nearly 10000 of those were yet to vote even at 6 PM. The irony is that many exit polls had started giving their final numbers by 5:30 PM, when roughly 4000 to 5000 votes were polled after the deadline in each of the 37 constituencies.

Our understanding of Delhi election tells us that a majority of the 17 lakh additional votes would be anti-Congress in nature mainly due to the anti-incumbent nature of the election this time; both against the state as well as the centre. For instance, there are 4 lakh 5 thousand first time voters, of whom 69% are believed to have exercised their franchise and we can easily surmise that a vast majority of those votes would be against the ruling party (somewhere in the range of 70-30 as per our exit poll survey). The problem though is a divided opposition and therefore the consequent division of the anti-incumbency vote. How exactly would the anti-incumbency vote be divided between BJP and AAP would be crucial to understand the Delhi election.

Although anything is possible in a wave election, it is less likely that much would be disturbed in the stronghold seats of both the established parties – BJP and Congress – because the number of votes needed to upset old social coalitions would be more than 8 to 20 thousand extra votes over and above base vote-share. So it is the swing seats that matter. In order to understand how the 30 swing seats are likely to vote this time, we have classified them into three different categories;

Category A: Zone where one of the party (BJP) is dominant – South Delhi and West Delhi – 8 swing seats

Category B: Zone where BJP and Congress are fighting each other directly – New Delhi and North West Delhi – 6 swing seats

Category C: Zone where all the three parties, BJP, Congress and AAP are in a tight race – East Delhi, North East Delhi and Chandni Chowk – 16 swing seats

This classification has been based on our opinion poll and exit poll survey and it is corroborated by two other opinion polls conducted by C-Voter and AC Nielsen (for our Delhi analysis we are discounting CSDS poll surveys as they are seen to have an inherent bias towards AAP).

Category ACategory BCategory CIn all three categories we see a uniform and almost proportional increase in voter turnout which is indicative of a single wave election of anti-incumbency with no localized factors affecting the turnout. Whatever minor discrepancies we see in Category C seats is due to multi cornered contests.

Among the 14 swing seats of Category A and Category B where either BJP is the dominant force or there is a contest mainly between BJP and Congress, BJP is leading in 9 seats, Congress in 3 seats and AAP in 2 seats as per our combined opinion poll and exit poll data. Whereas in 2008, Congress had won 11 and BJP 3 of these swing seats.

As per our exit poll data, of the 16 swing seats in Category C, BJP is ahead in 8, Congress in 3, AAP in 4 and ‘Others’ in 1 assembly segment. In the 2008 election, Congress had won 10 of these swing seats, whereas BJP had won only 5 seats (1 seat had gone to BSP).

If these opinion and exit poll trends hold true on the counting day, Then BJP would have gained 9 swing seats as compared to 2008, while Congress would have lost 15 swing seats as of last time. These findings are consistent with overall exit poll analysis as we shall now see.

Exit Poll Analysis

Small states are always a nightmare to project in any election, which is enhanced even further when we consider that Delhi is facing a very powerful third political pole which is accruing big vote-share. Then there is a wave like situation in Delhi due to very strong undercurrents of anti-incumbency. To complicate matters further there was a late, post 3 PM, voting surge in many parts which has upset many of the calculations – usually exit poll trends till 3 PM hold on for the end of the day, but a late reversal makes it even more difficult to project results. Finally, there is the unknown, unquantifiable commodity of AAP, which has no historic vote-share to have a proper comparative analysis. Under all these constrains, we at 5Forty3, with near zero resources, are trying to project an impossible election, so please do bear with us.

First let us see how the voting day unfolded just to give a background to the entire process of our post-poll analysis. After first two hours of polling, at about 10 AM, when the first set of numbers started coming in, it was shocking to see AAP do so well because the general assessment was that the fledgling new outfit lacks polling booth level infrastructure to bring in voters. The second shock was the extremely tight, 3-cornered fight in the New Delhi constituency, which we were specifically monitoring through exit poll numbers. Both of these shocks were corroborated by different party workers on the ground. Significantly, BJP was the single largest party and tantalizingly close to the halfway mark at this point.

Similar trends continued till about 3 PM, when we started to realize that Congress was losing Delhi in a big way and may end up being in the third position. It was after 3 PM that the trends started to reverse; a late surge of voting by Congress voters started to dent the AAP vote (borne out by exit poll time lines). Meanwhile, through all these upheavals BJP was always ahead of the pack and always hovering around the magic figure of 36. Thus we can surmise the voting day’s events as follows;

  1. Congress is unlikely to return back to power on its own
  2. BJP will be the single largest party
  3. The fight for the second position is strong between AAP and Congress, with Congress gaining late upper hand

Projected Vote-ShareIn all the six divisions BJP’s vote-share is between 32% and 36% (lowest being in East Delhi and highest being in North-West Delhi) and its total overall vote-share is 33%. Congress has a range between 21% and 30% in the six zones of Delhi – lowest being in Chandni Chowk and highest being in North-West Delhi and East Delhi. AAP has an even more volatile vote-share in the 6 divisions of Delhi ranging from 18% to 33% – lowest in West Delhi and highest in East Delhi. Due to these sub-regional discrepancies, Congress and AAP are both getting the same vote-share of 28%. BSP’s sub-regional vote-share is always in single digits (never crossing 8%) and is concentrated in 4 divisions – majorly South Delhi & West Delhi, and to some extent Chandni Chowk and East Delhi.

There is a lot of interchange of vote share among the parties, but the net swing is roughly 12% away from Congress, 8% away from the BSP, roughly 5% away from the ‘Others’ and 3% net swing away from the BJP. AAP is benefiting from this swing almost overwhelmingly.

It is quite possible that exit polls are overestimating AAP vote-share due to the first 6-7 hours of robust spread out voting, which has probably not given adequate weightage to the last 3-4 hours of concentrated voting. The last few hours of voting is generally believed to be party vote organized by the cadres. It is unlikely that AAP vote-share has been underestimated by exit polls. BJP vote-share has been consistent throughout the day and through all divisions so it is less likely to be wrong although minor corrections on the higher side due to “bandwagon effect” cannot be ruled out. As for Congress vote-shares, the anti-incumbency undercurrents may have led to lesser weightage given to traditional party voters.

Projected Seat-ShareEven if there were to be minor discrepancies, overall trends will likely remain the same when actual votes are counted on the 8th, except for some upheavals in the AAP-Congress vote-swings. Seat conversion based on these vote-share findings is an extremely hazardous job, but one thing is clear, BJP is likely to cross the halfway mark. We have given lesser seats to AAP despite same vote-share because it is more spread out, whereas Congress has traditional strongholds where its vote-share is concentrated.

A Note on New Delhi assembly segment:

We were specially tracking New Delhi assembly constituency as it was a part of our swing seat category and had one of the keenest VIP contests of recent times. Two different exit poll data points show Shiela Dixit as losing the New Delhi assembly seat to Arvind Kejriwal of AAP, the only difference is that in one of the polls BJP is at number two and in another Congress is at number two. Interestingly, in both the surveys, the difference between number 2 and number 3 is just about 2 percentage points.

[With valuable inputs and various exit poll data points from our psephologist and in-house numbers man, Chinmay Krovvidi]


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Projecting a wave election: Rajasthan (Post-Poll Analysis)

When a single dominant political trend attains near total predominance, wave elections ensue. Wave elections are possibly the easiest to predict once there is certainty, but could turn out to be a political analyst’s nightmare when wrongly judged. India’s biggest wave election was 1984, which was famously captured by Dr. Prannoy Roy (along with Dorab Soopariwala & Anil Lahiri) and it helped create one of India’s biggest news media organization. One recent wave election gone awry is the 2004 Atal-India-Shining wave that never actually happened despite many predictions to that effect.

How do we predict a wave election? What are the basic contours of a wave election and what signals should we look for? These are some of the basic questions that confound analysts. Although high turnout is not a necessary prerequisite, it definitely helps to have a high turnout. And if the turnout is a historic high point then a wave election becomes that much easier to visualize. What is more important though is the quantum of increase in polling percentages of urban pockets, which are usually harbingers of change. Then of course we look at turnout differential factors of swing seats and try to see if it is universally high with little discrepancies. Exit poll data, if available, gives us the clearest indicators of a wave election when we start capturing signals of opposition strongholds crumbling.

Of course, the most important inputs are always from the ground reports, which no psephological data points can beat. For instance, we need to look at the atmosphere preceding the election to check if a wave is possible. Also what is most significant are the possibilities of realignments of castes and voting groups in the run-up to the election which was hitherto not foreseeable. Now, did any of these factors play out in the Rajasthan election?

  • The overall turnout was historic – in a large state that had never breached 67%, achieving a turnout which was almost ten percentage points higher was a significant feature of Rajasthan election this time
  • Unprecedented urban voting indicated something was cooking in the voters’ minds – Jaipur, for instance, saw a turnout that was 12% higher than in previous election (with some constituencies like Hawa Mahal, Kishanpol and Bagru recording as high as 15% increase in turnout). When the urban Indian voter, notorious for his/her disinterest in elections, takes such a high interest in voting, it creates a strong signal of change.
  • Turnout Differential Factor (discussed later in detail) showed no discrepancies indicating wave elections as voter turnout is almost universally high everywhere
  • In the run-up to the election, we saw huge political rallies addressed by the opposition, especially Narendra Modi and Vasundhara Raje, whereas Rahul Gandhi and Congress public meetings were ill-attended, which was a straight giveaway of the prevailing atmosphere in the state
  • Almost for 9 months before the election Vasundhara Raje Scindhia toured the entire state and got enthusiastic response from the people all over
  • For 4 years the Congress government was almost totally absent and then tried to woo the voters with freebies over the last few months, which doesn’t wash away with the voters, for they are able to clearly distinguish between election year goodies and actual governance deliverance
  • We must remember that even in 2008, the Vasundhara Raje government was not very unpopular and had lost the election by a whisker mainly due to internal squabbling
  • Historically improbable social coalitions were being formed – the OBCs like Jats & Gujjars and upper castes (Rajputs & Brahmins alike) were all coming together as a united group, discarding local level leaders and their dictates
  • The perception of a BJP government coming back to power was so strong in villages and towns that undecided voters and fence-sitters were almost overwhelmed into going along with the majority (which happens in a wave election)

Turnout Differential Factor and possible Vote-share

Central
MewarMarwarNorthThe common feature among all these four charts is that voter turnout was universally and almost proportionally higher, which is a definite indicator of a wave election. It shows us that voters have given little consideration for local factors and have simply gone out to vote on a larger state level issue. This is a typical sign of a wave election when newer social coalitions are built almost overnight and voting takes place uniformly with scant respect for localized issues. The minor discrepancies in the turnout chart we see in Central Rajasthan is indicative of a wave of lesser strength in this region which is probably due to some localized reasons like the Meena factor. The wave seems to be uniform in all the other 3 regions of North Rajasthan, Marwar and Mewar, as is visible in Turnout Differential Factors of the swing seats. Usually with such uniform voting, most of the swing seats go to the dominant political party in a wave election and there is hardly any room for the non-dominant player.

Once we have determined that Rajasthan was indeed a wave election, the next step is to try and understand the extent of the wave in terms of vote-share swing and eventually seat projections. The 3% vote-share difference between BJP and Congress which has withstood two election cycles is likely to definitely double or even go beyond that. A 5 to 6% swing and beyond in the favor of BJP would be considered as a wave, for it can produce a huge seat-share differential in a first past the post system. Usually in such wave elections a percentage of “others” vote-share gets accrued to the dominant party. Remember, BJP has never breached the 40% mark in Rajasthan and this is possibly their best chance yet to make that breakthrough.

Post-poll vote-shareGenerally converting vote-shares to seats is a hazardous job in India because of the multi-polar contests; for instance, the much vaunted CSDS gave a whopping 10% higher vote-share in its exit-poll prediction for the Samajwadi party in Uttar Pradesh last year, but still managed to get the seat count right – for all practical psephological purposes their analysis was wrong, but a seat-share obsessed general public and media were happy with their projections! In a wave-like election of Rajasthan, BJP could potentially win anywhere between 120 to 150 seats and it is anybody’s guess as to the eventual total.

Exit Poll

Exit Poll RajAt 5Forty3, we have collected ground reports from all the 33 districts and 15 of those districts are reporting a sweep-like situation for BJP, 9 have reported BJP being moderately ahead and only in the remaining 9 districts the fight is either even or Congress is slightly ahead. Exit poll was conducted in 24 districts by an organization affiliated to ace psephologist Chinmay Krovvidi, while in the remaining 9 districts we have partial exit-poll data and are basing our projections on both exit-poll as well as ground reports.

A Note on Internal assessments and Satta Bazaar

Congress has refused to divulge any details of internal post-poll assessment, which is betraying nervousness. The party is banking heavily on “others” to cut BJP votes and on the Punjab election result of last year which had defied anti-incumbency despite a higher turnout and spirited opposition campaign. BJP’s detailed district-wise feedback program is being done on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the party is confident of a clear majority. Meanwhile Satta Bazaar of Jaipur has spoken clearly, the lowest tally for BJP is 100 and that of Congress is half at 50; while the odds for BJP winning are as low as 7-10 Paise, that of Congress going beyond 65 seats are as high as 2 rupees.