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
The 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.
Generally 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.
At 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.