Five Forty Three

Revolutionizing Indian Election Analysis


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Karnataka: The confusion of alter-narrative

“This is almost a government of Mysore state, we, the people of north Karnataka, have zero investment in this government” explains Madhav Rao, a retired school teacher and an eminent sociologist of Hubli, who is widely described as a ‘Kuruba by birth, a Kshatriya by vocation and a Brahmin by intellect’. “…Our vote for Congress was a reluctant one, because the previous governments (of BJP & JDS-BJP alliance) were too busy sorting their ego battles” Prof. Rao continues, “but this government has shown glorious inability to provide even basic decency of day-to-day governance in just 6 months”.

We are living in strange times, people’s expectations from their rulers are quite high and most political parties are yet to come to terms with these new realities. This governance gap has led to considerable shrinking of the “honeymoon period” that incumbent governments of a bygone era enjoyed for at least the first 2 years. The information overload created by deeper penetration of mobile phones and televisions has created a new “perennially angry class of voters with hyper-expectations” (as described brilliantly by an eminent Congress leader). Uttar Pradesh was probably one of the first states that scuttled the political honeymoon of the ruling government under one year after electing Akhilesh Yadav in early 2012. Karnataka is inching towards anti-incumbency at a much faster pace, but it is more pronounced in northern parts of the state than South because of Siddramaiah’s overt concentration on Old Mysore region.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the union railway minister and the tallest standing Dalit leader of Karnataka, was recently confronted by hundreds of Muslim youth in his home constituency of Gulbarga, asking him why development works of the state government (especially, road construction) had come to a standstill after the Congress government had come to power. He then famously made that statement of “oopar se Sherwani, undar se pareshani” to describe how the state Congress government is all gloss from outside but never listens to its leaders woes (from north Karnataka). This statement, more than anything else, describes the state of the Congress party and the government in the state.

A few months ago, opinion poll surveys conducted in the state, conventional political wisdom, anecdotal evidence, were all pointing towards a massive 20+ seat haul by the Congress party in Karnataka. Now things seem to be changing fast, and the return of B.S Yeddyurappa to the BJP fold has only added fuel to the fire of change. It is in this background that we set out to conduct our first major opinion poll survey spread across 26 districts and 25 parliamentary constituencies of Karnataka from the 11th of January to 22nd January. Our poll had a targeted sample size of 12000 respondents with adequate representation for all the different social groups/castes and we achieved an actual sample size of 9468.

This, possibly one of the largest sample surveys conducted in the state, was a mixed-mode survey wherein we not only conducted face-to-face interviews (55%) of the targeted respondents by visiting their homes but also conducted a telephone survey (45%). This was also a mixed-level survey, one of the first of its kind to be published in public domain, wherein survey was conducted not only to get an overall vote-share picture of the state but also to get the real picture of each individual MP seat as the target sample was not less than 400 in each individual parliamentary constituency. We also used two revolutionary new methodologies; RSSI and VWISM; to conduct this survey which we believe gives us near 100% accuracy in gauging voter preferences.

This is also the first time in India at least, if not the world over, that we are pioneering what we have termed as OSOP – Open Source Opinion Poll. Poll surveys in India are almost an occult craft as most of them employ black-box techniques which do not withstand any public scrutiny and are simply accepted on the basis of the “reputation” of the company. This ad-hoc approach to election analysis has created many armchair psephologists who give out seat projections at the drop of the hat, especially in the era of social media when even vote-shares are projected by Tweeple every day with terrifying confidence. In a market oversaturated with dubious pollsters, 5Forty3 has decided to restore the “Bharosa” in polling by creating an open source model wherein not only methodologies and techniques are put into the public domain, but also raw data is shared openly for the first time! (for a detailed OSOP Karnataka methodology and data, click here, OSOP )

Karnataka, a state of contradictions

The primary message that the Karnataka voter seems to be conveying is one of confusion, for her anger at the central government is palpably high, but her alternative in the state has also betrayed her. Karnataka has tremendous hope (like India on the whole) about Modi, but is not sure if she can trust his local guardians. The vote of last summer was of desperate frustration, make no mistake about it, and the unintended beneficiary of that vote was Congress, a party that the voter is still unsure of. The state government is already inching towards big anti-incumbency, due its non-governance.

Govt performanceOnly 51% of the voters give a positive rating for the state government, although Siddramaiah still is the number one choice to lead the state (a typical ruling CM bias). What is significant is that only 18% of the voters think of this government as “good”, while a major chunk of 33% voters think it is just about “ok”. Usually a pro-incumbency mood in a state sets in when the rating of a state government is in the 60’s; for instance, in Madhya Pradesh, last November, 74% of the voters had a positive rating for the government and Shivraj Singh Chouhan won a massive mandate, whereas in Rajasthan the voter rating for the state government was in the mid-50s and the ruling party suffered a colossal defeat.

CM choiceWhen asked to compare, voters still give the present government a slightly higher rating than the previous BJP government, as 42% of the voters prefer the present government over the previous government, while 37% feel the previous government was better.

BSY returnB.S Yeddyurappa is still the second most popular leader in the state and is way ahead of the rest of the pack. His popularity is much higher in Mumbai Karnataka and coastal regions than in the southern parts of the state. There is a significant section of the people (27%) who believe BJP shouldn’t have taken back the former CM into the party fold, but almost 68% of BJP voters believe it was the right decision to re-induct BSY into the party fold. What is even more significant is that 74% of the Lingayat voters are happy that BSY is back in the BJP. Even more SC voters seem to be positive about the development than negative (good – 24%, bad – 21%, neutral – 14% & don’t know – 14%). Thus Yeddyurappa’s return may be beneficial to the BJP as its core-voters seem to have reacted positively.

Issues KarInflation and gainful Employment are the two big issues that the mature Karnataka voters are picking as their problem areas. Here, significantly, 37% voters feel BJP is best suited to provide jobs, while only 25% vote for Congress on this. Similarly 34% voters think BJP is best suited to handle inflation, while 30% think Congress is adept at it. A whopping 59% hold central government responsible for inflation. On the corruption issue, both BJP and Congress are seen to be equally corrupt at 35% and 33% respectively (the recent induction of tainted ministers in the Siddramaiah cabinet has not gone down well among the voters).

UPA performanceAll of this state-level information may not be of much use to us in determining the upcoming elections as what matters is the national government. The Karnataka voter has always had the maturity to distinguish between the state election and the national election, so the one statistic that matters is this – a whopping 74% of the voters in the state have a negative perception of the Congress led central government. What is even more stunning is that 40% of the voters believe this is the worst government in living memory and only a paltry 9% of the voters think the UPA government can be termed as “good”. Such levels of anti-incumbency against the central government are unheard of in the southern states since independence – even in the post-emergency JP election of 1977, such a mood wasn’t seen in the state. Yet, despite such an overwhelming antagonism for the central government, the voter is not punishing the Congress as vehemently as one would have expected, and thereby lies the sorry tale of the main opposition party, the BJP, in the state.

Region 1: North-Central Karnataka – The Lingayat Heartland

The five districts of Hyderabad-Karnataka, 3 districts of Central-Karnataka and five districts of Mumbai-Karnataka make up this region of North-Central Karnataka. The 2009 super-show of BJP in Karnataka (the state that gave the largest chunk of saffron MPs) was powered by this region as the party had won a whopping 11 of the 13 MP seats on offer in this region. BJP had literally swept Mumbai-Karnataka and Central-Karnataka sub-divisions by winning every parliamentary constituency. It is no coincidence that BJP’s biggest rise came from this region which also happens to be the Lingayat heartland. Since the last year, Congress is on a revival path here.

North-Central KarnatakasThe fact that BJP is now neck and neck with Congress in this region is testimony to the party’s recovery after the humiliating defeat of just 8 months ago. Yet, since this is the region where BJP has to win most of the LS seats, the current recovery is not enough, especially considering the huge popularity that Modi enjoys in this region. It is the same old story of local-level failures tying down the party in an otherwise favorable atmosphere. Congress, on the other hand would also be worried, for its overt concentration of power in the hands of CM Siddramaiah is not going down well with many powerful north-Karnataka leaders of the party. There is a strong Lingayat lobby within the Congress party which is getting increasingly restless and is not averse to teaching the party leadership a lesson or two in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. As always, JDS is getting wiped out of the electoral landscape in the national elections.

PM North Kar

  • Congress party seems to be off its peak in this region of the state and is now sliding with each passing week, unless it takes drastic steps the party may have a surprisingly poor show here
  • Apart from union railway minister, Mallikarjun Kharge, in Gulbarga (where he is leading by a huge margin), none of the other seats in this region can be termed as safe seats for the Congress which had a good showing in the assembly elections just a few months ago; for instance, even former CM, Dharam Singh, seems to be suffering from huge anti-incumbency in Bidar
  • Sriramulu, the former health minister, still has reasonable influence in at least 3 parliamentary seats – Bellary, Raichur and to some extent Haveri – and he may be the crucial differentiating factor between victory and defeat in these LS seats
  • The worrying signs for the BJP are in the form of voter’s antipathy towards sitting MPs who are facing a great deal of anti-incumbency and need to be replaced wholesale (even in the safe seats of Belgaum, Dharwad etc.)
  • BJP needs to woo back large sections of SC (left wing) voters in this region who had abandoned the party in the assembly elections, but have otherwise been with the party for more than a decade now
  • AAP has zero influence in Hyderabad-Karnataka or Central-Karnataka, but voices in favor of the new party where heard in parts of Mumbai-Karnataka, especially in the big cities of the region like Hubli, for ex, where BJP sitting MPs have become very unpopular
  • Even state unit president, Prahlad Joshi is facing an uphill task

South Karnataka – Cosmopolitan Vokkaliga territory

This is the combination of BKT region and Old Mysore region wherein Gowdas have reasonable influence as a dominant caste. There are 11 seats in this region and Bangalore itself is home to 4 parliamentary seats; of these 11 seats, Congress and BJP had won 4 seats each, while JDS had won 3, thus showing a 3-way split. This time, in the old-Mysore region, the contest is directly between Congress and JDS with BJP virtually absent. BJP’s presence is almost totally limited to Bangalore and Tumkur as of now.

South KarnatakasOur projected vote-share of the region suggests a big gap of 7% between Congress and BJP, although it is much lower when only BKT region is taken into consideration. This is a very important region for the Congress party as it has all its power concentrated in this region and anything less than a sweep would be hugely counterproductive for the party – the CM and most of his top cabinet colleagues along with the state unit president belong to this region, apart from two powerful union ministers of the state (Veerappa Moily and K.H. Muniyappa). Even the other power centre of the state Congress, former external affairs minister, S.M. Krishna, belongs to this region. It was also in this region that Congress won the two by-elections late last year for two prestigious MP seats which had been JDS strongholds in the recent past. There are also strong rumours that Rahul Gandhi would be contesting from this region as a safe bet in the wake of a difficult time in Uttar Pradesh.

PM South Kar

  • JDS seems to be in a big decline in this erstwhile stronghold and Devegowda also has lost a great deal of his charisma and is a distant third in the popularity ratings for the PM race.
  • The 2014 election could well decide the future of the JDS as a party, for it may even be reduced to a solitary parliamentary seat this time around (that of family stronghold, Hassan)
  • In the three urban seats of Bangalore, BJP still has a great deal of popularity due to its prime-ministerial candidate and has a decent chance of repeating the 2009 showing
  • Surprisingly, BJP has a decent lead in Bangalore south, which goes contrary to conventional wisdom of the social media; more than 60% of the respondents of this constituency haven’t heard of Nandan Nilekani and Anant Kumar is still a well-known face.
  • Apart from Bangalore, Tumkur is one seat where BJP still has an edge over others, but everything depends on how BSY manages this seat (there are rumours that he may himself contest from this seat, which could make this  a one-sided contest as a big 61% of the respondents were in favor of this)
  • Apart from Bangalore, Tumkur and Hassan, it is virtually a one-horse race in the other 6 LS seats where Congress has a big lead although K.H. Muniyappa seems to be suffering some pockets of resistance, but has no credible opposition leader to challenge him
  • In Mandya, the starlet Ramya, seems to be enjoying huge popularity and may win by an even bigger margin in the 2014 election
  • AAP has limited presence in Bangalore and may only become a spoiler only if strong candidates get tickets from the party

Coastal Karnataka – The ideological battlefield

Coastal KarnatakasThe 5 districts of Coastal Karnataka are currently in the midst of a Modi wave and BJP, which had won all the 4 parliamentary seats in this region, may well repeat the 2009 performance. The return of Yeddyurappa has also made things relatively easier for the BJP. Congress, which had a historic opportunity to put down BJP in this region after an unexpected windfall gain in last year’s assembly elections seems to have squandered that opportunity. Coastal-Karnataka is the original BJP bastion where the party had first found its foothold during the RJB movement; in fact, the Sangh has been a force here from an even earlier period of the Jan Sangh days. This is one area that is similar to other BJP strongholds like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh where a strong BJP ecosystem exists.

PM Coastal Kar

..

  • The contest here is directly between Congress and BJP, which is also essentially a contest of Hindus v/s minorities for all practical purposes
  • As we have seen in the last few weeks, in any direct contest between Congress and BJP, the former has a huge disadvantage (MP, Rajasthan etc. where Congress was decimated) and the later almost always emerges victorious – this is what is likely to happen in coastal Karnataka too
  • Congress doesn’t even have a credible candidate in at least 2 of the 4 LS seats to take on the BJP juggernaut, so much so that BJP might get a virtual walkover in Shimoga where Yeddyurappa or his son may contest
  • Mangalore is literally divided into two halves of Hindus and non-Hindus, almost reminiscent of Uttar Pradesh like polarization along religious lines, which will hurt the Congress party
  • The backward caste voters of this region are flocking towards BJP in a big way
  • JDS is once again just a namesake player here and AAP is non-existent

The PM contest and NaMo’s popularity

Modi Popularity casteNarendra Modi’s popularity in the state is unprecedented. Not even powerful state leaders of the past have had such high ratings; for instance, even when Veerendra Patil won a massive mandate in 1989, his popularity in the state was in the range of 43% to 49% at its peak as per polls of that era. Today, Narendra Modi’s popularity in the state is at about 55%, which is unprecedented to say the least. Among the largest caste of the state, the Lingayats, Modi is the only non-Lingayat (apart from Ramakrishna Hegde) who has enjoyed popularity rating of 70% and above. What is surprising is that even among Kurubas, a caste to which Siddramaiah belongs, Modi is the number one choice to lead India after 2014. The only community where Modi’s popularity is abysmally low is among Muslims.

In Karnataka too, the Modi vote is the broad spectrum of Hindu vote just like his heartland experiment. Here, the Lingayats have replaced the OBCs as the core of that united Hindu vote, which has now been augmented with the arrival of B.S. Yeddyurappa, the tallest Lingayat leader in the state. Another feature of the popularity of the Modi Vote is his huge credibility in tier-2 cities and small towns; for instance, Modi maintains a big 15% lead over his nearest rival in a whopping 24 district headquarters of the 26 surveyed (barring Mandya and Gulbarga).

Almost 87% of the voters recognize/recall Modi which is a very high number, considering that less than 70% of the Kannadiga people recognized either Manmohan Singh or L.K. Advani in the run-up to the 2009 LS elections as per two different opinion polls of that time. A few respondents in the interiors of the state do recall Modi, but are not sure which party he belongs to, which is a problem that BJP has to address as soon as possible. Here is a funny statistic; about 3% of the rural Muslim respondents (especially women), believe Modi is a Muslim, because they have possibly heard that name in some religious context! (Is it possible that Modi, the name, has secular connotations to it?)

Despite such huge popularity ratings of its prime-ministerial candidate, BJP is still the second choice of the voters in the state, and that is a story in itself. It is amazing that 3 out of 10 voters who want Modi as the next PM of India are not voting for the BJP! The BJP’s woes at the local level are far too many and Modi’s popularity alone cannot sweep all of them under the carpet. For instance, the party cadre are absolutely distraught that the party is not making an issue of the blatantly communal agenda of the Congress government in the state, this anger of the cadre against the leadership is seen to be believed in Northern Karnataka. Modi himself had a great opportunity to raise the issue of the blatantly communal Shadi Bhagya in his Bangalore speech recently, but he simply chose to ignore that (his Karnataka advisors must be held answerable for this major gaffe).

One way to tackle the local problems of the BJP is to not give tickets to at least 60% (if not more) of the sitting MPs of the party and giving some tickets to newcomers and professionals, at least in bigger cities and more urbanized constituencies. Will BJP leadership show the courage to implement the Yeddyurappa plan (of wholesale ticket rejection)? Or will the Delhi-clique be able to wield its power and retain old-timers as contestants? The answer to these two questions will also be the answer to how many seats the party will win in the state.

For the Congress party, the less it involves the central leadership, the better would be the result. It is indeed a challenge for the Congress to convert a national election into a local one, just like it was an insurmountable challenge for the BJP to convert an essentially local election into a national one in May 2013. The one big issue that Congress leadership has to solve is to create checks and balances against Sidhramaiah’s power which has reduced all other Congress leaders to irrelevance (especially in North Karnataka). A weakened high command has created many orphans among Congress leaders who are feeling utter helplessness in a state that is being controlled by CM’s cronies.

A note on undecided voters

Undecided Voters & SwingSince May 2013, there has been a 11% +ve swing in favour of the BJP, which has mostly come from the fragmented vote of “others” who have ceased to exist after the assembly elections (KJP has merged with the parent party). This is also a typical national election imbalance wherein the two national parties get the maximum vote and the other smaller parties tend to underperform. What is significant is that Congress is also losing a bit of its vote-share even in the honeymoon period, which underlines the antagonism for the Congress party in the national elections and the lackluster performance of the state government.

There are an unusually large 10% undecided voters in the state which tells us that people are still assessing the ground situation and any party that makes the right moves in terms of good candidate selection may walk away with the advantage. Here, BJP enjoys a fair bit of advantage due to the popularity of its PM candidate, for almost 42% of the fence-sitter, undecided voters prefer Modi as their PM choice, while less than 9% of the same voters have Rahul Gandhi as their choice (about 30% of the undecided voters are also unsure about the PM candidate). BJP has to take advantage of this momentum that is with the party, whereas Congress has an uphill task of arresting its decline.

Seat Projections

Most poll surveys get their vote-shares right, but make huge errors in seat conversions because of the inherently complex arithmetic involved in deciding the Indian elections. Since this is a mixed level poll survey, wherein each MP constituency has been surveyed individually with a target sample of 400+ and a sample size of not less than 300 (for each constituency), the seat projections are based on a much more robust deeper level survey and not just by converting vote-shares.

Seat-shareOf these 28 LS seats, 9 are in the vulnerable category – 3 in the “close contest range” and 6 in the “very close contest range”. Of the 9 vulnerable LS seats, Congress is ahead in 5, BJP in 3 and JDS in 1. Since the fence sitters decide who will win these 9 vulnerable seats, we can term the ranges as follows – Congress (9 to 18), BJP (9 to 18) and JDS (1 to 4). Thus both BJP and Congress are unlikely to win less than 9 seats and more than 18 seats, unless there is a major shift of votes from one party to the other, apart from the undecided voters. Once again, it is clear that the momentum is with the opposition BJP as the Congress party, which was ahead in more than 20 seats just a few months ago is declining with each passing week.

Typically, the next survey in the state, much closer to polls and with candidates decided, would give us a clear picture of what would be the final Karnataka takeaway. A second poll survey would also give us the swing from January to Election Day and all the other resultant changes.

If you have liked this Karnataka analysis, please do take a few seconds and answer the three following questions of our poll

For our detailed OSOP – Open Source Opinion Poll of Karnataka, please click here, OSOP

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Andhra Pradesh: A divided people in a divided polity

Nara Chandrababu Naidu holds an unenviable record in Andhra Pradesh politics, he is the longest serving leader of the opposition in the AP state assembly. This is at the heart of the problem for TDP today – a party that was set-up by thespian N.T. Rama Rao in March 1982 and won a historic mandate to rule the state within 9 months – the party is simply unable to make that crucial transition from the opposition benches to the ruling party benches. Naidu was never really a charismatic figure unlike his father in law, NTR, but what he lacked in charisma, he more than made up with his administrative vision and political acumen. Unfortunately, his one mistake of preponing the 2004 elections in the state not only cost him his chiefministership, but also cost NDA (of which TDP was the second largest ally) the power in Dilli. Since that fateful summer a decade ago, both BJP and TDP have been gloriously reduced to the opposition benches in the parliament and AP assembly respectively.

Now, after 10 years, when BJP has finally started rediscovering itself, Naidu’s TDP also wants to hitch on to its former ally and trick destiny to get another chance to rule at least a truncated Andhra Pradesh. This southern state which has been mercilessly mismanaged by the Congress party, should have given a walkover to the main opposition party in the state, but as fate would have it, another new entrant in the form of YSRCP seems to be spoiling Chandrababu’s party.

AP Vote-ShareInterestingly, Andhra Pradesh (and possibly the new state of Telangana) will be one of the only two states (the other being Orissa) that goes to polls with the national elections in May 2014. Thus there could be some spillover effect of the national electoral mood into these assembly elections, which would only add to the guessing game. The guessing game of Andhra today is indeed a veritable quagmire with way too many variables ranging from a four to five cornered contest in many seats to the formation of a new state and all the associated drama around Telangana. Congress which had enjoyed a relatively stable vote-share for almost 15 years, is on a downhill today and may completely lose relevance in at least one of the two states of Andhra Pradesh, if not both. TDP on the other hand is fighting its battle for survival and hoping to reverse the decline it has suffered in the last 15 years.

Opinion poll survey

We conducted an opinion poll across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to gauge the mood of voters from December 13th to Dec 24th 2013 in 53 assembly segments of 18 parliamentary constituencies. Our target sample size was 3897, but we were able to get the opinion of 3115 respondents spread across the state. Of those 3115 respondents, 1663 were male and 1452 were female. A slightly higher weightage of 8% was given to urban constituencies as compared to rural constituencies.

North Andhra

North Andhra

  • .
  • Close race between TDP and YSRCP.
  • YSR Congress gaining from collapse of Congress vote-bank.
  • Forced displacements due to thermal projects and anti-incumbency against long time sitting Congress families has led to an antagonistic atmosphere against the ruling party
  • Slight edge for TDP due to division of state, forced displacements, unemployment and agrarian crisis which will influence voting behavior
  • 71% of respondents prefer keeping the state united

Rayalaseema

Rayalseema.

  • Decisive edge for YSRCP due to YSR factor and implosion of the Congress vote-bank
  • TDP vote share is also declining compared to 2009
  • Sentiment against division of state deeply entrenched in this region
  • Anger against Congress is at an all-time high
  • Jagan Reddy is most popular in Rayalaseema and most preferred choice to lead the state in this region
  • 82% prefer keeping the state united
  • Surprisingly low support for Rayala-Telangana demand mainly voiced by Rayalaseema politicians
  • MIM is likely to win about 1 assembly segment in Rayalaseema

Coastal and South Andhra

Coastal.

  • TDP to make heavy gains in South and Coastal districts
  • Godavari and Coastal districts are in the midst of TDP wave due to reemergence of traditional Kamma-OBC vote coupled with Kapu vote shifting away from Congress (a majority of Kapu-Balija vote went to Chiranjeevi’s PRP in 2009)
  • TDP making gains among youth and upper castes too
  • YSRCP continues to hold onto its Reddy-Mala combination
  • Kiran Kumar Reddy has more credibility than both Naidu and Jagan as 63% feel he has been honest to the cause of a united Andhra state
  • 39% feel Kiran Kumar Reddy is better suited to stall Telangana division while 33% feel Jagan has been more consistent in the united-state demand and 29% feel Naidu is better suited to keep Andhra united.
  • In Seemandhra, 73% of the voters oppose the division of the state.
  • While the sentiment against T-division has led to a huge upsurge against Congress, it is not translating into one sided gains for either YSRCP or TDP both of which have come out strongly against the division of state
  • There is a strong resentment particularly among youth and peasant class that Congress conceded T demand with an eye on LS polls

Telangana

Telangana.

  • TRS is riding the wave of separate statehood demand and is set to emerge as the single largest party
  • Congress, TDP set to suffer net losses
  • Congress has clearly failed to tap the separate demand  sentiment, ironically even after conceding the state
  • A majority of voters (48%) feel Congress has conceded Telangana demand due to political expediency
  • BJP to increase its tally; BJP surprisingly in top 2 positions in 7/17 Parliamentary seats.
  • There is an undercurrent for Narendra Modi particularly among youth
  • BJP, TRS, MIM are net gainers in Telangana
  • There is an undercurrent of religious polarization among Muslims in Hyderabad for MIM, while BJP is gaining from youth vote for development and the overall political vacuum due to the decline of the Congress
  • In Secunderabad LS constituency (won by Congress in 2004 and 2009), it is going to be a direct fight between MIM and BJP this time. MIM has made inroads in Jubliee Hills, Goshamahal, Musheerabad, Sanath Nagar and Rajendra Nagar at the cost of Congress party. Reports suggest that MIM is making inroads in areas dominated by Andhra settlers which could prove to be a setback for TDP.
  • An interesting feature is that majority of BJP cadre in Telangana are opposed to a tie up with TDP which is essentially seen as Samikyandhra party
  • There is likely to be significant cross voting in Telangana region with voters voting differently for Assembly and Parliamentary elections regardless of whether both are held simultaneously or separately (due to the delimitation process likely to be initiated for assembly constituencies at least, if the reorganization bill is passed in the February parliamentary session)
  • There is likely to be significant cross voting in interior Telangana districts on varying scales with youth particularly preferring BJP for the Lok Sabha and TRS for Assembly elections. Reports from Mahbaubnagar, Nizamabad and Nalgonda etc. indicate such large scale dual preferences
  • While TRS has consolidated its strength among Madiga, Dalit and peasant classes, Reddy’s seem to be not so enthusiastic about backing Congress given its dwindling fortunes, ironically even after conceding the T-demand. As such, preliminary data indicates that the Reddy community could gravitate towards BJP in the long run but an alliance with TDP at this stage is likely to hamper growth prospects and prevent the late surge noticeable towards BJP at least in the Telangana region.

Summary:

Congress is almost wiped out from its once strong fortress of south India, which is the harbinger of the national anti-Congress mood prevailing in India. Even in Telangana, the party may find very few takers and TRS could be the beneficiary if the new state is carved out before polls. BJP is the surprise package of Telangana and may perform much better in the LS polls despite lack of inherent strength in the state. The big worry for BJP is how it balances its possible alliance with the TDP and still caters to the Telangana voters. TDP has a slight advantage in Seemandhra where YSR Congress may not be getting the traction that the young fledgling party was hoping for.


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Uttar Pradesh, the darling of 2014

There is a funny anecdote doing the rounds in the power corridors of Lucknow that has been regaled at various political meetings in the last few weeks. As recently as in the last month of 2013, a well-connected and well-known businessman apparently approached the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the young and ‘dynamic’ Akhilesh Yadav, for a large project clearance. He was told by the CM frankly to first get all the necessary clearances from “below” (meaning the lower level clerks and babus) and he would then do the needful. The persistent businessman apparently spent considerable capital to grease the necessary palms and got all the “lower level” clearances in record time and returned back with the “approved” proposal to the CMO. This is when he had to face the most humiliating surprise from the young CM of UP, who shyly retorted back that the businessman has to now get approval from “above” (meaning Mulayam Singh Yadav).

This incident in all its glory (pun intended) is symptomatic of all that is wrong with the government of Uttar Pradesh, where the Chief Minister of the state is nothing but a glorified messenger who keeps relaying messages between the restless Samajwadi party cadre (read ‘goonda elements’) and his overarching father. While on the one hand, the lower level SP leaders and workers have formed a powerful cabal with government babus to run a parallel administration smeared in massive corruption and goondaism in distributing various government contracts, on the other hand Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brothers interfere in every decision that the CM tries to take for day-to-day administration of the state. The result of all this is total anarchy, as we have seen in scores of communal riots spread across the state in the last two years.

To be sure, Uttar Pradesh is like a country within a country, with a population of 20 Cr plus and a demographic that is as complex as any; it is a hard state to govern, but what the young Yadav has done is totally messed up this state. It is in such a background that this most populous state will be going to polls with the rest of India in the summer of 2014 and will possibly be the crucial deciding factor on who rules India for the foreseeable future. The state of UP has never been more crucial to the politics of India for almost three decades (the last time it played an important role was for a brief period of one and a half years in 1998 during the Vajpayee era). In more ways than one, 2014 will possibly restore the political glory of Uttar Pradesh to the pre-90s level when it was always regarded as the Kingmaker.

Uttar Pradesh is also the graveyard of political analysts who have tried to understand her since time immemorial. The sheer complexities of this state offer us such confounding array of possibilities that it is but natural for an analyst to miss out on some vital narratives that may prove costly at the end of the day. For me personally, Uttar Pradesh has been like a teasing lover who holds a million secrets in her bosom but only reveals the cleavage to titillate me into believing that I have seen a glimpse of her soul. The purity of my lust; a lust to analyze Uttar Pradesh; is what has been driving me in to her heart for so many years now. Yet, how does one analyze the electoral scenario of UP with certainty? How can one wrap her infinite bosom with ideas, words and numbers? How can one discover specificity in true ambiguity of the UP voter’s mind? This is an attempt to decipher Uttar Pradesh through a quadrilateral factorial index to discern electoral pattern out of chaos.

The Uttar Pradesh Electoral Quadrilateral

UP TurnoutsRoughly 5.5 Cr votes were polled in Uttar Pradesh in the 2009 LS polls, while it went up to 7.5 Cr in the 2012 assembly elections of the state. In 2014, Election Commission figures suggest that about 13.5 Cr voters of Uttar Pradesh would be eligible to exercise their franchise in the upcoming elections. The state has generally seen a sub-50% turnout in the LS polls in the recent past, but the polling percentage had gone up to 59% in the assembly elections of 2012. Logical progression of electoral trend data suggests that roughly 55% polling should be reported in the 2014 LS polls (which is always slightly lower than preceding assembly elections across India). Thus about 7.5 Cr UP voters are likely to participate in the democratic process in 2014, which is 2 Cr more than the previous election.

UP Vote Share 2009In 2009, there was almost a 4-way split in UP, with BSP topping the heap and BJP ending at the bottom. Such a 4-way split is unlikely to occur this time around and what is more likely is that one or two parties may go on to dominate the electoral scene. The last time a single party dominated UP was in 1998, when BJP had got 2 Cr plus votes in the state with a total turnover of 5.65 Cr. In the 2014 elections two possible scenarios can unfold based on a projected turnout of 7.5 Cr – A] two parties (formations) can split amongst themselves roughly 5 Cr votes in an almost bipolar contest or B] a single political party can emerge as a big winner (like in 1998) with close to 3 Cr votes. As of today a 3-way split looks unlikely and 4-way split can almost be ruled out.

UP quadrilateral

In order to clearly establish the vote pathway, we have to use the UP electoral quadrilateral, which is essentially made up of the 4 important factors on which the state is likely to vote in 2014. This overall vote pattern of UP has not been subdivided into sub-regional or district wise categories in order to get a pan-UP picture. There could be various sub-regional distortions to this broad picture but most of them would cancel each other out. A deeper divisional level analysis of each of the 80 LS seats would be presented later in the run-up to 2014 here at 5Forty3.

The Caste-Vote Matrix

UP Caste MatrixThis is the new Verna classification of Uttar Pradesh’s modern day Electoral Vedic Dharma. The 5 modern Vernas/classes are divided as Upper Castes, OBCs, SC, Muslim and Others (Others include, Scheduled Tribes, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs etc.). The first four bigger ethnic groups are of political significance, whereas the smaller and more fragmented group of “Others” is of no practical importance in the overall scenario. For any political party to succeed in the electoral arena of this most populous state, it is of vital importance to get the major backing of one of these 4 groups – The Primary Vote – and also the minor backing of at least one or two of the remaining three ethnic groups – The Secondary Vote. For example: The Primary Vote of BSP was SC and The Secondary Vote was that of Muslim and Upper-caste (Brahmins) in the 2007 election when the party won an almost unprecedented mandate in the state.

The Upper Caste Vote:

Upper Caste Votes UPThe Brahmin vote has seen a 3-way split in the last decade or so after Vajpayee’s exit from the political scene, when it has been broadly divided between BJP, Congress and BSP (although BJP has always got a bigger share). If Modi and BJP are serious about winning 2014 then the cultivation of core Brahmin voters is an absolute must for the party, especially now that Congress is almost out of the scene in UP and Mayawati has also moved on to other strategies. What is important to understand about the Brahmin vote is that it is a 65-35 vote, in the sense that 35% of the vote is for local factors (of which the most important aspect is the contesting candidate) and 65% of it is the larger state/national level vote wherein party affiliations matter. Congress and especially BSP have been successful in getting the Brahmin vote mainly because of the second 50% – giving tickets to Brahmins and appointing Brahmin leaders to key local positions.

The Thakur vote also follows the 50-50 formula of general party affiliation and local factors, but has been split mainly between BJP and SP in the last few election cycles, although the Congress party was also a minor claimant of the vote in the 2009 election. As of today, the tallest standing Thakur in UP is Rajnath Singh and it remains to be seen how well he can knit the Thakur vote around BJP without making debilitating compromises at the local level. The Thakur romance with SP seems to be more-or-less over in the present scenario, yet candidate selection could be crucial for all political parties.

The Bania and other UC vote will also prove to be crucial in about 7-8 MP seats and as of today BJP seems to be getting the largest chunk. On the whole, Upper Castes of UP are fairly widespread across the state and are an important segment of voters – which is unique to UP among all of the heartland.

The SC Vote:

Sc vote in UPRoughly 1 Cr plus Jatav votes have been the mainstay of Behenji in UP politics. The Jatav Vote is essentially a 80-20 vote, in the sense that 80% of the vote invariably goes to Mayawati and only about 20% of it is dependent on local factors such as candidate selection. Although there are some signs of even Jatavs shifting to BJP in a polarized West-UP polity, overall this is a fortress that is unlikely to be breached anytime soon. The only problem for Mayawati is that the Jatav vote is widespread across the state and therefore doesn’t have the ability to convert votes to seats, so she needs additional votes to augment her core vote.

Pasi Vote is more of a 60-40 vote now, wherein 60% is affiliated to BSP; after the 12 year vanvas of RK Choudhary has ended with his return to the party fold; and 40% is dependent on local factors. Other groups of SC vote are essentially 50-50 votes that give other parties a chance to poach a section of the SC vote through localized realignments. Dhobis, Koris and Gonds (about 25 lakhs) are generally wooed by the Congress party, while Balmikis and Khatiks (about 12 lakhs) are more favourably inclined towards BJP. In a more polarized atmosphere, as seen in West-UP, sections of Dalit vote can also potentially shift towards BJP as it so happened in the early 90s.

The OBC Vote

OBC Vote in UPDespite being the largest ethnic grouping of all, OBC vote is a highly fragmented entity and gets splintered widely among different political formations. Yadavs form the largest block of the OBC vote and also are the most politically powerful with their 70-30 vote in favor of the Samajwadi Party. Only about 30% of the Yadav vote can be moved along local factors by other parties. The second largest grouping is that of Kushwahas who have begun to realize their political importance only lately. Kushwaha vote is generally a 20-80 vote, wherein 80% of the vote usually gets splintered along local fault-lines. If BJP’s recent efforts bear fruit and the party is able to bring the various subgroups (Kachhi, Murao, Koiri etc.) together, then 2014 would be almost the first time when Kushwahas would have played such an important political role, apart from 2007 when they generally voted for Maya.

The Kurmi vote has been a 40-60 vote in the recent past – 40% voting for Congress and 60% voting along localized alignments. With the decline of the Congress party in 2014, the Kurmi vote is up for grabs and both SP & BJP are eying this group with interest. As of today, the Jat, Lodh, Teli, Gujjar and Gadderiya vote is solidly behind BJP with an overall 65-35 inclination. The rest of the OBC vote is also significant and with Modi as the mascot, BJP would be vying with SP to woo these sections.

The Muslim Vote

Muslim VoteThis is possibly the biggest monolith of all the votes of UP, for close to 90% of the Muslim vote would be anti-BJP in nature. It has been divided neatly into 4 parts, which are not essentially antagonistic to each other; for instance, a vote for SP based on local loyalties can also be a defeat-NaMo vote and vice-versa. This is possibly the biggest burden that the Muslim voter of UP carries on his shoulder, for he thinks that it is his responsibility to prevent Modi from becoming the next PM of India.

The Women Vote

There are roughly 6 Cr women voters in UP today and as is the trend these days (including in UP 2012), the female voters are likely to out-vote men by about 2 percentage points, which means about 3 Cr 40 lakh women voters are projected to exercise their franchise in the next general election. In India, women have never been treated as a solid voting bloc, but now there is a definite divergence emerging in the female voting pattern (for a detailed analysis read https://5forty3.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/the-heartland-secrets-what-women-want/ ). Most political parties are either unaware or just do not have the wherewithal to understand the evolution of the women vote which is changing rapidly with each passing day.

Gender Vote weightage in UPIn Uttar Pradesh, 1 Cr 13 lakh more women participated in the election process in 2012 as compared to 2009, while the number of corresponding men voters increased only by 92 lakhs. The relative weightage of women voters increased by 4 percentage points from 2009 to 2012 – it was 42% in 2009 and 46% in 2012. That means 4% more women voters were able to decide electoral outcomes in the state in 3 years’ time.

Women voters tend to vote for better governance and stability and are relatively less corruptible therefore not influenced by last minute inducements (one of the primary last minute inducement for male voters is alcohol, which is almost overwhelmingly gender specific). In 2012, women voter turnout was 2 percentage points higher than men and most of them voted for a young Akhilesh Yadav in the hope that he would give better governance, but that mandate has been totally misread by the Samajwadis. Similarly in the 2009 LS polls, in the 21 LS seats that the Congress party won in UP, women voter turnout was a good 1 percentage point higher than the state average, which suggests that the women voted for Congress in the hope of a stable, performing government at the centre. Unfortunately, the women of UP have been betrayed twice and are waiting silently for their vengeance in 2014.

As per our calculations based on field studies, past poll surveys by CSDS and past electoral data of gender vote divergence, roughly 15% women voters have differing choices as compared to their corresponding male counterparts in Uttar Pradesh. This divergence is seen to be sharper in small towns and villages as compared to cities and also more prominent among lower economic strata as compared to middle class (a detailed study of different states will be presented later in the run-up to 2014). Overall heartland trends suggest that 7% more women voters make their electoral choices based on day-to-day inflation, 2% based on gender issues, 2% for stability and 4% for other smaller factors. Thus with 15% gender divergence vote, women voters of UP form a solid block of 50 lakh possible votes of a projected 3 Cr 40 lakh turnover in 2014 which cannot and should not be ignored by any political party.

Governance Vote

Indian electoral history can be divided into 5 broad cycles;

Systems

2013 marked the advent of the development model of governance in India. Cutting across gender, caste, religion and sub-regional fault-lines is the governance vote which is gaining increasing importance in India. The value of the governance vote has tremendously increased in the last decade, which is the primary reason for various state governments being voted back to power. This is also a unique feature of North India, where state governments from Bihar to MP to Chhattisgarh to Haryana have all been continuously rewarded for good governance, whereas the south Indian polity is relatively more anti-incumbent in nature (Karnataka, Kerala TN and Goa being prime examples).

Many political parties are yet to come to terms with this new phenomenon of good governance vote. The old system of minimum payoff to the voters in return for their vote in the form of welfare schemes, reservations or even stability is dead now. The payoffs for voters have increased by leaps and bounds, for they now demand 24/7 power, better surface transport avenues and connectivity etc. It is not just SP or Congress, but even newer political parties like AAP have misunderstood their mandates from people and are busy providing welfare instead of governance.

In the entire North India, Uttar Pradesh is the only large state which has not had a single party rule in the last two election cycles (apart from Rajasthan and Jharkhand). Furthermore, UP has seen six different forms of governments (including president’s rule) since the dawn of the new millennium – a record only equaled by the highly fragile state of Jharkhand. Thus there is a powerful governance vote in UP which has been experimenting with different political entities in the last few years. This hunger for better governance in UP is so strong that the UP voter has flirted with 4 different poles in the last 4 large statewide elections – 2007 VS polls with BSP, 2009 LS polls with Congress, 2012 VS polls with SP and 2012 local body elections with BJP.

Thus now we have a new variable in the traditional vote-matrix of India known as governance vote (apart from caste, political affiliation, region, economic status etc.). Although it is difficult to quantify this new variable as of now without a robust survey of the present day Uttar Pradesh, we are using the traditional classification and assigning it an overall value of 6% (which may be a very conservative estimate). Thus at 6% of the total projected turnout of 7.5 Cr would be roughly around 50 Lakh votes.

National Vote

This is one of the most underestimated vote of Uttar Pradesh, a state that has traditionally played an important role in the national political movement. The UP voter has always prided his primacy in shaping central governments. But since the last two decades UP hasn’t played a meaningful role in the national polity and that has made the UP voter restless. This was in fact one of the lesser understood reasons of the 2009 vote for the Congress party.

Faizabad Cong PerformanceThe 2009 national vote was UP’s flirtation with the Congress party, when suddenly out of nowhere party candidates got votes despite little organizational support on the ground. For instance, take the case of Faizabad, where Congress emerged on top in 4 out of 5 assembly segments in the 2009 LS polls, but could not win even a single assembly seat in 2012 and even managed to finish in the 4th position behind BJP in 3 out of 5 seats in 2012 (even in Dariyabad, where Congress got more votes in 2012 than in 2009, the party was a distant 3rd behind SP and BSP). This pattern is visible across the state when we compare the performance of the party in 2009 to 2012. In fact, the national vote has further consolidated in the last 4-5 years and there is an even bigger presence in 2014.

Unlike other variables like caste or women vote, the national vote is not an independent block but instead is an appendage of those variables. For instance, any political party, like say Congress in 2009 getting 80 thousand Kurmi votes in Gonda LS seat would have accrued an additional 16000 Kurmi votes (20%) as the national vote appendage. This gives the frontrunner political party a unique 20% advantage in the LS polls – which is what Congress enjoyed to a certain extent in 2009 and BJP hopes to accrue with a much wider base in 2014 through an aggressive NaMo campaign in the state. The other component of the national vote is the Muslim strategic vote (as shown in the pie chart above) which runs as a counterbalance to the dominant party (BJP) in 2014 unlike 2009.

The three Vote Pathways of Uttar Pradesh 2014

Based on all the variables discussed in this paper, three possible Vote Pathways are envisaged for Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 LS polls.

Vote Pathway 01 – The least resistant pathway

Pathway 01

[Ex: Total Thakur Vote = 80 lakhs, but our field studies have shown that Thakur voter turnout is 5-6% lower than the total state average (projected at 55% in 2014), so roughly 40 Lakh Thakurs are likely to vote in 2014. Assuming that Thakurs are 50-50 voters (50% party affiliations and 50% based on local factors), then BJP would get the biggest chunk of the general vote = 15 Lakhs. If BJP then gets its ticket distribution aspect right, it also gets 12 Lakh localized votes of Thakurs.]

  • This is the most likely path that BJP and Modi are attempting to take in UP, having met with resounding success in the neighbouring states of the Heartland in the recently concluded assembly elections – uniting the entire spectrum of Hindu Vote
  • This pathway encounters the least resistance as it even envisages an opposition alliance (between Cong and BSP or SP) and yet emerges victorious; the only possible roadblock in this model is of localized nature wherein if the party totally bungles up ticket distribution, then it may end up losing a big chunk of the local goodwill
  • This pathway is likely to produce stunning results for the party (of the 90s vintage) – BJP may win 50+ parliamentary seats while all other parties may have to scramble to take a dip into the remaining seats. This stunning performance of BJP is also mainly because the seat conversion ratio of this model is very high as it is spread optimally in about 300 assembly segments of 66-69 LS seats only.

Vote Pathway 02 – The midway

Pathway 02

[Ex: If 50% Jatavs turnout to vote in 2014 (field studies still show Jatav fatigue and 4-5% lower participation than state average turnout of 55%), then 80% of that vote would blindly go to Mayawati so 52 lakh Jatavs would have voted for BSP. The localized Jatav vote is accrued to other parties more (mainly BJP in 2014) as Jatav/SC candidates also contest from other parties in reserved seats]

  • This is the Midway path which is the optimum performance level of BSP (with or without a Congress alliance), wherein the party gets the biggest chunk of the general Muslim vote as Muslims of UP seem to have decided that Maya has the best chance of defeating Modi
  • The biggest problem with this model is that it is spread thin, covering almost all the 404 assembly segments of 80 parliamentary constituencies of Uttar Pradesh and therefore the seat conversion ratio could be lower.
  • BSP may end up with 35+ seat tally with this pathway, while BJP may get 25+ and other parties may share the remaining seats

Vote Pathway 03 – The most resistant pathway

Pathway 03

[Ex: The national vote for Samajwadis would be very limited in this election as the UP voter neither expects nor wants Mulayam Singh to have any role at the centre, therefore only 4% added vote-share]

  • This is the pathway that is most unlikely due to the horribly bad governance of  the Akhilesh Yadav dispensation and is totally dependent on Yadavs and a section of Muslims who may yet prop up the party (for example SC vote will simply never accrue to the party even in reserved constituencies in 2014).
  • SP still has tremendous hold over localized Muslim vote due to mid-level Muslim leadership and the favorable intellectual ecosystem – for instance, despite all the Muzaffarnagar shenanigans, SP still gets mostly good-press in the Urdu newspapers.
  • This model essentially produces a 2009 like result with the top 3 contenders all getting about 25 LS seats

Congress is going to be virtually absent in Uttar Pradesh this time around (even in family pocket boroughs), unless the party forms alliance with either SP or BSP. We will revisit these models if and when Congress is able to announce alliances, till then the party is virtually in the dark ages.

{This quasi-research paper is a result of hundreds of field studies, demographic tests, survey analysis conducted over many years by the author and also the result of thousands of man hours spent analyzing the voter rolls of Uttar Pradesh. The author takes responsibility for most numbers quoted in the piece which have been mostly rounded off for easy usage}


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The 2014 Electoral Map of India Part 2: Projections

In India, people are always found quoting anecdotes from their maids, taxi drivers, autowallahs et al. regarding the political wind blowing in the country. Often we are left wondering as to how such random anecdotes can hold any significance in a country of 1.25 billion people, for surely there should be an equal number of people who must be saying the exact opposite thing? Yet, there is innate wisdom in these random voices that we hear from time to time as this author has discovered in his various travels across this country. Indeed, if we dig the literature of the late 70s and the JP movement, we find that reams and reams of newspaper columns, books, analysis pieces, etc. have all used these localized voices to understand the impact of the JP movement against a deeply entrenched Congress establishment.

Of course, a lot of water has flown in the Yamuna since then and these days we have powerful tools like poll surveys with controlled sample sizes, which invariably fail time and again. 5Forty3 decided to glorify the anecdotal format of poll survey by creating a mathematical model out of chaos.

  1. The first step in that process was to create a level of sophistication in data collection in order to avoid the almost impossible task of reaching out to all the voices of different people in the ground. The best way to do that is to get information from those who listen to these voices in the ground – local journalists, political workers, activists etc. – and collate them together.
  2. The second step was to get specific inputs on MP seats of a particular state from these data collection points. For this we created a list of MPs of that particular state or region along with the 2009 vote tally of each party and requested specific inputs for 2014.
  3. The third step was to allocate weightage and create a mathematical model to remove whipsaws to arrive at the final set of numbers.

We started what is possibly the largest exercise and greatest electoral experiment of our times with an ambition of achieving a target of 1000+ respondents, but were able to achieve only about 70% of that as we got responses from 726 nodes from 22 states across India! (In the North East, we got responses only from Assam and also we didn’t get any responses from Goa). This exercise was conducted in two phases; phase 1, from November 8th to November 27th, for the 4 states of MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi along with the state elections. The second phase from December 12th to January 6th (2014) across the rest of India (adequate care was taken not to include armchair pundits of the Twitter variety who keep throwing numbers every passing day and instead localized voices were given preference).

Roughly 50% of the responses were recorded through telephonic interviews (more than 600MB of recorded conversational responses), which goes on to show how the ubiquitous mobile phone has become the most important tool of information collection from the remotest parts of India. About 25% of the responses were received through emails and 15% through the snail-mail. Only about 10% of the respondents were contacted directly in person for a detailed interview. Although a fairly large sample size was achieved, it was skewed along different zones of India. For instance, we got a whopping 66 responses from Uttar Pradesh, but only 3 from states like Orissa and Kerala.

This exercise was not limited to neutral voices of journalists or activists, but also frank assessments from partisan voices too, spanning the entire political spectrum though; for instance a lifelong Sharad Pawar acolyte and NCP leader from Kolhapur, a sitting Congress MLA from Karnataka, an ex MLA of SP from West UP and a young BJP leader from UP closely related to a former CM were all part of this exercise.

The mathematical model was based on these four fundamental principles;

  • Each tick for a particular party for a particular MP seat gets points which cancel each other out when different responses vary in preferences for the said MP seat
  • Neutral voices generally get higher points than party workers and activists with political leanings.
  • In particular cases, neutral voices get higher weightage than those having particular political leanings; for instance, if a BJP leaning respondent allocates a particular MP seat to BJP then that would get 1 point, but if a local journalist also allocates that particular MP seat to BJP, then it would fetch 3 points.
  • Thumb rule of opposition voices getting higher values. For instance, in particular cases where a BJP worker allocates a particular MP seat to say Samajwadi Party, that fetches a 5 point advantage to SP in that seat.

A large number of responses have indicated that these preferences would change based on candidate selection, so at best these can be termed as “preliminary responses” based on political parties (also received fairly large number of responses which suggest particular candidates for particular political parties in particular MP seats).  We have also made certain presumptions before conducting this exercise which may change eventually; for ex: BSY’s KJP has been included as part of the BJP in Karnataka, RJD & LJP have been included as part of UPA in Bihar & Jharkhand and MNS is considered as part of NDA in Maharashtra.

Based on these 726 responses from 22 states of India, 5Forty3 has further divided the 3 zones of the electoral map of India into 7 territories. These are our first round of projections for India along these 7 territories for 2014 and we hope to expand the scope and size of this exercise in the run-up to the general elections, provided we can afford to allocate the resources and time.

East India

East India Prjections InputStarting this seat projection exercise from the East which is divided into two territories, 1 & 2 – while 1 includes the seven sisters of North East, 2 is made up of the two big states of East, West Bengal and Orissa. The one common thread binding all the states of East India is political status-quo, for governments rarely ever get changed in decades.

Territory 1:

Apart from Assam, 5Forty3 hasn’t received any inputs from the other North-Eastern states, but the projections are based on mainly past performances of the parties; for instance, in the 2 MP seats of Tripura, CPM has consistently won by huge margins (the margins of 2009 ranged from 1.5 lakhs to 3 lakhs), which are unlikely to be reversed even in 2014. There are also a few battleground seats like Arunachal West, where the BJP had lost 2009 just by a few hundred votes. The lone NDA seat comes from NPP (Naga People’s Front) which it has won by a whopping 5 lakh votes in 2009. If NCP of Sangma joins the NDA, then the tally may increase substantially.

The three seats that BJP is expected to win come from Assam where there seems to be a polarized atmosphere due to the long standing Bangladeshi refugee issue. AGP as part of NDA is not expected to perform well and is ahead in just one seat. The fourth front is mainly made up of AUDF here, and there are 10 battleground seats.

Territory 2:

The Fourth Front of Trinamool Congress is expected to sweep West Bengal by a big margin as per all inputs from the state, wherein barring a few seats the Left Front may not put up a fight against Mamata Didi. Congress is facing near decimation in WB and may cease to exist in the state after the 2014 polls. In the neighboring Orissa though the situation is changing slightly; there seems to be a new mobilization of Adivasi and Dalit votes in this state in favor of the Congress which is seen as a continuing experiment from Bastar and Sarguja of the neighboring Chhattisgarh, where Congress performed surprisingly well in the just concluded assembly elections. If the initial reports from the ground and various inputs received are any indication then the Patnaik government of BJD is heading for a difficult election ahead. Largely due to the Orissa conundrum there are 19 battleground MP seats in this otherwise straightforward territory.

Southern Hemisphere

Southern Hemisphere Projections InputTerritory 3 is made up of the four southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The common thread among these states are regional fiefdoms of different political formations and multi-cornered fights almost everywhere. Territory 4 is relatively stable with Karnataka and Goa having a direct fight between Congress & BJP and Maharashtra witnessing a battle between UPA and NDA.

Territory 3:

Just like Mamata Didi in WB, Amma is sweeping TN and the only political force that might actually stop her from winning all the seats is not the DMK led alliance or Congress but a possible NDA alliance of BJP, PMK, MDMK and the Kongu parties. If Captain Vijayakant joins the NDA then it could be even more formidable in more than a dozen seats. In AP everything is in a flux, but two factors will determine the eventual outcome; 1) Congress’s ability to create Telanagana before the end of the present Lok Sabha and then to leverage the issue in the elections favorably and 2) The proposed TDP-BJP alliance and its ability to become the dominant narrative to push an emerging Jagan to the corner. As of today a vast number of seats in this state are in the battleground category. In Kerala, as per all our inputs, the left-front is ahead as of now, but surprisingly BJP, if it performs well here, may end up helping the Congress alliance by dividing Hindu votes

Territory 4:

In Maharashtra NDA’s performance is directly proportional to local level compromises with MNS and inversely proportional to local level understandings with Sharad Pawar, for it is a well-known fact that both SS and BJP do have tactical understanding with Pawar and other powerful leaders of Congress and NCP in this state. As of today BJP-SS is ahead in the race. Karnataka, the one state where Congress was supposed to pick-up a rich haul of MPs is slowly but surely slipping out of the party’s hands and Siddramaiah is proving to be the Akhilesh Yadav of South India in terms of inculcating anti-incumbency at such a breakneck speed. BJP’s performance in the state depends on how hard BSY campaigns.

Heartland Zone:

It is divided into three Territories.

Heartland Projections Input

Territory 5:

It is essentially the East Punjab region where the contest is mostly between UPA-Congress and NDA-BJP. This was possibly the weakest link of BJP’s North Indian armada, but is fast turning into a happy hunting ground due to the unfolding political alignments of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. In Haryana the Jat vote is so heavily favoring the BJP that the party has decided to not form an alliance with the Chauthalas. In Punjab, Congress party is totally divided and may draw a naught this time. In Himachal Pradesh, with big corruption allegations against Virbhadra Singh, BJP is regaining the upper hand.

Territory 6:

As of today, BJP is the party to beat in Uttar Pradesh and even local SP and BSP leaders have given it far more seats than their own parties in our surveys. The big challenge now for the party is to get the local candidates right and to avoid internal sabotages. The one worrying aspect for BJP is that the local unit seems to be too busy in organizing Modi public rallies and not concentrating on polling booth level membership drive. SP seems to be out of race as of now and the contest is mainly between BJP and BSP. The one imponderable X factor in UP could be the alliance that Congress may formulate in the coming days.

In Bihar, the RJD-LJP-Congress alliance will be the leading force in a three-way fight and JDU may lose a large chunk of its vote-share. In Jharkhand, it is an extremely fragmented polity and BJP may benefit in a multi-cornered fight. Whereas in Uttarakhand, like elsewhere in the heartland, Congress is on back-foot.

Territory 7:

Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh make up this last territory totally dominated by the BJP which is poised to limit the Congress to a single digit tally in these 92 MP seats. All other political forces including BSP and AAP are not in contention in this region and in a direct fight BJP is prevailing over Congress.

Summary:

  • The real story of 2014 could be Congress, for all the wrong reasons. It is facing a historic decimation and a double digit MP seats haul looks like a very real possibility
  • BJP’s lead over Congress is huge as of now (135-59) and the only way that BJP can be stopped in 2014 is by a huge “secular” alliance (which looks unlikely).
  • Of the 180 Battleground seats, BJP is a strong contender in about 120 and is therefore poised to cross the 200 mark, whereas Congress is a strong contender only in about 50 odd seats which has put the party in a very vulnerable position
  • Although a dangerously fractured mandate is still possible, the third and fourth fronts are severely handicapped in North India which has made it BJP’s election to lose.

Broom Impact 2014

These days one of the favorite topics of debate in the TV studios is the impact of AAP on the LS polls. Many columnists have written astounding articles on how AAP would win a large number of urban LS seats and have even alluded to the possibility of Kejriwal being the next Prime Minister. This author himself gets inundated everyday on Twitter with questions about the possible impact of AAP on the next general elections. Thus an attempt has to be made to analyze this phenomenon, despite of electoral improbabilities (if you would have noticed, the 5Forty3 projections above have allocated 1 MP seat in all of 543 to AAP).

One possible theory doing the rounds among the armchair election analysts of Dilli is that AAP will have enough firepower in large number of urban seats to upset the Modi applecart of 2014. This theory has found so much of currency that a fairly large number of Congress enthusiasts and strategists also seem to be betting on this heavily. Is it really possible for AAP to do to India in 2014 what it did to Delhi in 2013? Before trying to answer that question in electoral terms, first let us examine the 6 obstacles that Kejriwal and co face in the run up to 2014;

  1. By aligning with the Congress party, Kejriwal stands in danger of foregoing the raison d’etre of AAP – the anti-corruption platform on which it was built and got all the nascent support. This issue may be swept under the carpet by an obliging Dilli media for the time being, but voter intelligence is always one step ahead of political punditry as has been proven for hundreds of times in the past.
  2. Lack of a governance model: The one glaring gap in the AAP armoury is the lack of a governance model, for they are very good at agitational politics but simply lack the skills to govern. This governance gap will become more and more apparent with each passing day as the greenhorn MLAs and Ministers of AAP try to rule the city state of Delhi
  3. Kejriwal’s inherent lack of ability to sustain any activity: This is a unique Kejriwal trait, for he is always seen to move on from one agenda to the next without bothering to fulfil the original promise. Ideally, AAP should have tried to give a model government to Delhi for the next 5 years and then tried to emerge as a national alternative, but they simply seem to lack the will to fight a long hauled battle and want to quickly move on to the next big thing.
  4. Media is a double edged sword: This has been proven again and again in the last 2 weeks when even picking a residence for CM and ministers ended up in a big tamasha. If this tamasha continues for any longer then Dilliwalas can forget whatever little governance they were expecting from a supposedly common man’s government.
  5. Too many contradictions: As such civil society groupings are essentially amorphous in nature, they create too many contradictions, especially now that AAP is trying to build a federated structure of civil society all over the place. For instance, a Prashant Bhushan advocating Kashmir policy could prove to be a death knell for a party that depends on urban middle class votes as its core constituency
  6. Unsustainable Volunteerism: Finding volunteers for a movement is a one-off event and can rarely be sustained for longer periods of time. What happened in Delhi elections cannot be repeated again with similar participation by volunteers – this was also witnessed in how the Anna Hazare movement fizzled out in late 2011.

If AAP and Kejriwal manage to break the shackles and still manage to sustain themselves up to May 2014 by crossing these 6 obstacles then they can possibly try and contest in a few of the urban pockets of India. Now let us try and analyze what probable impact would AAP have in such a scenario. This impact scenario can be divided into two parts;

A] In and around Delhi-NCR: Going by the assembly election result, AAP can be a strong contender in 3 LS seats – New Delhi, Chandni Chowk and East Delhi, but will the voters have same faith in the party for national elections is a moot question. Even otherwise, winning assembly elections with low margins on localized issues of corruption and governance is far easier than trying to position yourself as a national alternative. The one positive aspect could be that a hitherto doubtful fence-sitting voter may have more incentive now for a real alternative.

Delhi MapOne aspect that has been less discussed is that AAP’s performance drastically deteriorates as the geography of a constituency increases – a typical malaise of lack of workers and cadre who can sustain a political campaign in a wider geography. Thus most of AAP’s wins in Delhi assembly were limited to smaller inner constituencies whereas in the peripheral areas of Delhi it struggled. This is why AAP will find it even more difficult to perform in the adjoining areas of Haryana and West-UP as has been suggested by the easy analysis of various commentators.

In both Haryana and West-UP, the Jat vote plays a crucial deciding role and AAP will not find it easy to break into this with its broom act of anti-corruption crusade. Additionally, there is a communally polarized atmosphere in Western Uttar Pradesh in the wake of Muzaffarnagar riots and the AAP brand of politics will have very few takers in this region (the suggestion that Muslim voters may tilt towards AAP to defeat BJP is nothing but hilarious).

GhaziabadFor instance, Let us consider Ghaziabad LS seat which apart from being home to Arvind Kejriwal is also among the two MP constituencies along with Noida where AAP is supposed to have some traction in the May general elections. Of the 5 assembly segments that make up Ghaziabad, 2 are situated deep into Uttar Pradesh and three are adjoining the Delhi-NCR region – Ghaziabad, Loni and Sahibabad. For all practical purposes, AAP has to win at least two of these three assembly segments to have any realistic chance of putting up a fight in Ghaziabad, for it may find it difficult to make inroads in the other 2 assembly segments. Now consider this, Seelampur and Shadara are two assembly segments of Delhi that are right next to Loni assembly segment of Ghaziabad and in both these seats AAP either finished a distant 3rd or 4th.

So let alone making inroads into west-UP or Haryana, AAP may find it difficult to even put up a fight in the LS seats adjoining NCR. It will be an uphill task to bring in voters and convince them to vote for AAP in a national election because voters typically don’t like to waste their votes. At best AAP can try to amalgamate the non-dominant votes that are accrued by smaller parties and independents (In fact, AAP cut into BSP Vote-Share the most in Delhi assembly elections because it was easier to convince those voters than mainstream voters).

B] Rest of India: In the Heartland zone, outside Delhi-NCR, AAP is a nonstarter as it is unlikely to have any impact even in the urban centres of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh or Uttar Pradesh where caste-equations and well-entrenched political affiliations won’t be broken in a hurry. The other major impact of AAP is supposed to be in Southern Hemisphere – more specifically in the urban centres of Maharashtra (mainly Mumbai-Pune region) and Bangalore, for AAP can hardly have any effect on Dravidian politics of Tamil Nadu or on the Telangana imbroglio of Hyderabad.

Mumbai NorthLet us take the case of Mumbai; the two big names of AAP in Mumbai are in North Mumbai where Mayank Gandhi is expected to contest and South Mumbai where Meera Sanyal will be the AAP candidate. The fact of the matter is that in both these seats the Shiv-Sena-BJP vote will remain intact and will be broken only by MNS as seen in 2009. For instance if Mayank Gandhi manages to get an unlikely 75 thousand votes, then almost all of that vote would have come from Sanjay Nirupam’s (Congress) kitty of migrant North Indian labours, thereby helping BJP indirectly (Congress had barely managed to win this seat by less than 6k votes in 2009 despite MNS securing 1.5 lakh votes). Similar would be the case of Bangalore where Congress is hoping to win some seats this time around. Thus if at all AAP makes a foray south of Vindhyas, it is more likely to hurt Congress chances than BJP’s.

As for East India, AAP neither exists there, nor does it have an opportunity to spread for the foreseeable future. AAP may yet win a MP seat here or there in the 2014 LS election due to strong local candidate in multi-cornered fights, but to suggest that it would have a large-scale impact on urban LS seats is nothing but a pipedream.