Five Forty Three

Revolutionizing Indian Election Analysis


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Frontrunner advantage and the importance of Western Uttar Pradesh

There is a strange commonality of stand taken by various political parties occupying the Left-secular space regarding a ban on opinion polls during elections this time. One of the reasons given by these parties is that poll surveys affect the voters, especially because all polls have a consensus about BJP being in command position.

Another factor that we constantly hear among psephological circles is what is termed as “winner takes it all” or “the frontrunner advantage”, wherein we are told time and again that voters tend to consolidate with the frontrunner party closer to elections. For instance, in UP 2012 assembly elections, SP was a frontrunner in the run up to the election, but was projected to be well short of a majority by many opinion polls. By the time we moved from opinion polls to exit polls, we were able to see that SP was enjoying the fruits of the “frontrunner advantage” and had ended up winning a comfortable majority. Similar trends have always been seen in almost all the elections (for ex: Tamil Nadu 2010, Bihar 2011 Karnataka 2013 or even the last general elections of 2009 when Congress consolidated beyond its own expectations and won 200+ seats after 18 years).

Is there any truth in this correlation about voters wanting to vote for winners? Have Indian voters, especially the fence-sitters, always voted along these lines, with considerable shift towards the front-running parties in actual elections?

At the outset this looks like a dubious electoral theory, of fence-sitters wanting to vote for a winning party, as if in a collective trance of some sorts. It may also smack of being a suspected retrospective analytical theory wherein we try to ascribe motives to voter’s choice to explain the strength of victory which was not visible on ground in the run-up to a poll. How can we hope to realistically explain this vote-shift during/closer to elections?

The primary X factor is actually the enthusiasm of the cadre, a phenomenon that most pundits miss. The reason why frontrunners consolidate further in actual elections is that party workers, local leaders and cadre of the said party are enthused by favourable ground situation and work towards attracting the fence-sitters, whereas the opposite is true of the party workers of the other parties which are perceived to have unfavourable ground conditions in the run-up to the election. This X factor is further enhanced in elections with multiple phases. This is what makes 2014 such a dangerous election for Congress and to some extent many of the regional parties of heartland.

The Election Commission of India, in its wisdom has decided to have a 5 phased election in the most crucial Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and what has come as a stroke of good luck for the BJP is that western UP would be the first to go to polls. Among all the geographies that go to polls in the first 10 days (7th April to 17th April), western UP would be the most crucial segment that may well decide the eventual fate of 2014.

What many analysts from Dilli don’t understand is the speed of the political message that travels among cadre, which has far more power than opinion polls or editorials. If BJP manages to sweep west-UP, as was being projected in the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar owing to polarization, then the cadre and party workers of other parties would be hugely demoralized going into the next phases of election. Can BJP really sweep western-UP? Have the other parties, especially Congress-RLD alliance, been able to stem the BJP flow in the last few weeks? Answers to these questions will add crucial bits of information to our understanding of 2014.

The Jat-Muslim polarization

One of the primary factors that is clearly visible in West-UP is tremendous anger of the Jat youth, who are fed-up with the Ajit Singh style of politics and are baffled by the blatantly communal outreach of other parties like Congress, BSP and SP. Talk to a set of 10 young Jats anywhere in this region and you will most likely find at least 7 of them enthusiastically speak about Modi, such is the overwhelming support that BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate elucidates among the Jat youth. Will this actually convert into BJP winning overwhelming number of seats depends on three factors;

  1. BJP’s ticket distribution has been generally received with enthusiasm among the Jats, unlike what is being reported in the media, although there are minor disappointments here and there. Will these minor disappointments prevent a BJP sweep remains to be seen
  2. Although youth support is mostly unanimous, the older generation of Jats are still seen to be traditional RLD voters and the ability of the youth to convince their elders into making that shift could be crucial for the BJP
  3. Contrary to editorial perceptions, last minute Jat reservation by the UPA government is a non-starter, as its primary target, the Jat youth aren’t enamoured by this tokenism. Yet, it will be interesting to see how much Ajit Singh and RLD are able to sell the Jat reservation issue to the voting public over the next week or two.

If there are 24 to 27 lakh Jat voters in west-UP, there are almost 45-50 lakh Muslim voters. The problem with Muslim vote is that it is essentially a negative vote against Modi which no party has been able to convert into a positive vote for themselves in 2014. Thus, as of today, Muslim vote is getting divided almost in a three-way split. Samajwadi Party which till only last month had the liability of Muzaffarnagar hanging around its neck, seems to have overcome that because of its strong tier 2 and tier 3 Muslim leadership who have somehow managed to convince large sections of the riot-affected Muslim society that SP had no role to play in the mishandling of riots. Even the local Urdu press has been largely positive about the state SP government.

Congress, which has been largely written off for 2014, surprisingly has a few takers mainly among Muslim voters here, whereas BSP, even more surprisingly, is now placed in the third place within the Muslim voters mindspace. In the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar, it was widely speculated that BSP would be the big beneficiary of Muslim vote due to Congress being out of race and SP suffering from the riot taint. Unfortunately for Maya two factors seem to have gone against her; A] the perception of Muslim intelligentsia and leadership that Maya may align with BJP after elections, of which she has a history and which is always highlighted by Mulayam who projects himself as the only man who can stop Modi and B] A section of Muslim leadership still believes that Congress is the only national alternative for BJP.

This split in Muslim vote is best explained with an example. Rampur, which has almost 50% Muslim population will see a four-cornered fight this time, with Congress, SP and BSP all pitting Muslim candidates and BJP wisely deciding against fielding Muqtar Abbas Naqvi and instead nominating MLC Naipal Singh. This was a seat which Jayaprada had won twice, despite Congress nominating the local Muslim royalty in the form of Noor Bano and Azam Khan opposing her in 2009. This time too, Azam Khan is trying hard to polarize Muslim voters in favour of SP, while Congress has given ticket to Noor Bano’s son and BSP is desperate to create a Dalit-Muslim coalition. Lodh voters with roughly 1 lakh plus strength are the single biggest subset of the Hindu vote and are solidly voting for the BJP since Kalyan Singh is enthusiastically canvassing for BJP. Kurmis who account for roughly 60k votes forming the second biggest subset of the Hindu vote are also very favourably disposed towards BJP, especially after Apna Dal joined the NDA. Even among other OBCs (roughly 3 lakh plus voters in all) and Thakur Bania voters (about 75k in total), there is discernible polarization in favour of the BJP. Thus, despite being a Muslim majority MP constituency, Rampur will likely see a BJP upper hand in 2014.

Rampur

This story keeps repeating everywhere in western UP, which has made the Muslims very unsure of which way to vote. For instance, in Kairana, where BJP has nominated its tallest Gujjar leader of the region, Hukum Singh (the sitting MLA), SP has nominated Nahid Hussain whose uncle Kunwar Hussain is the BSP candidate, again leading to a split in the Muslim votes. Similarly, in Saharanpur, if Congress candidate is the nephew of former MP Rashid Masood, the infamous Imran Masood of the “chop Modi infamy”, SP candidate is Shadaan Masood, the son of Rashid Masood. Thus in a communally charged atmosphere, BJP MLA Raghav Lakhan Pal is expected to easily sail through from here.

Development politics at centre stage

Rampur is a great example of how a combination of development politics and the electoral non-viability of Muslim vote is at the heart of the new BJP that has emerged under Modi. Rampur was a seat that BJP could only win once in the last 5 elections with a wafer thin margin of 0.6% in 1998 and that too only by fielding a Muslim candidate (Naqvi), even when there was a wave in favour of the party all over UP. Today’s BJP is ahead in Rampur despite fielding a Hindu because today’s BJP is talking only about 24/7 bijlee or about the massive failure of state government in creating viable business models for the sugarcane farmers or about lack of jobs for the Jat youth outside the agricultural domain.

Indeed, Modi, in his speeches has always made it very clear that his agenda for 2014 doesn’t include Ayodhya or Mathura… even the Muzaffarnagar riots don’t find any mention in his speeches, despite pressure from cadre and supporters. This no nonsense approach to governance and development have endeared BJP to a large section of the floating vote which would have otherwise gone to SP/BSP.

This is essentially the defining factor of 2014, while the Hindu vote is in favour of the BJP, it is a positive vote for development, but the Muslim vote is nothing but a negative vote against Modi which is still stuck in a time-warp of old secular-communal paradigms. This is also the collective failure of the so called left leaning secular parties who have failed to create any positive narrative for the Muslim vote.

The turnout factor and current trends

It is widely expected that there could be a massive turnout by Muslim voters this time in western UP. Our own analysis suggests that Muslim voter turnout in this region could be in the range of 75 to 80%. RSS cadre are bracing themselves for an enormous exercise of mass mobilization to counter this Muslim turnout. If RSS succeeds in increasing the Hindu voter turnout to above 65%, then BJP will have a huge advantage over all other parties. In this battle of BJP v/s Muslims, other political parties seem to be suffering a major disadvantage.

As of today, out of the 21 seats from west-UP that are supposed to go to polls in the first two phases on 10th and 17th April, BJP is definitely ahead in 12 seats and may easily end up winning 15 parliamentary constituencies if this trend holds on till polling day. In order to understand the prevailing mood here, one must travel to Mathura and Baghpat, where the father-son duo of Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudhary are both trailing as per ground reports available till the 30th of March! Yes, two “outsiders”, former Mumbai top-cop, Satyapal Singh and the evergreen Bollywood Dream Girl, Hema Malini, are leading in Baghpat and Mathura respectively!

Such a great showing by the BJP would enthuse the party cadre tremendously going into the future phases of polls in UP, Bihar and the heartland, whereas other parties will find it difficult to keep the morale of its soldiers intact. We will, of course, know the detailed trends only on the 10th and 17th of April. We here at 5Forty3 would be doing a detailed scrutiny of the day’s polling trends on all the days of election with live data analysis at an interval of every two hours.

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The 1989 Advani Parallel for Modi in 2014

A major milestone of BJP’s history came about on September 25th 1989 when the party’s national executive met at the Shanmukhananda auditorium in Bombay. It was in the run-up to the 8th Lok Sabha elections that many opposition stalwarts and ideologues were trying to bring about an alliance between the BJP and the Janata Dal to oust the Bofors-tainted Rajiv Gandhi regime. The main stumbling block for such an alliance to fructify was V.P. Singh who had recently joined the Dal and was vehemently opposed to what he berated as a “communal party” (at least in public). One of the chief negotiators from the saffron camp for a broad opposition coalition was Bhaurao Deoras a genial RSS man who had friends cutting across party lines. Deoras suggested only seat sharing instead of an alliance as a solution to the vexed problem of lack of opposition unity.

A foxy V.P. Singh wanted seat sharing only in states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, but wanted to keep BJP out of the loop in the then undivided UP and Bihar which together accounted for as many as 140 MPs. He wanted to ride on BJP’s strength in Western India but was unwilling to forego Muslim voters in the heartland. Many in the saffron circles, still weary of a 1984 like result when BJP spectacularly under-performed by winning just 2 seats, were willing to make compromises of all kinds to stay politically relevant. In fact, it is quite well-known among the saffron camp followers that the top leadership of the Sangh and the still fledgling BJP were inclined to accept seat-sharing arrangement on V.P. Singh’s terms for the ostensible reason of defeating Rajiv Gandhi.

One man though stood strong on his ground, rejecting any purely opportunistic seat-sharing arrangement. He spoke thus in the Bombay national executive of September 1989, “If they come, with them; if they don’t, without them; and if they oppose us, in spite of them… irrespective of what the Janata Dal does, we are determined to get rid of this most incompetent and corrupt Rajiv Gandhi government”. He stuck to the principle of either a seat-sharing arrangement everywhere or nowhere.

Only one man possessed such clarity of thought in the initial years of the BJP, he was none other than Lal Krishna Advani, the then president of the party. His tough stance stood the party in good stead as BJP made a historic leap from 2 to 85 MPs in the 1989 elections. It was indeed a strange long jump seldom seen in democratic elections anywhere in the world, let alone in India. BJP had arrived on the national scene, and from that point in time of history, the party has never looked back.

BJP vs JD

Had Advani not stuck to his guns in 1989, BJP may well have suffered the fate of the Janata Dal which kept shrinking with each passing election even as BJP kept growing. Today Janata Dal does not exist, while BJP is the only national alternative to the Congress. But, unfortunately, the same Lal Krishna Advani who once conquered all the adversaries of the BJP with his clarity of thought, is today a confused soul. It was Advani who had articulated in the same Bombay session of 1989 that BJP believed in positive secularism, whereas Congress and other parties believed in vote secularism. He had then gone on to define positive secularism as “justice for all and appeasement to none”, a political philosophy that is the corner stone of Modi’s BJP in 2014!

Political philosophies are never prisoners of individual leaders, for age cannot wither them nor custom stale them. As today’s Modi speaks of “Constitution as the only holy book and India as the only religion”, the Advani of today sulks that his party is not as “inclusive” as it should be! As today’s Modi speaks of governance for all and appeasement for none, the Advani of today is more enamoured by the pseudo ideas of “inclusive growth” propagated by the likes of Nitish Kumar. As today’s Modi wants to take a decisive right turn in the economic trajectory of India, the Advani of today is all praise for socialist leaky cauldrons like NREGA. History has a strange sense of humour reserved for old men who refuse to gracefully accept their own ideas transforming into more viable political entities. History ridicules them as a petulant child who cries for his lost toy.

L.K. Advani’s spectacular achievements of the 1990s are indeed praiseworthy, but it must also be remembered that it was Advani who made it possible for the BJP to go below the 20% mark for the first time in two decades in 2009. When a party goes into the sub-20% vote-share region, its electoral significance gets reduced by a factor much larger than what is borne out by mere numbers, for seat conversions are almost halved in late teens as compared to early 20s. In simple terms, a party that goes into the sub-20% vote share is clearly on a path to national suicide!

20th PercentileBJP was in danger of going the Janata Dal way of disintegrating into many regional parties, but it has avoided that disaster almost at the last moment by reinventing itself. A large part of BJP’s reinvention has been brought about by one man alone, Narendrabhai Modi. As BJP is once again set to make a giant leap like it did in 1989, Advani and his cabal are proving to be the biggest hurdle. Today’s Advani probably believes that his own political ambitions are far greater than the political philosophy he has given birth to. What else explains his dramas every day and the deliberate attempts to sabotage the party’s chances by forcing wrong MP candidates at crucial levels? Let us do four simple case studies spread out in four different parts of India to understand this phenomenon of wrongful candidate selection;

Bidar (Karnataka): After long deliberations, BJP has fielded Bhagwant Khuba, a virtually unknown entity from this seat that is represented by former CM Dharam Singh of the Congress. It was widely speculated in Karnataka political circles that state unit of the BJP had sold out to Mr Singh who is virtually non-ambulant due to age related disorders. B.S. Yeddyurappa tried valiantly to put up a fight against Dharam Singh by nominating someone far more capable (Suryakant Nagamarpalli) but to no avail. The state unit of the BJP which sabotaged the chances of the party is extremely close to Advani.

Sonepat (Haryana): Any child in Sonepat will tell you that BJP had a great chance of winning this seat if it had nominated Pradeep Sangwan, but instead the ticket was given to a Brahmin Congressman who was even rejected by Congress in an assembly seat! That too in a totally Jat dominated seat with more than 5 lakh Jat votes where there are hardly 5k Brahmin voters. BJP’s ticket distribution in Haryana only points to one thing, that the party is averse to creating Jat leadership in the state to take on Hooda. With such support from BJP, CM Hooda is an extremely happy man today! Once again the Advani faction is said to be the sole culprit of this Haryana disaster.

Hoshiyarpur (Punjab): Phagwara MLA, Som Prakash was virtually believed to have won this seat this time on a BJP ticket (he had lost it narrowly by 366 votes in 2009), until the party interfered (read as Sushma Swaraj) to give ticket to a definite loser Vijay Sampla. It is believed that the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha virtually made it a prestige issue that Sampla be given the party ticket, lest she walked out of the CEC meeting. Does one need to point out the Advani connection?

Rajgarh (Madhya Pradesh): Try and ask BJP cadre here about Mr Rodmal Nagar and all you would get is blank stares. Nagar is BJP’s candidate to take on the Congress in a seat said to be a stronghold of Digvijay Singh. If ever there was a chance of BJP wresting this seat from the Congress, this was the one, as BJP was on a historic high in Madhya Pradesh coupled with a strong anti-Congress wind blowing across the heartland, it was indeed a cocktail of success made to order. It is still a mystery as to why such a lightweight as Rodmal Nagar was recommended by Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Sushma Swaraj (both very close to Advani).

These are just a few examples as there are scores of such other abject surrender stories woefully told by hapless BJP workers (Udampur in Jammu, Basti and Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, Chhindwara in MP… the list is long). One aspect is almost clear to any unbiased observer of the BJP – that the battle to win 230+ is all but over now, for the party has already given up on many seats even before the first vote is cast. Now it is possibly the battle for 200. At least now Modi should take a leaf out of the Advani parallel of 89; had Advani given into the compromise formulas of many BJP leaders, history would not have been created in 1989. Narendra Bhai should demonstrate the same fearlessness in dealing with elders of BJP today, for he has a historic role to play – the deliverance of India. Individuals like Advani don’t matter beyond Dilli TV studio debates, what really matters and what history will judge you upon is the doctrine that you adapt. Positive Secularism will outlast Advani many times over.


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Analysis of the 4th list of the BJP – Part 2: North India

The battle for 2014 will not be just about localized pulls and pressures of sub-regional satraps. Narendra Modi, by his aggressive 9 month campaign all over India, has ensured that a big part of the coming election will be about a national vote of governance where Modi is the central theme. Yet, one cannot fully wish away local factors in the election of MPs. We have been arguing for weeks now here at 5Forty3 that ticket distribution is the key to success for BJP, but somehow the party has managed to bungle up in this process of giving party tickets. BJP may yet win 2014, but it may struggle to cross the 200 mark because of some horribly wrong ticket distribution decisions in key states.

Despite some amount of heartburn, BJP tickets in important heartland states of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh etc. have been reasonably accurate, keeping the sole criteria of winnability as the theme. Yes, there have been duds in UP and Bihar too, like a Sakhsi Maharaj here or a Daddan Mishra there or a Ramakant Yadav somewhere else, but overall chemistry seems to be right and BJP is heading for a good performance in these states.

What is baffling is that the same party seems to be somehow strangely reluctant to get its act together in the north-western Jammu-Punjab belt, where ticket distribution can be described as pedestrian at best. What is happening behind the scenes is anybody’s guess, but one wonders why Narendra Bhai is not objecting to this abject surrender of the party? Is there really a powerful Dilli cabal based in BJP which is trying to sabotage the party’s chances of reaching beyond 220-230? Are there secret agreements to help out “friends” from the Congress (and the so called left-secular family) to win personal seats? Or is this plain incompetence? Let us try and start our analysis today with Punjab and Haryana.

Punjab and Haryana

Put together these two states have the potential to send almost a dozen BJP MPs to the parliament and there has been a very strong Modi wind (let us not yet call it a wave in the Punjabi context) blowing in these parts of India for months now. BJP seems to have given up all its advantage by getting its chemistry wrong badly. Purely going by ticket distribution mistakes alone, BJP has probably sacrificed half of its MPs at the altar in this region. Coupled with the loss of 1, if not 2 MPs in Jammu, this is a big blow to mission 200+, let alone mission 272.

Amritsar: At the outset, fielding Arun Jaitley looks like a very good decision of the BJP, for it ensures that BJP wins this seat again. Navjot Singh Sidhu, the ever sulking Sardar, has been reasonably placated by his political guru, Jaitley, so there won’t be much opposition from his side, while the Akalis too are happy to accommodate a high profile name like Arun Jaitley from an important seat like Amritsar. The city voters of the four assembly segments of Amritsar (North, West, Central and East) who were fed up with cricketer turned politician, Sidhu, are now again looking at BJP with hope, while the rural voters of Raja Sansi, Majitha and Ajnala are under the control of Shiromani Akali Dal. Had BJP again nominated Sidhu, then the Akalis would have ensured that the rural voters of those three assembly segments would have turned against BJP. Now, Jaitley will likely take this seat with a big margin.

Hoshiyarpur: Only once we move away from Amritsar, to the second seat of Hoshiyarpur does the rot become visible. Maybe the price paid for Jaitley’s sojourn in Amritsar is too steep for the party? There are two strong factions in Punjab BJP – the Kamal Sharma faction led by the state unit president and the Ashwani Sharma faction led by the Pathankot MLA – who are always at loggerheads. The Kamal Sharma faction is close to the Badals and was vehemently opposed to Sidhu’s nomination from Amritsar, so when BJP high-command obliged them, the Ashwani Sharma gang became obviously restless. In order to placate the second faction (so that all of them would work together for Jaitley’s victory), BJP seems to have made a compromise of sorts by allocating the Hoshiyarpur reserved seat to Vijay Sampla of the Ashwani Sharma faction. It is a well-known fact that Phagwara MLA Som Prakash was a much more formidable candidate from Hoshiyarpur (borne by multiple surveys in that constituency, of which data we at 5Forty3 have access to). Som Prakash, a former DC of Jalandhar and an emerging Dalit face of the BJP had lost Hoshiyarpur LS seat in the 2009 LS Polls (in a Congress wave of sorts) by merely 366 votes. As a result of all this, Vijay Sampla is struggling in this otherwise sure-shot BJP seat (it was reported in the local media that Sushma Swaraj backed Vijay Sampla vehemently, so the RSS backing of Som Prakash came a cropper).

Chandigarh: BJP’s woes in Chandigarh continue even after a decade and a half (had written this about Chandigarh, a few weeks ago, read). Sanjay Tandon, Harmohan Dhawan and Satyapal Jain the triumvirate of BJP in Chandigarh have constantly been at loggerheads for years now and as the adage goes, an outsider has benefited from this internal fight. It is widely believed that Satyapal Jain, the former two time MP from here suggested Kirron Kher’s name as a compromise formula between the three factions and the party high command accepted it. Although Chandigarh is a very cosmopolitan city, voters here do not take very well to “outsiders”, so it would be a difficult task for Mrs Kher to defeat the much tainted Pawan Kumar Bansal. AAP may not find much resonance here, but Gul Panag may get some crucial anti-Congress votes, further hurting the BJP.

Ambala: The very fact that Kumari Selja opted out of this seat tells the story of how badly the Congress is placed here, which has also apparently demoralized many grass-root workers of the party. BJP has nominated former MP, Ratan Lal Kahariya, who had won this seat in 1999 and had lost in 2009 (to Selja) by a very low margin of less than 2%. It is believed by many observers that this time Congress maybe out of contest from here at least in 3-4 assembly segments where the fight would be between BJP and BSP. As of today, BJP is ahead in Ambala city, Kalka, Panchkula, Mulana and Naraingarh assembly segments.

Kurukshetra: Naveen Jindal represents this seat and he still has tremendous clout here. BJP has nominated Rajkumar Saini, who is seen by many as a lightweight and lacking in stature to take someone as powerful as Jindal against whom there are serious allegations. It was widely speculated in the run-up to ticket distribution that BJP would put up some stalwart in this constituency (even the name of Sidhu was doing the rounds for quite some time) in order to give Jindal a run for his money, but surprisingly all parties seem to have nominated “soft” candidates against the Congress sitting MP. Even AAP, which makes big noise about corruption has nominated a complete novice much the chagrin of local AAP workers who have alleged that the party is soft on the Jindals.

Sonepat: A very recent Congress turncoat, Ramesh Kaushik has been bafflingly given the BJP ticket! One wonders what BJP managers were thinking when they allocated this seat to a Brahmin?! That too, a Brahmin imported from the Congress in a seat which has overwhelming number of Jat voters (more than 5lakh plus) and less than 5000 Brahmins! The party’s logic that since already 3 Jat leaders are contesting in Sonepat, a non-Jat leader had been chosen, is in such bad taste that it can’t even be considered a joke. Mr Kaushik was even denied a Congress MLA ticket in the 2009 assembly elections from here, but BJP has chosen to resurrect him. No wonder then that BJP’s state unit secretary and youth leader, Pradeep Sangwan, has resigned from his post and has decided to contest as an independent. What did the BJP leaders’ smoke before making this decision is a mystery that needs to be solved.

Rohtak: National president of the Kisan Morcha, Om Prakash Dhankhar has been chosen as the BJP’s candidate from here to take on the almost impossible sounding Deepender Singh Hooda who had won this seat by a whopping 4.5 lakh votes in 2009. There is some resentment here too among other aspirants like former MLA Naresh Malik and national secretary of the party, Abhimanyu Singh. Dhankhar is also seen as an outsider to this constituency, but he is probably the best choice the party has made for this herculean task. It will indeed be a mammoth task to defeat Congress from here.

Bhiwani-Mahendragarh: Former CM, Bansilal’s grand daughter and sitting Congress MP, Shruti Chaudhary is in trouble here. BJP has nominated recently joined Congress MLA, Dharambir Singh, who has considerable clout in this region. This could well be a three-cornered fight, but BJP is reportedly ahead in 5 out of 9 assembly segments as of today. Apart from Jats, Aroras and Khatri voters play a crucial role here (4-5 lakh votes).

Gurgaon and Faridabad: Rao Inderjeet Singh (sitting MP of Congress) and Krishnapal Gurjar (sitting MLA of BJP from Tigaon) have been nominated from these seats respectively. Both the seats are closer to the NCR and are interestingly poised in a multi-cornered fight. BJP seems to have an edge in both the seats, but even a minor late swing could change matters drastically, so we will have to keep a close watch on these two in the coming weeks.

Delhi

BJP seems to have learnt its lessons from the December experience, so it has shown some thinking out of the box in Delhi by nominating some very interesting names as LS candidates (while Congress still has its hubris intact and has named 5 sitting MPs despite last year’s severe drubbing in the assembly elections). Yet, BJP could have done more, for instance, persuading Kiran Bedi to contest from either Chandni Chowk or New Delhi would have been a great move that would have potentially proved to be a death-knell for AAP. Similarly, just for electoral reasons, having Subramainian Swamy, seen as a crusader against the dynastic corruption, in one of the Delhi seats would have sent hugely positive signals down the line. For instance, BJP should have positioned Swamy as a champion against corruption who walks the talk unlike Kejriwal who is all talk and no action. Whatever be Swamy’s past equation with BJP-RSS, Modi should try and utilize the services of Dr Subramanian Swamy, if not for his vast experience and inherently right socio-political and economic outlook, but at least for the simple reason that a Subramanian Swamy as a friend is far more useful than a Subramanian Swamy as an enemy is lethal.

Chandni Chowk: This could be a tight 3-cornered fight, where Kapil Sibal cannot be simply ruled out because AAP may eat into a lot of anti-Sibal votes. Does Harshvardhan stand a chance? Definitely yes, in fact, BJP has an edge as of now in at least 4 assembly segments. If AAP divides the minority votes, then it is advantage BJP, but if it divides anti-Sibal votes, then it is advantage Congress and if it does both then it is advantage AAP. Had Kiran Bedi been nominated from here, it would have been game-set-and-match for the BJP, but now it’s a close race that we need to follow.

North East Delhi: BJP has a distinct advantage in this seat and has done a great job by nominating Bhojpuri superstar, Manoj Tiwari who has tremendous fan following among the heartland voters – there are 45% Purvanchali voters in this constituency. AAP’s candidate has created some heartburn among its MLAs, which may or may not affect the party as its legislators do not have any personal clout. Congress, which is currently placed in the 3rd position is banking mostly on the 25% Muslim votes to win from here, which may get divided this time, especially because BSP has fielded a rebel Congress Muslim leader from here. In the Delhi assembly, BJP has 5, AAP-3 and Congress -2 MLAs.

East Delhi: Another inspired choice by BJP in the form of a new age Yoga Guru who has tremendous following and also derives support from AOL. This is a seriously three-cornered fight, as Congress’s Sandeep Dixit is one of those rare Congress leader’s here who still has touch with ground realities, while AAP has good support base here and BJP has shown great deal of invention in its ticket distribution. As of now, it looks like Sandeep Dixit is ahead, but this can go any which way, so we will put it in the “too-close-to-call” category.

New Delhi: Just the sheer fact that AAP had won 7 out of 10 MLA’s in this parliamentary seat, including the biggie, Arvind Kejriwal defeating Sheila Dixit, makes it an AAP seat by default. BJP has nominated Meenakshi Lekhi, who may end up as a brave loser, but had the party nominated Subramanian Swamy from here, he would definitely have taken the fight to the opposition camp. In all this milieu, sitting MP Ajay Maken of the Congress is virtually out of the race.

North-West Delhi: BJP is strong in this seat and has nominated its neo Dalit face, Udit Raj who seems to have an edge, especially considering that AAP has messed up its ticket distribution (Mahendra Singh has retired from contest and the uber controversial Rakhi Birla is likely to be the party candidate from here). BJP has 6 sitting legislators and AAP and Congress have two each.

West and South Delhi: BJP has nominated Parvesh Verma and Ramesh Bidhuri from these seats respectively. Both seats could be tough for the party in a three cornered fight.

Bihar

Patna Sahib: Shatrugna Sinha has been re-nominated from this seat, although there were reports that he might be dropped this time for his less than cordial relationship with Modi and co. Sinha who had won the last election by a big margin of over 30%, still has tremendous following here. It is also widely believed that filmstar Sinha’s close ties with Bihar CM Nistish Kumar will ensure that the JDU tacitly supports him in this election.

Maharajganj: Sitting Chapra MLA and ex labour resources minister, Janardhan Singh Sigriwal has been nominated by the BJP from here to take on Prabhunath Singh who had won a by election on the RJD ticket with a huge 1.5 lakh margin, which was a precursor to Nistish’s falling graph. As of today, RJD enjoys an edge on this seat and it would require a lot of work from the BJP to wrest this seat which is dominated by Thakur, Brahmin and Yadav votes.

Chhattisgarh

All the tickets are along expected lines, except for Kanker and Rajnandgaon. In Kanker, BJP has replaced sitting MP with minister, Vikram Usendi, who had surprisingly won his Antagarh assembly seat in December despite a counter-current in that region. In Rajnandgaon, sitting MP Madhusudan Yadav has been denied ticket to make way for CM Raman Singh’s son Abhishek Singh, which is setting dangerous precedents in the saffron camps (with MP CM, Shivraj Singh too likely to nominate his wife for Vidisha Assembly bypoll, BJP will soon start to resemble just another dynastic party; one more reason why Modi should be the model that BJP should build upon for the future). The two other constituencies that we should look out for are Sarguja and Bilaspur where again new candidates (Kamalbhan Singh and Lakhanlal Sau respectively) have been nominated in the first LS polls after the death of the towering Dilip Singh Judeo. BJP should easily win anywhere between 8 to 11 seats in Chhattisgarh as per ground reports.

Uttarakhand

The Uttarakhand list too is along expected lines, including the candidature of Pokhriyal from Hardwar which may irritate purists, but the fact is that he easily passes the “winnability” criteria. With strong local and national anti-incumbency, BJP should reap a rich harvest from this Himalayan state.


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Analysis of the 4th list of BJP – Part 1: The UP 53

BJP came up with its 4th list of candidates for the LS polls over the weekend and it looks like finally the jigsaw is falling in its place. As would be the case with any political party, especially the frontrunner, there is some amount of heart burn among those who have been denied a ticket to fight elections, but overall BJP seems to have avoided any major mishaps. For an antagonistic media and the intellectual class who were pinning their last hopes on a big fight erupting in the saffron camp vis-à-vis Sushma Swaraj-Murli Manohar Joshi v/s the new BJP, were left disappointed. Even minor acrimony in the form of Kalraj Mishra-Lalji Tandon types didn’t arise, so the newspapers started reporting names like former MLA, Ram Iqbal Singh and Nawal Kishore Yadav etc. who are not recognizable even within their own constituencies – such is the precipice of the intellectual falling down.

There is one clear pattern that is emerging from the BJP ticket distribution this time, that there is no pattern at all! For instance, in Bihar’s first list of 20 odd names, there were as many as 9 new entrants, but hardly 4 names out of 53 announced in UP can be termed as outsiders. What does this tell us? BJP is looking purely at electoral math independent to each state rather than working on any single political philosophy. Thus if bringing outside talent suits the political environment prevailing in Bihar, then a pro-BJP wave in UP only helps core ideological elements rather than turncoats. This “winnability being the sole criteria” will hold the party in good stead in the summer of 2014 notwithstanding whatever minor acrimonies are as of today.

There is one surprisingly negative aspect to BJP’s ticket distribution though – it seems the party somehow doesn’t have the same clarity in the smaller north-western states (the Punjab-Jammu belt) as in the heartland (UP-Bihar region). As it is the Jammu shenanigans has already become famous, now BJP seems to have made a mess in Punjab and parts of Haryana too. Will these small bits and pieces hurt BJP, or will the larger picture camouflage these minor indiscretions remains to be seen.

Uttar Pradesh

The 53 names announced from UP are a unique balancing act that has Amit-Shah and Rajnath Singh written all over it (there are some reports suggesting that the western part of the state had that latter’s imprint while the eastern parts were left to the former). Could this list have been better? The answer to that question would always be yes, but then the nature of elections is such that trade-offs are simply unavoidable. The bottom line is that this probably is the best possible list of 53 names that the party could have come up with under the circumstances. Now let us analyse UP as four sub-regions, for Uttar Pradesh is literally a country within a country.

Purvanchal

This is the Bhojpuri heartland of eastern Uttar Pradesh which shares its socio-cultural moorings with western Bihar (the Buxar-Champaran belt) which was historically ruled by Kashi Naresh (the emperor of Benares) with the oldest city in the world, Varnasi as its capital. Purvanchal is not only made up of 23 LS seats of Uttar Pradesh but also influences a dozen LS seats of western Bihar. Thus with a chunk of 35 MPs, the political importance of this region can never be overestimated. Amit Shah, the trusted lieutenant of Modi and in-charge of UP affairs, had realized long ago that winning Purvanchal would be the key to mission 2014 so he was always clear about BJP’s prime ministerial nominee contesting from this region. Although there is no real data to prove that a popular leader contesting in a particular region makes any difference to the party’s eventual seat tally, what cannot be denied at all is that Modi’s contest from here has immensely enthused ordinary workers.

Varanasi: Narendra Bhai Damodardas Modi, BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate, will be contesting from the oldest city of the world. BJP has three sitting MLAs in Varanasi North, South and Cantonment assembly segments, which have total voters of about 12 lakh plus. Assuming 60% voting at least, roughly 7 lakh Varanasi city voters (of all the three assembly segments) should go out to vote on the 12th of May as Varanasi will go to polls on the last day of polling. Our current conservative estimates based on ground reports (not on actual survey) suggest that BJP and Modi should take an almost unassailable lead by getting around 4 lakh votes (out of 7 lakh possible turnout in the city). There are roughly 7 lakh voters in the two other Kurmi dominated assembly segments of Rohaniya and Sevapuri. The Kurmis, like any other OBCs in the heartland have tremendous goodwill for NaMo, so BJP should once again get anywhere about 2-3 lakh votes in these two assembly segments put together, assuming a turnout range of 55-60%. In the 2009 LS polls, BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi had won this seat by a margin of 17k after securing 2 lakh+ votes. This time we are projecting that Modi could get anywhere between 5 to 6 lakh votes and win this seat easily with a margin of 3-5 lakhs, no matter who contests against him. Rating: Super Positive

Salempur: Ravindra Kushwaha has been given the party ticket from this Kushwaha dominated seat in a strategically brilliant move, for he happens to be the son of Hari Kewal Sharma, a four time Samajwadi Party MP from Salempur. Former PM, Chandrashekhar’s son Pankaj Shekhar was eyeing this seat, but BJP seems to have kept only winnability as the criteria in deciding the candidature. There has been some resentment among BJP leaders like Ram Iqbal Singh about ticket being given to a new inductee, but most of these leaders are well past their sell-by dates. Rating: Positive

Bhadohi: Virendra Singh Mast, a product of the Ayodhya movement and twice MP during the 90s from neighbouring Mirzapur, has once again been resurrected by the party despite him losing 1999 and 2004 LS polls and even failing to save deposit in a by-election from Ballia necessitated by the death of former PM Chandrashekhar. Many see his candidature as a wasted opportunity, but the fact is that Virendra Singh still has clout and has a decent chance of emerging victorious in a close three cornered fight between BJP, SP and BSP, especially because he has been working on the ground for the last couple of years. With the prevailing Modi wave in this region, BJP should manage to take this seat, where it had finished a distant fifth in 2009 behind parties like Apna Dal, but the 4 lakh plus Brahmin votes will be crucial for the party in the end analysis. Rating: Average

Chandauli: Here the contest is mainly between SP and BSP, BJP has nominated ex-MLA, Mahendranath Pandey who has the dubious distinction of getting only 57k votes and finishing fifth in Badohi in 2009. Only a massive Modi wave can potentially cause a miraculous victory for BJP here. Rating: Negative

Jaunpur: Former minister Umanath Singh’s son K.P. Singh has been given the party ticket from this important upper caste bastion in a move that has surprised many observers. Here BSP’s Dhananjay Singh (sitting MP), who is widely seen as a sort of Rajput Robinhood was ahead in the race until now. Can K.P. Singh recapture this seat? There are two X factors that will decide BJP’s fate here – 1) Swami Chinmayanand, a former minister of state for Home in the Vajpayee government and four time MP (including Jaunpur in 1999) can create mischief for BJP although his clout has decreased considerably over the last decade and 2) support of local BJP leaders like Seema Dwivedi, the Mungra-Badshahpur MLA and 2009 MP contestant who is upset at being denied ticket this time. Congress has nominated popular Bhojpuri Superstar, Ravi Kishen from this seat who may also dent the ‘secular’ votes adding drama to the contest. Rating: Average

Machhlishahr: Former Apna Dal leader Ram Charitra Nishad has been nominated from here. This constituency will see a three cornered fight between SP, BSP and BJP, in which sitting MP Toofani Saroj of SP seems to have an edge. BJP can still win this seat if it can get the crucial support of Khateek voters who seem to be shifting allegiances in the 2014 polls. Rating: Below Average

Azamgarh: Sitting MP Ramakant Yadav who has won this seat thrice since 1999 on three different party tickets has been re-nominated by the BJP. Ground reports suggest that there is considerable local level anti-incumbency against Mr Yadav, especially among the upper caste Rajput community. He is still considered as “Yadavon ka sher” in Azamgarh though. There is also deep polarization among Muslims in this constituency who are backing SP to the hilt here. If Mulayam Singh contests from this seat then it could be almost a single horse race, otherwise BJP can make a fight of it, but this is a difficult seat for the party to retain. Rating: Below Average

Roberstganj (SC): This is a seat where BJP still has definite presence as a party, but Chhotelal Kharwar has been given the party ticket much against the wishes of party cadre. There is a great deal of anti-incumbency against the non-performing Pakauri Lal Kol, the sitting MP of Samajwadi Party, but since BJP’s ticket here has left a lot to desire, this is now a three cornered fight that needs massive groundwork by the cadre to win. Rating: Average

Ghosi: Former minister Harinarain Rajbhar who had joined SP a few years ago only to return back to the saffron fold has been given ticket here. He used to represent Siar assembly seat in Ballia district during the 90s but had lost out after delimitation and was waiting for long to resurrect his defunct political career. It seems to be a calculated risk taken by Amit Shah to give ticket to Rajbhar instead of other contenders like Vijay Pratap Singh. Thakur votes will be crucial here and Modi wave may come to BJP’s aid. Rating: Average

Ballia: Bharat Singh is again one of those who is part of the “deadwood” of the BJP who had lost even the assembly election in 2012 by a big margin. This is a seat where Neeraj Shekhar (former PM Chandrashekhar’s son) still holds sway and it is unlikely that he would be defeated this time too. Rating: Negative

Gorakhpur: Yogi Adityanath had improved his victory margin from 1.5 lakhs in 2004 to 2 lakh+ in 2009, the guess is that he may double that margin this time with much higher turnouts expected. Rating: Super Positive

Bansgaon: This is again one of the strength areas of BJP where Yogi Adityanath wields influence and Kamlesh Paswan, the sitting BJP MP, has made his own in the last few years. As of today Paswan is ahead in all the 5 assembly segments with massive leads in Chauri-Chaura and Rudrapur areas. Rating: Positive

Lalganj: Neelam Sonkar has once again been given the BJP ticket to take on BSP’s Baliram. Sonkar who had lost the previous encounter by less than 40k votes is much stronger this time, and so is the BJP. As of today BJP is ahead in Nizamabad, Phoolpur-Pawai and Lalganj assembly segments, but the only problem area for the party and Sonkar is Atrauliya assembly segment as of now. Rating: Positive

Deoria: Kalraj Mishra has got the ticket from here much to the heartburn of former state unit president, Surya Pratap Shahi, whose supporters have even burnt effigies of Rajnatah Singh. This time BJP has an edge in this seat but a lot depends on how much support Kalraj Mishra will get from the local leaders of the BJP, especially the likes of two-time MP Prakashmani Tripathi and Surya Pratap Shahi. If BJP leaders and workers bury their differences (especially along Thakur-Brahmin fault-lines) then this is a sure-shot seat for the party, or else BJP will have to struggle to cross the finish line. BJP is ahead of its rivals in Deoria town, Pathardeva and Rampur Karkhana areas, but the problem areas are Fazlinagar and Tamkuhi Raj assembly segments. Rating: Positive

Maharajganj: This is the rare eastern-UP seat that Congress had won in 2009, but BJP has nominated Pankaj Chaudhary once again – he is a 4 time MP from here. This time again old warhorse Pankaj Chaudhary has an edge, especially as the sitting Congress MP has been a big under-performer. Recent recruits R.K. Misra and Prem Sagar Patel (formerly BSP) who were expecting an MP ticket from here could create some problems for Pankaj Chaudhary, but it is still quite difficult to see BJP losing this seat. Rating: Positive

Basti: This is one of the baffling decisions of the party, for Harish Dwivedi, who had not only lost the 2012 assembly election from Basti town by a margin of over 20k, but had also finished 3rd has been given BJP ticket. This is a seat which is usually given to Thakurs, so it is even more baffling that BJP has made such a poor choice. It is said among some circles that BJP president Rajnath Singh has scuttled the chances of many Thakur ticket seekers which has created all this mess. There was talk of Fateh Bahadur Singh getting the ticket from here which would have been a far better choice for the party. Rating: Negative

Western UP

This politically significant Jatland shares its demographics with Haryana, parts of eastern Rajasthan and outer Delhi. 5 of 10 BJP MPs from Uttar Pradesh came from out of these 27 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 election. BJP has announced 18 names in this region and is yet to decide on the remaining 9. With roughly 22-25% of the population, Jats are the most important political group of this region. Muzaffarnagar riots and the consequent polarization had made this one of the most favourable zones for the BJP, but there is some amount of heartburn among Jats because of ticket distribution. But the fact is that most Jat voters have already made up their mind to support BJP and the party has done a decent job of ticket distribution to keep all the other ethnic subgroups happy.

Muzaffarnagar: Of all the contenders in the fray for this very significant seat, BJP has chosen possibly the best man to represent the party instead of rabble rousers like Sangeet Som, which has sent a clear message that Modi’s agenda is one of development. Dr Sanjiv Baliyan, agricultural scientist is an emerging Jat icon and represents the suave face of Jat politics who talk of ideas to solve problems rather than simply create violent agitations. Dr Baliyan has the potential to be a new age Chaudhary Charan Singh in the next few years and create a dynamic shift in the socio-political landscape of Jats, which surely augurs well for the BJP. This is a seat that BJP will win with a thumping lead. Rating: Super Positive

Kairana: Again the choice was simply clear, Hukum Singh, the sitting MLA and a towering Gujjar leader who was seen as playing a major role in not only keeping the Hindus united but also calming the nerves by talking peace during the Muzaffarnagar riots. This should again give BJP an easy victory here. Rating: Positive

Saharanpur: Sitting MLA of Saharanpur, Raghav Lakhan Pal has been given the ticket from here which is a decent choice, notwithstanding the fact that sitting MP Jagadish Rana of the BSP was interested in BJP ticket. In the polarized atmosphere prevailing in this region, BJP should take this seat. Rating: Positive

Bijnor: Advocate Rajendra Singh has been nominated as BJP candidate here, but Kunwar Bharatendra Singh, the sitting MLA of Bijnor would have been a far better choice. Now it is almost a three cornered fight between BSP, BJP and RLD (especially after RLD nominated actress Jayaprada from here) with Chandpur, Hatinapur and Meerapur assembly segments holding the key. As of today, BSP seems to have an edge in this three-cornered battle. Rating: Below Average

Moradabad: Kunwar Sarvesh Singh of the Thakurdwara-Bilari royal family, a Bahubali of western UP and 5 time MLA of Thakurdwara has been re-nominated from this seat where he had lost to Mohammad Azharuddin by about 50k votes in 2009. This time BJP has a big lead in Thakurdwara, Barhapur and Moradabad town assembly segments which should help Mr Singh to easily sail through from this constituency. As Congress, which had won the previous election, has nominated Rampur royalty Noor Bano, there is a definite possibility of a split in minority votes between Congress and BSP giving BJP a clear edge. Rating: Positive

Rampur: With two time MP, Jayaprada shifting party and LS seat, there is a wave for change in this parliamentary constituency where BJP has nominated Naipal Singh, MLC. This is Azam Khan territory, where former UP CM Kalyan Singh still holds sway due to significant presence of Lodh votes. In a polarized atmosphere where Lodh votes are back to the saffron camp in a big way, BJP may win this seat from under Azam Khan’s nose. There was a section within BJP which was demanding ticket for Muqtar Abbas Naqvi, which would have been simply disastrous for the party, but Amit Shah and team seem to have once again kept “winnability” criteria on top. Rating: Average

Meerut: Rajendra Agarwal, sitting MP, has been re-nominated from here. With Congress nominee, actress Nagma being virtually out of contest even with RLD support, the main fight here would be between BJP and BSP. BSP will likely get the support of Muslims and a large section of Dalits, whereas BJP should get full support of Jats, OBCs and more importantly the upper-caste votes (which went to BSP in large numbers even in 2009). BJP is enjoying a clear lead in the three segments of Meerut (North, South and Cantt.) along with Hapur assembly segment, so it is advantage Mr Agarwal. Rating: Positive

Baghpat: Although a better candidate like say, Shahendra Singh Ramala, could have possibly made the BJP’s cause easier, but in the end analysis, former Mumbai top-cop, Satyapal Singh could be a giant killer here. History has shown us that usually it is the members of educated civil society who stand a better chance against established names in difficult electoral contests. Although Ajit Singh was on a back-foot after Muzaffarnagar, he seems to have regained some of the lost ground due to Jat reservation and Rakesh Tikait’s joining of RLD. This is now an almost equal contest with probably even a slight edge to Ajit Singh. Modi Nagar, Baghpat town and Siwal Khas assembly segments probably hold the key this time around. Rating: Average

Gautam Buddh Nagar and Bulandshahr (SC): BJP has nominated Dr Mahesh Sahrama and Dr Bhola Singh respectively from these constituencies and both are on a very strong wicket. BJP had lost Gautam Buddh Nagar narrowly last time by 15k votes and has re-nominated its sitting MLA from Noida. This time the party has significant leads in Noida, Khurja and Sikandrabad assembly segments, so it should be a much easier task to win. Similarly in Bulandshahr where Debai assembly segment had cost the party dearly last time, there is a big lead for BJP this time around. Rating: Positive

Aligarh and Firozabad: Both are difficult seats for BJP as Satish Gautam may find the going tough for himself and the party in Aligarh where Congress and BSP seem to be in a direct fight. Similarly, in Firozabad, three time MP, S.P Singh Baghel has been nominated by BJP, but he is facing a very tough battle against Akshay Yadav, Mulayam’s nephew and son of Ram Gopal Yadav. Rating: Below Average

Agra: Sitting MP of BJP, Dr Ramashankar Katheriya, has definite advantage from Agra so he has been re-nominated. Etmadpur and Jalesar assembly segments hold the key, for BJP seems to be reasonably ahead in two out of three Agra town assembly segments (North and South). In Jalesar, S.P. Singh Baghel still holds significant clout which may help BJP much in the upcoming polls. Rating: Positive

Mainpuri: It really doesn’t matter whom the BJP nominates, for this is Mulayam Singh Yadav stronghold and SP will likely win it again with a big margin. Rating: Negative

Etah: If Mainpuri belongs to Mulayam Singh, Etah is Kalyan Singh territory, so Rajvir Singh, his son is virtually undefeatable from here. Rating: Positive

Aonla, Bareilly and Philibit: Dharmendra Kashyap, Santosh Gangwar and Maneka Gandhi have been nominated from these seats. All three are stalwarts in their own right and are expected to win these seats easily for the BJP. Rating: Positive

Awadh

The central Uttar Pradesh region which had stopped supporting BJP for some time now, evidenced by the fact that BJP’s lone MP from entire Awadh region came from Lucknow in 2009, is once again looking towards the saffron camp with hope. Can BJP recreate its old magic is the million dollar question.

Lucknow: BJP president Rajnath Singh will be contesting from this party stronghold, which was once represented by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. BJP hasn’t lost this seat in close to 25 years, since 1991, so this is considered as a “safe seat” for the party. The only new X factor this time is that the last 5 BJP victories from here have come from Brahmin candidates, whereas this time a Thakur is contesting from here on the party ticket. In fact, this seat has been an unofficial Brahmin reserved constituency where Brahmins have always won it since 1971, except for a very low turnout 1989 election. Despite this history, Rajnath Singh is expected to win this seat by a big margin. Rating: Super Positive

Kanpur: Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, veteran BJP leader and possibly the tallest standing Brahmin face after Vajpayee has been allocated this urban seat which Congress had won in the previous three elections through Sriprakash Jaiswal. This seat should once again see a straight fight between BJP and Congress with others vying for a distant third position (including AAP). Congress as a party and Mr Jaiswal himself personally are both facing huge anti-incumbency so it is advantage Joshi here. Rating: Positive

Sultanpur: In a very good move, BJP has shifted Varun Gandhi to this Nehru-Gandhi loyalist seat. Here he is not only expected to win, but win big, especially now that Sanjay Singh has moved to the Rajya Sabha. Though Sanjay Singh’s wife Amita Singh is contesting on the Congress ticket from here, she might not be able to challenge Varun Gandhi. Of the 18% Brahmins, 27% OBCs, 6% Thakurs and even 24% Dalits, Varun will likely get a lion’s share of the votes, while the 21% Muslim votes may get divided between Congress and Shakeel Ahmed of SP. Varun Gandhi’s roadshows and Nukkad public meetings are attracting huge crowds, indicating which way the wind is blowing. Rating: Super Positive

Kheri: Ajay Mishra has been repeated by the BJP in a calculated risk by the party managers. He is the sitting MLA of Nighasan where he is likely to get a big lead of 30k+ (he had got a 20k vote lead even in 2009 LS polls). There is a huge vote polarization along religious lines here and since Congress and BSP have both fielded Muslims and SP has re-nominated Ravi Prakash Verma, BJP stands a decent chance of causing an upset victory. If Ajay Mishra manages to get leads in at least 2 out of three other assembly segments of Palia, Gola Gokrannath and Lakimpur, then BJP will be in the game. Rating: Average

Sitapur: Another of the Kurmi dominated seats where BJP has nominated Rajesh Verma, a new entrant to the party who was a two time MP from here on a BSP ticket and still holds considerable sway. This is a difficult seat for BJP to win, but in a multi-cornered fight with a Modi wave coupled with the personal hold of Mr Verma can help the party. Rating: Below Average

Hardoi: Usha Verma of the Samajwadi Party, who is also the sitting MP, has strong pockets of influence in this parliamentary seat and also there are hardly any negatives against her. BJP has bungled up by nominating Anshul Verma here, so SP has a clear advantage. Rating: Negative

Misrikh: BJP has nominated a very strong Smt Anju Bala for this reserved constituency, where a large number of Dalit voters, especially Chamars are expected to support her rather than the BSP. There are mainly 5 lakh Pasi voters, 4 lakh Chamar voters, 4 lakh Brahmin, 1.5 lakh Kurmi and 1 lakh Lodh voters here; BJP is expected to get a big chunk of Chamar, Brahmin and OBC vote making it easier for Anju Bala to win this seat. Rating: Positive

Unnao: It is difficult to understand the logic of nominating an outsider like Sakshi Maharaj in this Brahmin dominated seat (about 4 lakh Brahmin votes) where Congress’s Anu Tandon had won a thumping victory in 2009 with a margin of over 3 lakhs. Sakshi Maharaj is well past his prime and will need a herculean effort to defeat the very clinical Anu Tandon. Rating: Below Average

Mohanlalganj: This reserved constituency is a stronghold of the SP, which has re-nominated its sitting MP, Sushila Saroj and BJP has simply shown no “thinking out of the box” by nominating ex-MLA Kaushal Kishore who stands little chance of upsetting the Samajwadi applecart. Rating: Negative

Farrukhabad: This high profile seat of Salman Khurshid is likely to see a major change in this election, but BJP has nominated Kalyan Singh’s right-hand man, Mukesh Rajput who had unsuccessfully contested from here in 2004 LS polls but had subsequently joined Kalyan Singh’s RKP only to lose the 2012 assembly elections from Bhojpur (where he finished second, ahead of the BJP). The onus is now on Kalyan Singh to win this seat for BJP and defeat the current External Affairs Minister in the UPA government. This could well see a close 4-cornered fight like last time when hardly 10-15k votes separated each of the top 4 contestant. Kaimganj, Bhojpur and Farrukhabad assembly segments hold the key to victory here. Rating: Average

Etawah: In this SP bastion, about 1 lakh plus Chamar voters, 1 lakh plus Brahmin voters, 80k Rajput and 60k Lodh voters are all ganging up against the Samajwadis and in favour of the BJP which has wisely nominated Ashok Dohre who is resourceful enough to win this reserved seat. Rating: Average

Kannauj: Another SP stronghold has been attacked by the BJP, where once again a good nominee by the party in the form of Subrat Pathak is attracting all the upper caste votes of Brahmins, Thakurs and Baniyas (numbering up to 3 lakhs). If BJP manages to also get the non-Yadav OBC votes of roughly another 2 lakh plus, then a surprise defeat of SP (represented by Akhilesh and Dimple Yadav over the last 5 years) cannot be ruled out! No wonder Mulayam is suffering sleepless nights and keeps targeting Modi and BJP in every speech of his. Rating: Average

Fatehpur: Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, the MLA from Hamirpur and a fiery speaker has been nominated from here. She has managed to completely polarize upper-caste (mainly Thakur) and Nishad votes in her favour. Currently BJP has taken big leads in Fatehpur and Khaga assembly segments and is also ahead in other areas. Right now BJP has a definite edge on this seat. Rating: Positive

Barabanki and Kaushambi: Both are difficult seats for BJP where Dalit votes, especially those of Pasis will make a big difference. In Barabanki, there are 6 lakh Dalit votes (about 60% of them Pasis) and 2 lakh Kurmi voters who will eventually decide who wins this seat. In Kaushambi too, BJP is facing an uphill task of attracting a combination of Dalit-Brahmin-OBC votes. Priyanka Rawat and Vinod Sonkar have been nominated from Barabanki and Kaushambi respectively. Rating: Below Average

Faizabad: 5 time MLA from Ayodhya and one of the original icons of Ram Janam Bhoomi movement has been nominated by the BJP to represent Faizabad in the 16th Lok Sabha, notwithstanding the heartburn it has caused to former MP Vinay Katiyar. Here again there is a BJP wave and the party is way ahead of the rest thanks to a very good ticket decision. Brahmins + Thakurs + Kurmis + Other Upper Castes account for close to 6 lakh voters here and all of them seem to be moving towards BJP, which is also getting a section of Dalit (Chamar) votes here. BJP is ahead in Ayodhya, Rudauli and Milkipur assembly segments as of today. Rating: Positive

Bahraich: Savitri Bai Phule, the sitting MLA of Balha is the BJP nominee here, which is another very good ticket by the party. As of today BJP is ahead in Balha, Bahraich and Mahsi assembly segments and is expected to have a very good showing in this parliamentary constituency. Rating: Average

Shrawasti: This is one of those dud decisions by the party that can possibly be overlooked in the overall scheme of things as Daddan Mishra is not only a deadwood but also very few Brahmin voters are present here (about 60-75k). One wonders how leaders like Daddan Mishra continue to survive despite finishing third in the 2012 assembly election (from Bhinga assembly segment of Shrawasti). Rating: Below Average

Bundelkhand

The lone seat that has been announced as of now is Jhansi, from where the veteran Sadhvi Uma Bharati will be contesting on the BJP ticket. She still has a larger than life presence here in Jhansi and should easily win this seat with a big margin. Rating: Super Positive

Note on Ratings Game:

Super Positive: Victory by big margin

Positive: BJP being ahead of the rest

Average: Tough contest but winnable for the BJP (especially in a wave election)

Below Average: BJP behind as of now, but the seat is not “unwinnable”, provided party puts in hard work and lady luck shines on its candidate

Negative: No chance of winning for BJP

(Part 2, consisting of non-UP states like Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab will be uploaded tomorrow)


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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.


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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.