One of the pet theories that is doing the rounds among the political pundits of Dilli is what is known as the ‘early peaking’ theory being applied to Narendra Modi and BJP. There is, many argue, a historic precedent of 2004 when BJP and NDA led by Vajpayee lost the plot during the campaign season. With elections spread across a timeframe of almost a month and a half, could Modi and BJP have a similar trajectory as in 2004?
For starters, one of the biggest difference between Modi and Vajpayee is that the latter was popular no doubt, but was never in the same league as Modi. At no given point of time in his political career was Vajpayee even half as popular as Modi across so many geographies of India. What is more, Vajpayee’s popularity never really went beyond BJP’s core voters, whereas the Modi of today is more popular among the OBCs than some of the biggest OBC leaders of heartland like Nitish, Lalu and Mulayam, the Modi of today is more popular among Jats than the tallest Jat leaders India has ever seen, the Modi of today is more popular among the Lingayats of Karnataka than the tallest Lingayat leader, BSY, the Modi of today is more popular among Marathas than the tallest Maratha leaders like Pawar and Thackerays, the Modi of today is more popular in Tamil Nadu than the tallest Dravidian leaders of the land! The Modi of today is even giving Mayawati a run for her money among the Dalit voters of Uttar Pradesh! Truth is that Vajpayee, never even in the wildest dreams of BJP supporters, could have matched Modi’s social coalition, so it is unlikely that Modi could suffer Vajpayee’s moment of doubt when India could simply not trust an old man who was hardly ambulatory.
There are of course a few opinion pieces being written about how the Modi juggernaut is facing sudden obstacles due to bad ticket distribution, conflict among the old guard and even the alleged clash of interests within BJP’s core vote – namely, the Brahmin-Thakur fault-line of UP. Then there are subtle suggestions being made by the editorial class about how BJP’s overt courtship of Dalits in Bihar has caused heartburn among the core upper-caste voters of the party. As a corroboration for some of these theories, many among the chattering classes offer findings of some dubious poll surveys conducted by half-a-dozen Hindi News channels and print media which show a decline for support for BJP in the past few weeks. There is even talk of how AAP is growing in urban India after Kejriwal’s challenge to Modi in Varanasi – a few news channels are giving non-stop coverage to Kejriwal shenanigans as a last resort to stop Modi.
Ground realities are actually telling a story completely opposite to what many in Dilli want us to believe. BJP, is actually gaining ground with each passing day rather than peaking! In the heartland, it seems as if there is no power to stop Modi wave as newer groups of voters are getting added every week to an already formidable social coalition that Modi has built. For instance, in Bihar, Dalits are now seamlessly integrated to an almost insurmountable social coalition of a large section of OBCs and a solid block of upper-caste votes that have become BJP’s calling card. In Uttar Pradesh, after the entry of Apna Dal into the NDA fold, Kurmis, the second largest group of OBCs in the state, are solidly behind BJP now. Similarly in Jharkhand, the hitherto divided tribal vote is now more-or-less consolidating around BJP (so much so that both the tribal stalwarts Shibu Soren and Babulal Marandi may well be humbled by BJP’s Sunil Soren, as per ground reports from Dumka). All of this is corroborated by the only other poll survey agency that we here at 5Forty3 trust (apart from our own in-house surveys).
The vote-to-seat conversion is not done by CSDS-Lokniti, so CNN-IBN mostly tends to get seat conversions wrong. With the kind of vote-share projections shown by CSDS-Lokniti survey and with further consolidation in the coming days due to the frontrunner advantage that BJP enjoys, it is more likely that BJP-NDA may actually sweep these states clean with hardly any opposition MPs in the next Lok Sabha from the erstwhile Bihar state!
This is not just the story of heartland mind you, for BJP is seeing unprecedented growth in West Bengal and Odisha of Eastern India, where the party has almost zero presence. As per the same CSDS poll, BJP is actually doubling its vote-share to 12% in WB and getting a whopping 30% in Odisha which has pushed the party as the main opposition to BJD! Our own analysis till last month was projecting a single digit haul for BJP in East India, but now with the latest survey findings we have started to revise our estimates, especially in Odisha, where BJP is emerging as a major surprise of 2014.
If this is the story of North and East India, the story of South India for BJP is that of winning alliances. In both Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana) and Tamil Nadu, the NDA coalition that Rajnath Singh and Modi have built is so formidable that it may completely alter the electoral arithmetic in these hitherto non-BJP states. Surveys conducted by local organizations in TN are showing surprising performance of the NDA which has even baffled pundits. In Seemandhra, the coming together of all non-Congress anti-Jagan forces under the NDA banner will likely create a major swing in favour of the saffron brigade, while in Telangana, a three-cornered fight may actually harm the present frontrunner, TRS because that party lacks effective cadre on the ground (unlike say Congress or TDP) to convert the goodwill into votes.
Thus we can safely conclude for now that Narendra Modi’s peak is not visible anywhere on the horizon, far from it, the peak seems to be hidden in cloud cover, which the Dilli intelligentsia is mistaking as its only hope. 2014 elections are headed for a historic social engineering by the BJP that may well defy all calculations and more importantly all the media-created electoral peaks.