No Sweep in Bengal, will be close until the end


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Two leading opinion polls predict an easy victory for Mamata led Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the ensuing polls. Times Now –  C Voter projects 160 seats while ABP – Nielsen 178 seats for TMC. Congress-Left alliance is seen lagging behind with 127 seats in C Voter and 110 seats in ABP News poll. In terms of vote share contest is very close – tie at 40% in C Voter and 1% gap in ABP News poll.

The Campaign360’s own poll carried out in early March (before the alliance was announced) predicted a 3-4% gap between Left-INC and Mamata, with Left-INC being ahead. Mamata is losing a small proportion of her votes to the Left and gaining a little from the BJP and therefore ending at the same level. The Left-INC combination on the other hand is gaining a small proportion from TMC, slightly larger proportion from BJP and small % of votes from ‘others’ to notch a 4% gain. But the manner in which the Congress party’s votes are concentrated means that vote share advantages do not necessarily transfer to huge seat advantages. The following chart will illustrate the point:

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In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, TMC was leading in 214 assembly segments. In those seats (Chart above), the TMC vote share was 45%. The Left+INC vote share is nearly 36%. A simple combination of Left+INC will deliver 35 of these seats taking their overall tally to 91 seats. Amongst the rest 179 seats, the gap between TMC and Left is a massive 13% points. There is an additional problem for Left+INC combine, when asked about their preferred CM candidate, a whopping 78% of Congress voters chose Mamata Banerjee. In case of BJP supporters it was 33% and only 7% in case of Left voters.

In other words, in remaining 179 seats, it is fairly clear that all Congress voters will not vote for the Left candidates. 2/3rd of Congress voters were Muslims in 2014 LS polls, these should not have much problem in voting for Left. 1/3rd Hindu voters are the traditional Congress voter for generations and consists of both anti-Mamata and anti-Left voters. This could vertically split with anti-Mamata voter voting for Left and vice-a-versa. This could have an impact on Left-Congress performance in marginal seats.

In order to gain the rest 56 seats to win the election, the Left-INC will have to take the following routes

1. Muslim community dominated seats

Muslims account for 27% of population as per 2011 census and capable of determining results in 102 seats. (Some estimates even put the number higher at 30%-35% and Muslim dominant seats at 125).

TMC was leading in 54 of these seats in 2014. For Muslims there is not much of a difference between TMC and Left+Congress alliance – both so called secular and seen as community sympathizer parties.

For the first time in Bengal political history saffron surge was evident in last polls. This could polarize the community votes in favour of one party rather than getting split among the three parties like it did in 2014. In whose favour could it polarize?

While TMC is positioned well to tackle NDA onslaught, BJP has been seen soft towards Mamata in Shardha chit fund scam, after all BJP needs TMC support in Rajya Sabha. Nationally Congress and Left are better positioned to tackle BJP than TMC.  This is evident in our survey which shows there are 28% swing voters among the community. This alone amounts to 7.5% vote share swing.

Further a report by SNAP on condition of Muslims suggests that their plight has not improved under Mamata – 80% rural Muslim households still live on Rs. 5,000 rupees a month, only 1% of public sector jobs are with Muslims and 15% of their children (6-14) don’t have access to education. Could this speel doom for Mamata the same way Sachar Committee report did for Left Front?

Based on the community preference for parties in our survey, Left-Congress combine could win 78 seats (gain of 34 seats)out of the 102 Muslim dominated seats and TMC 24.

Potential gain of 34 seats for Left+Congress vs LS polls.

2. BJP performance in state polls

BJP was leading in 24 seats. It is expected to get 13% vote share as per our survey (-4% vs LS) mainly due to absence of Modi / national factors in state poll. Now whoever is able to capture this 4% loss of vote share would end up winning majority of the seats which BJP was leading in. With BJP tally expected to be in single digits, 15-20 of these seats are up for grabs.

The vote which BJP got was in many ways an anti-Mamata vote and its loss of votes is more likely to veer towards Left-Congress alliance rather than TMC.

Some of the Left Front voters voted for BJP to take on Mamata in the state, they are expected to return to Left fold.

Potential gain of 15-16 seats for Left from BJP tally vs LS polls

3. Gain Vote share from ‘Others’

There are 22 seats that TMC was leading in 2014 where ‘others’ has greater than 5% share and BJP has 12% share. The Left-INC combination can win 12 of these by making marginal gains from ‘others’, BJP and TMC

Combining the effect of all the above points there could be cumulative gains of 58 seats for the Left Front or about 149 seats. This effectively means a tie in Bengal.

Why this would not work?

  1. None of the polls shows Left-INC is likely to win. To swing voters and those who typical vote for the winner, the opinion polls do not indicate a Left-INC win, TMC would therefore be preferable. It is unclear how the Flyover incident would impact the election.
  2. There is no signal yet to the Muslim Voters that Left-INC can win this election. Therefore it is unlikely that large proportion of Muslim voters will shift from TMC to the Left-INC combine
  3. The biggest problem also is the low ratings of CM candidate Suryakanth Mishra who is seen lagging by >20% votes to Mamata. Though there has been an increase in popularity ratings of Mr. Mishra from 14% levels to 30% now. In last 4 years no party whose leader was lagging in leadership ratings has won elections

Our Final Forecast is as follows

TMC – 150

Left+INC – 135

BJP – 8

Others – 1

Conclusion

The small vote and seat share gap indicates that the Left-Congress combine definitely have a chance in Bengal. The inability of Mamata Banerjee to create a different Bengal (Poribortan) from what it was under the Left means that she has little ability to attract new voters. She benefitted in LS 2014 because the opposition vote was split. Consolidation of opposition vote (Left + Congress coming together coupled with loss of vote share of BJP) could create headache for Mamata.

The Narda and flyover collapse incidents couldn’t have come at a worse time for her. The Flyover collapse and the resultant allegations around TMC would be a reminder to neutral or swing voters that Mamata Banerjee may not be the best choice as the CM. In this context, it is highly unlikely there will be massive swings in favor of any party, instead, each seat will be a fight to the finish. Mamata has the edge but Left can still catch up.

(Subhash Chandra, Suryakiran Tiwari, Hari Kasula, Natarajan Lalgudi)

 

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