#Elections2019: Uttar Pradesh, A cakewalk for none

Mayawati and Akhilesh have sealed the deal for the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) which sends the highest number of Members to Parliament. BJP swept the state in 2014 riding on Modi wave and its development agenda trumping caste politics. Opinion polls predict heavy losses for BJP in the state. In this article, we look at eleven key factors which will determine the results of UP in 2019.

Transfer of votes without leakages: The success of any alliance depends upon the ability of partners to transfer their votes to each other with limited leakages. While in Bihar in 2015, a similar Mahagathbandhan (MGB) of Lalu, Nitish and Congress succeeded in doing so, in UP, alliance of SP-Congress failed to shift votes to each other in 2017. An informal alliance of SP and BSP for three bypolls succeeded vote transfer in bypolls last year.

Management of rebels: SP and BSP contested separately in 2014 and on an aggregate fielded 158 candidates. Almost half of these candidates (82 out of 158) will be denied tickets this time due to an alliance. Both parties will have to put in a lot of efforts to quell rebellion and reduce the impact to minimum levels. Uncle Shivpal’s party and even Congress could accommodate such rebels.

Ram Mandir & reverse polarisation: The Mandir issue is hot currently with RSS and other Hindu organisations. UP CM Yogi Adityanath has many times reiterated that bhavya Ram mandir will be built in Ayodhya. In such an environment, any attempts to consolidate the minority vote by MGB in their favour could be counter-productive and unify the Hindu votes towards BJP.

Voting preference of non-Jatavs: The prime reason for decline in BSP’s influence in UP has been that it is losing support of its core vote bank of Dalits. They account for 21 per cent of the population; Jatavs (Mayawati’s caste is 12-14 per cent) and non-Jatavs (7-9 per cent). The support of non-Jatavs which was 64 per cent for party in 2009 declined to 30 per cent in 2014. BJP emerged as the choice for 45 per cent of non-Jatavs in 2014 as they were unhappy with Jatavisation/ Brahmanisation of BSP.

Voting preference of non-Yadav OBCs: OBCs account for 40 per cent of the state’s population. Yadavs (10 per cent) have been backing the SP while non-Yadavs (29 per cent), including Kurmis, Lodhis, Patels mostly supported the BJP till the time Kalyan Singh was there in the party. After his exit in 1999, the party lost the NYOBC votes to SP-BSP. From 43 per cent in 2002, support of Kurmis/ Koeris for BJP declined to 20 per cent in 2009. The fact that Modi belongs to the OBC community, strategic alliance entered with Apna Dal and disenchantment of non-Yadavs with SP due to their neglect led to massive consolidation in favour of BJP (60 per cent) in 2014.

How many sitting MPs are denied tickets? Modi and Shah follow a unique model to curb anti-incumbency. Today there is BJP government at the Centre, in the state and in many local bodies. So, the party has to face what I call triple anti-incumbency. To negate the impact of this, the party usually denies tickets to 30-40 per cent of its existing MPs/ MLAs. In the three state elections held recently, the number was between 25-30 per cent. In MCD elections, all corporators of BJP were denied tickets.

How seriously Congress fights in UP & Priyanka factor: After being snubbed, the Congress has declared it will contest all 80 seats and has made Priyanka in-charge of East UP. She is expected to contest from Rae Bareli. This has enthused the party cadre. The Congress bagged 7.5 per cent vote share in 2014 in peak Modi wave, winning two and finishing second in seats. It also has influence in urban areas and enjoys support from section of upper castes, Muslims and Dalits in the state. If SP, BSP, Congress and RLD had contested together they would have won 57 seats in 2014 instead of 41 if only SP and BSP contested together.

Impact of smaller parties: Smaller parties have traditionally recorded 10-15 per cent vote share in UP. They are community-specific parties like RLD (Jats), Apna Dal (Patel’s), SBSP (Rajbhar), Nishad Party (Mallah) etc. BJP entered into strategic alliances with Apna Dal and SBSP in central and state polls to get the community votes and make inroads. Both allies are unhappy with BJP and posturing for more tickets this time around. Nishad Party is likely to get two seats from MGB quota.

Voting pattern of first-time voters: First-time voters play a crucial role in every election. These young voters mostly do not carry any baggage of ideology and vote on issues/ development. A media survey in 2014 said that almost half of 15 crore first-time voters in the 2014 general election, wanted to see Modi as PM. BJP made good inroads into young Yadav and Dalit voters in UP. As per reports, there are 12.7 crore first-time voters in 2019 out of which 2.2 crores are in UP.

Ability of MGB to manage contradictions in its vote blocks: It will be difficult for a section of SP and BSP cadre to accept each other as allies forgetting their bitter past. Many Dalits have borne the brunt of violence/torture by powerful OBCs.

How does development vs caste politics pan out? In 2014, BJP was able to convert the caste-ridden politics of the state into a narrative of nation-building and got support from all caste/class groups. As AK Verma opines in NES 2014, “This victory signalled a paradigm shift in voter behaviour, with a preference for good governance and development pushing out the identity politics of caste and community.” Whether MGB takes it back to caste politics, remains to be seen!

To sum up, in 2019, voters of UP will evaluate the performance of the Modi government. MGB will try to convert this battle into an ‘agadey vs pichadey’ fight. An interesting battle on the cards with many layers.

This article was first published dnaindia.com on 10th Feb 2019.


#Elections2019: Why Mamata Banerjee is frightened of BJP despite dominating Bengal

Mamata Banerjee’s government denied permission to Yogi Adityanath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s helicopters to land in Bengal. This after repeatedly refusing to allow top BJP leaders to hold rallies and conduct yatras in the state. The Kolkata Police, clearly at Mamata’s command, also entered into a stand-off with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that had come to the city to interrogate police commissoner Rajeev Kumar in relation to the Saradha chit fund scam.

Where have we seen ruling governments denying the Opposition permission for conducting rallies? Which state police has ever arrested CBI officials who have come for investigation? Why is Mamata afraid of the BJP and its leadership which according to her is a fringe player in the state?

It is difficult to fathom! As part of its project to improve its position in east and south India, the BJP is putting in all efforts and using star campaigners like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Yogi and Shivraj in Bengal to exploit people’s frustration with Mamata. Possible gains in Bengal will help the BJP negate some of the expected losses in Hindi heartland states, feel strategists.

Why Mamata is in trouble

1. Trinamool Congress has peaked in Bengal

We have heard a lot about the BJP having peaked in many states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. But so have many regional parties. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) bagged 34 out of 42 seats in Bengal in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

It is very difficult for the TMC to repeat the performance as the BJP is gaining ground. The Congress has adopted a policy of going it alone in the state and the Left is determined to make a comeback. Mamata knows that if her tally declines, her prime ministerial ambitions will receive a big jolt.

2. TMC is the new Left

People fed up with 34-year rule of the Left Front voted for ‘poriborton’ in Bengal. But it is increasingly becoming clear that Mamata has now occupied the position once held by the CPM-led Left Front. She has adopted a similar strategy of using violence, intimidation and rigging to win elections. Clubs have taken over the neighborhoods. The state government nurtures 20,000-odd clubs with crores of rupees every year and these clubs in turn ensure that the area under them remains loyal to Didi.

3. BJP increasingly taking over from Left as the main opposition to TMC

The BJP, like the CPM, won two seats in 2014. In by-polls held since May 2014, the BJP has done well compared to the CPM and Congress. In 10 by-polls that were held in the state since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won one seat and finished second on five seats. The CPM couldn’t win a single seat in this period. Mamata realises the threat from the BJP and that’s why has upped the ante against the party.

4. BJP highlighting corruption scandals and minority appeasement politics of Mamata

Muslims account for about 30% of the population of Bengal. The BJP has been accusing Mamata of minority appeasement. In 2017, Mamata made an appeal to the Hindu community to halt Durga puja visarjan for sometime as it had overlapped with Muharram. She had also banned arms at Ram Navmi rallies which has evoked a sharp response from the Hindus. The recent face-off between the Centre and state over the Saradha chit fund scam investigations has given a chance to the BJP to highlight the fact that Mamata is shielding the corrupt.

5. Complementary vote blocks

The upper castes and OBCs support the TMC in the state. At the national level, these voters are with the BJP. More than 60% of the upper castes and 30% of the OBCs voted for the BJP in the 2014 general election. Even in Bengal, the BJP enjoys decent support among these two groups — 24% and 21% respectively. Mamata’s fear is that the Hindus, frustrated with her minority appeasement politics, could consolidate behind the BJP and that could cause her significant damage.

6. Congress’s ‘ekla chalo re’ niti

The TMC, at the end of the day, is a splinter group of the Congress and they too share complementary vote blocks, mostly from the minority sections. The minority votes were split in the 2014 general elections between Mamata, Left and Congress. Both TMC and Congress were in discussion for a seat-sharing arrangement. However, talks have failed. If they would have contested together in 2014, the Left Front candidates would have lost from the 2 seats they won. The BJP, however, would have still managed to retain their seats. The Congress has a strong presence in central Bengal which has seven seats on offer. The party won all four seats from this region in 2014. It also enjoys decent support among the non-literate and the agricultural workers in the state. An alliance with the Congress would have provided Mamata some cushion.

7. Strong vote segments of BJP

The BJP enjoys good support among urban voters (25%) and the middle class (21%). Twenty-nine percent of the educated voters (college and above) chose the BJP in 2014. It has been able to create a space among these categories of voters and also the youth.

Opinion polls predict significant improvement in BJP’s performance 

The C-Voter opinion poll predicts seven seats for the BJP while VDP Associates predicts 15 seats. Both the polls project a significant increase in the vote share for the BJP in the region, from 17% to 32% (C-Voter) and to 37% (VDP Associates).

However, challenges remain

The absence of a strong cadre has been one of the BJP’s weaknesses in Bengal. This is coupled with a lack of leadership to take on the charisma of Mamata, and hence the BJP’s progress has been stalled in the state. Bengal is also known for class politics. The image of the Left and now TMC has been that of championing the rights of the poor and downtrodden. The BJP is currently seen as a party of the middle and rich class. But all said and done, general elections 2019 will see a cracker of a contest in Bengal and Mamata would not have it easy.

This Aarticle was first published on mynation.com on 07 Feb, 2019.

#Elections2019: Left could soon be left out of Kerala if BJP continues to bat on front foot

The Bharatiya Janata Party under its strategy of expansion in east and south India is betting on Kerala. The party finally managed to open its account in Kerala with veteran leader OP Rajagopal winning from Nemom in the 2016 Assembly elections. In another seat in Manjeshwar, it lost by a whisker – just 89 votes. The BJP-led NDA recorded 15% vote share, almost three times its 2011 tally. In many seats, the BJP managed to convert bipolar contest into triangular.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Pinarayi Vijayan-led CPM government at a BJP rally in Thrissur on January 25. He reassured the people of the state that the BJP would continue to uphold the religious and cultural traditions of Kerala, and spiritedly face the violence of the CPM.

“For every bomb they throw on us, for every stone they hit at out workers, for each form of their violence, our resolve turns stronger to end their undemocratic rule,” Modi said. He also exposed the hypocrisy of the Congress on the issue.

Caste and religion matrix

Hindus account for 55% of the population and Muslims and Christians form 45%. Muslims and Christians have traditionally supported the Congress while Ezhavas and Dalits have backed the Left. The upper caste Nair vote has been split between the Congress and Left. The BJP’s entry has left both the Congress and Left worried, more so Left because the BJP’s target is Left vote blocks. Upper caste and OBCs are anchor voting segments of the BJP in North and West India. That is why we have witnessed bloody violence in the state where hundreds of BJP / RSS workers have been killed in the past decade.

With the Left’s influence reducing drastically in Indian politics, it being out of power of Bengal and after having lost its fortress Tripura to the BJP, it is naturally worried. The people of the state who had no choice except to vote alternatively for the Left and Congress now have an alternative.

Kerala has one of the highest minority population in India after Northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir. It accounts for the highest Christian population (61 lakh), and sixth highest Muslim population (89 lakh) in the country. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, 64% of the UDF vote share and 39% of LDF vote share was accounted for by minorities’ support.

BJP increasingly challenging Left’s hold over Hindu voters 

In the past two elections, the BJP has expanded its voter base to impact both the Left as well as Congress. Around three-fourths of the BJP’s vote share came from Ezhavas and Nairs in 2014 and 2016.

The BJP hopes that the Sabarimala issue could help it woo a larger number of Nair and Ezhavas votes from both the Congress and LDF significantly boosting its vote share. This could add another 10-15% to the BJP’s kitty. With a strong push for Dalits and strategy to woo Christian community in line with Goa, the BJP can reach the 25-30% mark which is enough to put it in contention given that 30% vote share in a tripartite environment can deliver numerous seats (30-40) for the BJP.

Karnataka and Assam model

The party became a force to reckon with in Karnataka by targeting urban voters, Lingayats, upper caste, and border districts. In Assam, its strong push on immigration issue helped consolidate the Hindu voters in favor of the majority. In Kerala, a strong push on Hindutva, re-iterating party is a natural claimant of this voting block, together with highlighting the anti-Hindu stance of Left parties nationally in other states, could help party wean away a large section of Left front voters over time.

Sabarimala issue provides ammunition to BJP

Modi in Thrissur rally thundered, “The conduct of Kerala’s LDF government on Sabarimala issue will go down in history as one of the most shameful behaviour by any party and government. We knew that communists do not respect Indian history, culture, and spirituality but nobody imagined that they will have such hatred.” The Congress’s guarded stance and Rahul’s new statement that traditions should be respected shows that it also wants to walk on a balanced path on this tricky issue.

BJP’s inroads could force UDF-LDF to have an under-the-table deal 

The Left and Congress forged an alliance for Bengal and failed miserably. Can they come together in Kerala to thwart competition from the BJP? The Left didn’t attend the Mamata rally in Kolkata, but the Congress did. Any formal communists and Congress collaboration could spell trouble for both parties, especially Left, keeping the 2021 state polls in mind.

With a strong trend of the public overthrowing incumbent governments, the BJP could push to make it a contest between the Congress and the saffron party in 2021. Even during the 2016 state elections, there were reports of under-the-table deals between the LDF and UDF to ensure the BJP doesn’t open its account in Kerala. This could be exploited by the BJP to the hilt to gain an advantage.

However, significant challenges remain

The path to opening its account in 2019 is not all rosy and easy. The lack of strong leadership on the ground, issues with allies and its perception of Hindi heartland party pose challenges. Kerala is the most literate state in India, and the politics of polarisation has chances of backfiring as well, so it cannot be pushed beyond a certain level. Interesting times ahead.

This article was first published On mynation.com on 27 Jan. 2019.

#Elections2019: Why Congress May Damage The Mahagathbandhan More Than The BJP In Uttar Pradesh

The bua and bhatija jodi of Mayawati and Akhilesh have sealed an alliance for Uttar Pradesh. The duo kept Congress out from the scheme of things citing that the party does not have the ability to reciprocate vote transfer. The media is abuzz with debates about who will the Congress damage more, the mahagathbandhan or th Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in this triangular contest. The opinion is divided. In this post the writer will analyse who will benefit from Congress contesting independently. But first let’s take a look at the performance of the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh.


Vote Share And Seats

Since the advent of the coalition era in 1989, and the Mandal and Kamandal issue, which has a lasting impact on state politics, the Congress party’s graph has been witnessing a downward spiral in Uttar Pradesh.

From 31.8 per cent in 1989, its vote share declined to 6 per cent in 1998 when it even failed to open its account. From 1998 to 2014, its vote share has witnessed cyclical pattern. Its best performance in the last three decades was in 2009 when it surprised everybody by bagging 21 seats. In 2014, in Modi wave that gripped the state, it could retain just the family strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi.The party got 60.6 lakh votes in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It received 9.35 lakh votes in Amethi and Rae Bareli where it won.

On the remaining 65 seats it received on an average 79,000 votes per seat. It finished runner up in six seats, Bara Banki, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Kushi Nagar, Lucknow and Saharanpur where its candidates received more votes than Samajwadi Party (SP)/Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates. It finished third in five seats where it received more votes than one of the mahagathbandhanpartners; Kheri (>SP), Mirzapur (>SP), Pratapgarh (>SP), Rampur (>BSP) and Varanasi (both >SP and >BSP).

Caste-Wise Support

The party enjoys significant support among the upper caste in Uttar Pradesh. It also enjoys good support among the Kurmi and Koeri community (Other Backward Class or OBC) and Muslims.

A break-up of the Congress vote share in UP in 2014 shows that the biggest chunk of the party’s vote came from minorities (23 per cent) followed by the upper caste (21 per cent) and OBCs (20 per cent). While minorities have traditionally voted for a party which is in a position to defeat the BJP, the upper caste communities are vocal supporters of the BJP.

Five Factors Why Congress Might Damage The Mahagathbandhan More Than The BJP

1. Congress will split the anti-BJP vote

Even after a scathing attack by Mayawati on Congress which, by the way, was no less than her attack on the BJP, Congress sympathisers feel the party will go for a tacit understanding with the mahagathbandhan. My political understanding is that Congress will fight spiritedly and try to prove a point that it can win without SP-BSP support, especially, after the victories in the three Hindi heartland states. While in Uttar Pradesh it cannot win more seats than mahagathbandhan, it can play a key role in 10-15 seats.

2. Congress will get a section of Dalit-Muslim-Yadav votes which would have otherwise gone to the mahagathbandhan

Some analysts are saying that the Congress will damage the BJP by garnering the Brahmin/upper caste votes of the BJP. The upper caste vote is only 21 per cent of total votes of Congress, going by the 2014 data. Muslims, Yadavs and Dalits which form the core vote bank of mahagathbandhan account for 39 per cent of Congress votes. This is almost double its upper caste support. The mahagathbandhan cannot defeat the BJP without the support of non-Yadav OBCs. Here as well Congress scores well with 35 per cent of its total support.

One could argue why Muslims would vote for Congress when they know the mahagathbandhan is in better position to defeat the BJP. This is because:

  • The Congress would also put up Muslim candidates in some seats leading to a split of votes
  • The Congress is in a better position to defeat the BJP nationally, SP and BSP can’t do that as they have no/ limited presence outside UP.

3. Congress could have compensated for leakages if it was part of the alliance

No community votes 100 per cent for any party in any elections and at best one could get is 70 per cent-75 per cent of one group’s vote, hence Congress could retain its Dalit, Muslim, Yadav (DMY) votes, which could hurt the mahagathbandhan in a tight contest. It is incorrect to assume that the Dalit, Muslim, Yadav voters of the Congress would not have voted for SP-BSP candidates in a larger alliance which included Congress as well.

These votes would have been easily transferred to the mahagathbandhan, roughly 3.5 per cent-4 per cent vote share based on the 2014 numbers. This would have compensated for translation losses. For any alliance to achieve pre-poll vote shares is difficult and like we saw in Bihar, 5 per cent-10 per cent leakage is normal. In that case the Congress party’s 7.5 per cent vote share would be handy.

4. Congress is strong in Urban pockets and Awadh region

Uttar Pradesh has 68 rural and 12 urban seats. In the urban seats, Congress performance was much better (+5 per cent) its vote share was almost similar to the BSP and SP vote share. In Awadh regions, which has 13 Lok Sabha seats, its vote share was 17.8 per cent in 2014, of course, helped by the fact that Rae Bareli and Amethi come under this region. In this region, its vote share was higher than the SP.

5. National vs Regional elections

UP has sent the maximum prime ministers to Parliament. In 1989, people voted for V P Singh and during 1996, 1998 and 1999 for Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In 2004, there was no PM candidate of the Congress and people were not gung-ho about Vajpayee’s return. In 2009, L K Advani (PM candidate of the BJP) contested from Gujarat while Rahul Gandhi who was conjectured to take over from Manmohan Singh in UPA 2 contesting from UP.

This is why the Congress surprised all with 21 seats. In 2014, Modi the PM candidate of BJP, contested from Varanasi and people voted for BJP in large numbers. This time it’s clear that the PM candidate of Congress is Rahul Gandhi. With both PM candidates of BJP and Congress contesting from UP, this could make the elections national rather than regional helping Congress like it did in 2009.

To sum up, the Congress contesting alone will damage the prospects of the mahagathbandhan in UP. The main issue why it was not included in the mahagathbandhan is that being a national party it would not have settled for anything less than 12-15 seats. That would have reduced the number of seats of SP-BSP and their ability to bargain in a hung Parliament situation. An interesting contest is on the cards.

#Elections2019: Priyanka Gandhi joins active politics: Congress has thrown its hat in UP, made contest tougher for SP-BSP and BJP

Congress has appointed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as party’s general secretary for Uttar Pradesh (East). She will take charge in the first week of February 2019 and is likely to contest from Raebareli, the traditional seat of Gandhi family, currently represented by Sonia Gandhi.

Congress leader Motilal Vohra commented on the development and said, “The responsibility given to Priyankaji is very important. This will not only have an effect on eastern Uttar Pradesh but also other regions.” Jyotiraditya Scindia will handle Uttar Pradesh West as the party’s general secretary.

Benefits of Priyanka campaigning

This move is likely to motivate the cadre of Congress, which was feeling low after Bua and Bhatija jodi announced a mahagathbandhan excluding Congress. Congress recorded 7.5 percent vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, retaining only the two family stronghold seats. In the 2017 Assembly elections, the party’s performance declined further, with its vote share reduced to 6.3 percent.

Priyanka bears resemblance to Indira and is likely to attract the female voters who would connect with her far more easily. The turnout of women voters has been increasing over the years. Women are also making independent decisions on voting due to increase in literacy and awareness levels. Congress generally has received higher support from women compared to men in Lok Sabha elections.

Source: CSDS NES 2014

Priyanka in the past has canvassed for party only in Amethi and Raebareli. Her campaign across the state is likely to provide a fillip to fortunes of the party when it is attempting to revive its traditional vote bank of the upper caste (mainly Brahmins and Thakurs), Dalits and Muslims. A section of upper caste, disenchanted with BJP due to its flip-flop on the Ram Mandir issue and not so gung-ho about the 10 percent reservation for economically weaker sections for general class, will be targeted by the party.

The party is likely to attract better candidates for seats as they could now see a higher probability of winning elections on Congress ticket. Even BSP-SP candidates who are likely to be denied tickets due to the mahagathbandhan may flock to Congress for accommodating them.

Big blow to mahagathbandhan

The move is a big setback for the mahagathbandhan, which — despite keeping Congress out — had hoped the party would eventually have a tacit understanding of working with them for the larger cause of defeating BJP. Congress appointing Priyanka and Scindia as general secretaries in-charge of Uttar Pradesh is a clear signal that it will put up a spirited fight and make the contest truly triangular.

The party has not taken well the way Mayawati criticised Congress sharply in the press conference on the day of seat-finalisation of the mahagathbandhan. This is likely to split the anti-BJP vote and help BJP in the state. Congress and the mahagathbandhan share complimentary vote block of Dalits and Muslims and Congress strengthening is likely to be at the expense of the mahagathbandhan.

Over the years, Uttar Pradesh has been witnessing either a regional or national contest. Whenever people have voted on regional considerations, SP and BSP have done well, like in 2004 and 2009 when regional parties won more than half of the seats. Priyanka’s entry will make the contest national as she will be pitched against Modi.

Strategy of BJP disrupted

Priyanka’s entry also complicates matters for BJP as party will try to woo the Brahmin voters of the saffron party. The party will need to come up with a renewed strategy to figure out not only how to tackle the mahagathbandhan but also Congress, which has made Priyanka in-charge of Purvanchal which has 30 seats. BJP swept the region in 2014, bagging 29 seats. Modi contested from Varanasi, which created a wave in favour of the party in 2014.

Source: CSDS NES 2014

Congress hopes to repeat its 2009 performance

Congress finished runner-up in six seats in 2014, despite Modi wave scoring higher than SP and BSP. It finished second runner-up in five seats, getting more votes than either SP or BSP. Its vote share in 12 urban seats of the state is over 12 percent, 5 percent higher than state average.

In 2009, in a surprise result, the party won 21 seats, bagging 18.3 percent vote share. The party’s decision is keeping in mind short-term gains with long-term expansion strategy. It realises that since negotiations with mahagathbandhan was based on past performance, it could never get a good deal.

To sum up, Congress has thrown its hat in Uttar Pradesh by making Priyanka the general secretary. Now, it is all set to give the regional parties a run for their money. The impact of this could also be felt in seat discussions in Bihar.

This post was first published on firstpost.com on Jan 23rd, 2019.

#Elections2019: Pumping up party organisation

The last two months have not brought good news for the BJP. The party lost elections in the three Hindi heartland states. The CBI and Justice Sikri episodes have created unnecessary controversy.

It is facing a spirited Congress attack on social media. To top it all, the SP and the BSP have announced a formidable alliance for the forthcoming polls in Uttar Pradesh, which accounted for one-fourth of BJP’s tally in 2014.Suddenly, what looked like an easy sail through for the party in 2019, has turned into a tight, wide open contest.

BJP recognizes it has an uphill task at hand and the stupendous verdict 2014 could be termed as an outlier. The party has affected big organisational changes recently. The most important among them is the appointment of the three ex-chief ministers – Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh as national vice-presidents.

The party strategy is to use the experience and charisma of these leaders, especially in the Hindi heartland and reduce the load of Narendra Modi to some extent, who can then focus on greenfield areas like East and South of India.

This step also helps soothe the taut nerves of upper caste and OBCs who form the core vote bank of the party.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, these sections accounting for 60 per cent of the population, voted overwhelmingly for the BJP and its allies.

After the losses, notes of dissent have come out in the open with party veterans questioning the approach of the Modi-Shah duo.

These appointments may have been done to quell such noises. With Sushma Swaraj announcing that she will not contest 2019 polls, BJP now lacks a pan-India woman leader with mass appeal. Raje fills this gap. With many flagship schemes of the government — Ujjwala, Awas, Swachch Bharat, Saubhagya — to name only a few aimed at women beneficiaries, this strategy may pay rich dividends.

The Modi-Shah duo now wants to win at any cost and the Prime Minister has not been shy of campaigning extensively even in state polls.

Another appointment, which has caught everyone’s attention is of Gordhan Zadafia, once a bitter critic of Modi belonging to the rival Sanjay Joshi camp, who has been made in-charge of the most important state of Uttar Pradesh.The party faced a lot of flak, especially from the upper castes, for nullifying the Supreme Court order on SC-ST Atrocities Act.

The SC-STs overwhelmingly voted against the party recently in the three states where it was in power. BJP won 128 SC-ST reserved seats in these states in 2013, which fell by more than half to 59 in 2018.

A section of upper caste disillusioned with the party pressed NOTA, stayed at home, some even voting for Sapaks, a party championing upper caste rights.

The party had to face reversals in belts where upper caste formed a significant proportion of population like Gwalior-Chambal in Madhya Pradesh.

Even OBCs, staunch supporters of the BJP, switched sides in Chhattisgarh.

With this step, BJP hopes to keep its anchor voting segment in good humour especially when Congress is trying to play the Brahman card and revive its traditional vote bank of upper caste, Dalits and Muslims.

In the national convention held over the weekend, Modi exhorted the BJP cadre not to be complacent and work hard on the ground. They shouldn’t just hope Modi will come, hold rallies and swing votes. They need to take the welfare schemes of the government door to door and highlight the achievements.

As per CSDS National Election Studies (NES) 2014, 27 per cent of BJP supporters would not have voted for party if Modi was not the prime ministerial candidate.

The dip in popularity ratings of Modi and a corresponding increase in Rahul’s has cautioned BJP against over-reliance on the Modi factor.

Though a lot of credit is given to Modi for the 2014 victory, it was also a result of effort and leadership of many state leaders like Chouhan, Raman, Raje, Parrikar, mini Modis in their own might.

The call is also to them and to new leaders like Yogi and Fadnavis to work hard to realize their common dream.

The party is seeking suggestions from the public on various issues like implementation of schemes, impact of proposed grand alliance and three most popular party leaders in their constituencies, among other things.

To negate anti-incumbency, BJP is likely to deny tickets to 30-40 per cent of existing MPs, around 100 in total.

This exercise will provide information on the popularity of MPs and suggest alternatives. Though elections in India are increasingly becoming presidential in style, one-fourth of the voters gave importance to the local candidate while voting in 2014, according to NES.

The unfavourable verdict in the three states brought to the forefront rural and agri distress. It also highlighted growing urban apathy among the middle class, staunch supporters of BJP. The party is likely to come up with schemes to ease the nerves of these crucial segments.

For farmers, the party could roll out a programme on the lines of Ryathu Bandhu Scheme of Telangana, where per hectare amount will be paid out to them. The middle class could see an increase in the income exemption limit from the current Rs 2.5 lakh per annum to Rs 5 lakh per annum.

For the rural population, the possibility of doling out a UBI scheme, where Rs 2-2,500 per month will be given to BPL category, is being mentioned. The party is now pulling out all stops.

This article was first published on dnaindia.com on 18 Jan, 2019.

#Elections2019: Third Front talks are fine, but it’s Congress which must beat BJP in its den to oust Narendra Modi in 2019


Mamata Banerjee rounded up her three-day visit to New Delhi by meeting Arvind Kejriwal and Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday, in efforts to put up a ‘Grand Alliance’ against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. She has given the formula of ‘one-to-one’, implying there should be one united Opposition candidate against the BJP in each seat to put up a tough fight.


Mamata has been leading the talks with regional parties – including NCP, SP, BSP, TRS, RJD etc – to try and repeat a 1977-like experiment, where a majority Opposition contested under one common banner of the Janata Party to oust Indira Gandhi from power.

But the ‘Federal Front’ may not be able to unseat Narendra Modi from the throne in 2019, as some parties may keep out of it, like the Biju Janata Dal. Also because both YSRCP and TDP cannot join the front at the same time and some parties may still stick with the NDA, like the Akali Dal, Lok Janshakti Party and even Shiv Sena. It is the, thus, the Congress which needs to beat the BJP in its own backyard to achieve this ambitious goal.

Historically, BJP plus Congress have received 51 percent and regional parties 49 percent vote share in the Lok Sabha elections from 1951-2014, as shown in the graph below. Regional parties recorded their best performance in 2004, with a 52.6 percent vote share.


Regional parties came into prominence in the 1989 elections, which gave rise to the coalition era from 1989-2014. The tally of BJP plus Congress has been in the range of 280-320 and the tally of the regional parties in the range of 220-260.

Party-wise seat tally.

BJP and Congress have been eating into each other’s vote share and seat tally and the performance of regional parties has remained largely consistent. For example, Congress (206) and BJP (116) together won 322 seats in 2009. In 2014, they together won 326 but switched roles, with BJP on 282 and Congress on 44.

The majority of seats (147/282) which BJP won were in a direct contest with the Congress – in states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Assam, Karnataka, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and the Union Territories. These accounted for 52 percent of BJP’s total tally.

State-wise seat tally.

Additionally, in Maharashtra, where it was predominantly a BJP+ versus Congress+ contest, BJP won another 23 seats, taking its tally to 60 percent in direct contests. Congress finished runner-up in 224 seats in 2014, approximately two-thirds of these losses were against BJP candidates.

While there is a lot of talk about how BJP has reached its peak in many states, regional parties, not part of the BJP-led NDA, also have already maxed out in their respective states, namely, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala etc, as shown in table below.


Only in two states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, can regional parties gain through this proposed unity efforts. Regional parties won 217 seats in 2014. They can gain at best 50-60 seats, in these two states, if all goes in their favour, taking their tally to 270-280 odd seats, close to their peak of 260 in 1989. Regional parties could also lose a few seats in Odisha, Bengal and Kerala.

This could reduce BJP’s tally to 230, with Congress at 50 and regional parties at 260 (historical best performance). Note of caution, the tally of regional parties will also include NDA partners and parties which may not join the Federal Front in the range of 40-60 seats.

This will not be enough, as BJP plus regional parties in the NDA fold could just fall short of the majority (a 20-30 seat shortfall) and gain first mover advantage. There is a risk of parties from the Federal Front jumping ship in that scenario.

Congress needs to ensure that BJP’s tally falls to around 150 seats to prevent it from having a shot at government formation and be on the safe side. The proposed Grand Alliance of Congress plus Federal Front cannot form a government at the Centre unless the Congress itself touches 130-150 seats.

In 2004, Congress won 145 seats and went on to lead a government with regional parties. So, essentially, Congress needs another 80-100 seats and all of them it needs to snatch from BJP in direct contest states like Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka etc, which have close to 180 seats. The proposed Federal Front partners have almost nil presence in these seats, except for BSP in a couple of states. The Congress needs to achieve this on a standalone basis.

BJP recorded big wins in 2014, its average margin being 1.83 lakh votes or 18 percent in terms of vote share. BJP enjoys a huge lead over Congress in each of these seats and such big swings are seldom witnessed, except in 1977 and in 1980. While it is difficult, it’s not impossible as we have witnessed in the recent bypolls in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Congress and Rahul Gandhi need to perform exceptionally well, beating BJP in its own den to oust Modi in 2019.

This article was first published on firstpost.com on March 29th 2018.

#Elections2019: Rahul Gandhi and Congress apart, triple anti-incumbency looms as major threat to Narendra Modi’s return in 2019

BJP is hopeful of bettering its 2014 Lok Sabha performance in 2019. It has formed governments in 13 states which have held elections after May 2014 and retained two states. Along with its allies, the party now rules 20 states which send 63 percent of total MPs to the Lower House. Narendra Modi’s approval ratings remain high and he enjoys a lead of over 30 percent versus Rahul Gandhi in India Today Mood of the Nation Survey.

However, all is not hunky dory for the party. BJP has lost four Lok Sabha by-polls held in 2018, all in the Hindi heartland. The Opposition has smelled blood and Congress is leading discussions to form a grand alliance. Whereas, regional parties like TMC and TRS have initiated a discussion to form a Federal Front. Amidst this background, a number of commentators have started questioning BJP’s ability to repeat its historic performance in 2019.

These alliances, formed purely on an anti-Modi plank, may not worry the prime minister at this stage too much.

While it is no mean feat to lead a majority government at the Centre, having chief ministers in two-third states and 274 MPs in Lok Sabha — the highest tally of any party since 1984 — could act as a double-edged sword. In addition to this, BJP now has 35 percent of all India MLAs and controls many municipalities across the country. This heightens the risk of BJP facing triple anti-incumbency in 2019. It is the biggest threat to Modi making a comeback in 2019 in my opinion.

People feel Modi factor was the only reason BJP won in 2014. However, his popularity alone doesn’t explain the full story of BJP’s historic mandate. Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) carried out a National Election Study 2014 and asked respondents the following question:

“While voting some people give importance to the local candidate, others to the state level leadership of the party and some others to the prime ministerial candidate. How would you describe yourself?”

In response to the question, 28 percent voters gave importance to the prime ministerial candidate, 26 percent to the local candidate and 18 percent to the state-level leadership. And therein lies the biggest headache for BJP. A good 44 percent of people gave due consideration to the local candidate and top leadership of parties in contention in the states while casting their vote.

One of the primary reasons for UPA’s loss in 2014 was that it suffered from similar triple anti-incumbency. UPA was in power for 10 years at the Centre, UPA had chief ministers in 16 states and Congress had 206 MPs. A section of people were fed up with the corruption scandals under Manmohan Singh’s government and the falling economy, some were unhappy with the performance of the state governments of UPA and others with the non-performance of its MPs. All this led to a significant built-up of anger among public resulting in a humiliating loss for Congress, down from 206 to a historic low of 44 MPs and less than 20 percent vote share.

Politicians are adept at shifting blame. In state elections wherein Opposition rules at the Centre, ruling party pins the blame on the central government for non-cooperation and non-release of funds. This strategy has been effectively utilised by Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat BJP governments over the decades. We are now witnessing similar strategy being employed by Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh.

In state elections after 2014, BJP blamed Opposition governments for not utilising funds released by the Modi government and won many states. However, now the states where BJP is in power cannot shift the blame to the Centre for not fulfilling their manifesto promises. Similarly, during the campaign in 2019, Modi can’t shift the blame on state governments for not delivering on his pet projects. This puts BJP campaign strategists in a quandary.

BJP will likely deny tickets to many sitting MPs like in MCD polls where it replaced all corporators. As per my sources, this number could range from 50-80. This way BJP hopes to negate the local candidate level anti-incumbency. This way BJP will try to sell that it’s being proactive and will not tolerate non-performance.

BJP hopes that since many MPs are lightweights, replacing them will not give rise to any big rebellion. But as we have seen above, local candidates played almost similar role as Modi factor in 2014.

Additionally, national elections are not corporation elections. Federal Front / Third Front which may not have candidates in many seats can give tickets to some of these candidates.

BJP also may not be able to hold on to declaring the names of the candidate till the last moment, especially if a grand alliance and or a third front announces candidates early to exploit the three levels of anti-incumbency.

To conclude, BJP’s electoral success of the last four years that has seen it control almost two-thirds of India could become its own enemy, hobbling prospects of a slam dunk victory in 2019. Unlike in the past, it will not be able to assign blame for not fulfilling promises to others. Moreover, opponents’ barbs of the government failing on the jobs and agrarian front are finding their targets and Rahul Gandhi is surely albeit slowly climbing in the leadership league tables. If all these weren’t enough, there’s anti-incumbency against state governments and BJP MPs, all of which could complicate matters.

this article was first published on firstpost.com on 26th March 2018.

UP-Bihar Bypolls Point to Potential ‘Grand Alliance’ Against BJP

In a huge blow to the BJP just a year before the next Lok Sabha elections, the party has lost Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls to the SP-BSP duo in Uttar Pradesh. BJP also failed to wrest the Araria Lok Sabha seat in spite of all their big claims and a weakened RJD after Lalu’s jail term.

What is more humiliating is the fact that both the seats in UP were represented by their top two men, the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and the Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, and were both won by huge margins (3 lakh+).

After the big losses in Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan in February, this comes as a rude jolt to BJP and throws the contest for 2019 wide open.

Mahagathbandhan Poses Stiff Challenge

In UP, bua (Mayawati) and bhatija (Akhilesh) joined hands to take on the BJP, with BSP extending support to SP candidates. Both the parties ran a pilot project which could take the shape of a mahagathbandhan in UP for 2019. BJP, which was leading in Gorakhpur by 1.36 lakh votes in 2014, after aggregating BSP and SP votes, lost the seat by 21,881 votes. In the Phulpur seat, BJP, which was leading by 1.44 lakh votes in 2014, still lost the seat by 59,613 votes.

(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)
(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

BSP has again proved its ability to transfer its votes to its alliance partners. The grand alliance has made a dent in the BJP’s vote share: -5 percent in Gorakhpur and -13 percent in Phulpur, indicating the loss of a section of its anchor – the OBC support base.

Some Dalits who voted for BJP in 2014 appear to have gone back into the BSP fold. It has a dedicated set of voters in each constituency, which is its biggest strength.

This victory may finally give shape to a SP-BSP grand alliance in which the Congress may also join. BJP won one-fourth (71) of its overall tally (282) from UP in 2014. Any loss of seats in UP will directly affect BJP’s ability to cross the halfway mark in Lok Sabha in 2019 and also Modi’s chances to return as Prime Minister even if BJP emerges as the single largest party.

The fact that the alliance partners BSP and SP were able to transfer their votes seamlessly will pose greater difficulties for the BJP.

SP and BSP on a combined basis got just 1.5 percent less votes than BJP and allies in 2014. If one adds Congress, the grand alliance could lead BJP by 6 percent vote share. While the alliance is not all about arithmetic but also about chemistry, BJP’s experience in Bihar and now UP suggest otherwise.

The social coalition of Dalits, Adivasis, Yadavs and Muslims, (51 percent of the population) which this grand alliance hopes to create, would pose a significant challenge to the upper caste, Jat and OBC vote block of BJP (49 percent of the population).

Vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha elections
Vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha elections
(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

‘Grand Alliance’ Still in the Reckoning in Bihar

In Bihar, the RJD and Congress alliance have held onto the Araria Lok Sabha seat (by 61,988 votes) and Jehanabad (by 35,036 votes) assembly seat despite the RJD party patriarch Lalu being in jail. While Jehanabad is a minority-dominated seat, BJP was hopeful of winning the Araria Lok Sabha seat (15 percent Muslim voters) which it had won in alliance with JDU in 2004 and 2009.

BJP and JDU were leading by 75,265 votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.The results suggest Nitish has lost significant support among the minority community because of his re-entry into NDA. JDU lost 1/3rd of its votes to RJD.

(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

While the RJD candidate benefited from the ‘sympathy factor’ owing to his father’s death, Lalu has been able to consolidate his vote base among the minorities, Yadavs and OBCs, alleging a ‘witch hunt’ by the BJP as is evident from a 5 percent increase in vote share in Jehanabad.

NDA won 31 out of 40 seats from this state and is the key to the party’s fortunes in 2019.

Jehanabad Vote Share
Jehanabad Vote Share
(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

Anti-BJP United Opposition Could Repeat 1977

BJP’s loss in these bypolls gives a fillip to the efforts of the Opposition to form a broad anti-BJP alliance. Sonia Gandhi hosted a dinner for leaders of 20 regional parties yesterday at her residence to kickstart the process. These parties (excluding Left) together recorded 36 percent vote share in 2014, higher than the NDA’s vote share of 34 percent (excluding TDP and Shiv Sena). BJP’s consecutive wins, state after state, and its recent performance in Northeast has made regional parties jittery.

A 1977-like situation, wherein the entire Opposition came together to take on Indira Gandhi, cannot be ruled out. This time though, BJP and Congress would reverse their roles. Congress could lead this front against Modi. The time is ripe for any such alliance. Mamata Banerjee as well as Naveen Patnaik are facing the challenge of a rising BJP in their states.

In Karnataka, Congress is sweating it out against BJP to save one of its last big turfs. In Kerala, BJP’s strategy is to up the ante against the communists, like in Tripura. Two of the top allies of the BJP – Shiv Sena (18 seats) and TDP (15 seats) – may contest independently. The entry of the JD(U) in NDA will complicate the seat-sharing arrangement in Bihar which could force smaller allies like LJP and RLSP to leave. Jitan Ram Manjhi has already left.

Takeaways for BJP in 2019

The BJP cannot ignore these warning signals. It struggled in Gujarat. It has marketed its Northeast victory as historic, but the fact of the matter is that these three states have only five Lok Sabha seats. Big sections of society – traders, farmers and youth – are increasingly losing patience with the BJP.

Its claims of ‘achche din’ have not translated into reality, with these groups protesting all across India. The majority of the population doesn’t understand and care about GDP growth, FDI, fiscal deficit etc, which PM Modi boasted about in the two interviews he gave. The BJP has got its messaging wrong and risks falling into a fiasco similar to ‘India Shining’.

The fact that it rules 22 out of 31 states is a double-edged sword. It risks facing double anti-incumbency in these states. State leaders can’t push blame to the Centre for non-performance, and similarly, Modi can’t push blame on party’s/ally’s state leadership for not delivering.

To conclude, one year is a long enough time in politics. Everything was hunky-dory for the BJP till about a month ago. Two consecutive losses in its den have turned things upside down and thrown open the contest for 2019. Nothing is certain in politics. If the Opposition is able to overcome its differences and form a mahagathbandhan at the national level, it could pose a serious challenge to Modi.

This article was first published on thequint.com on 21st March 2018.

#Elections2019: BJP, Hold Onto Allies – Regional Parties Will Call Shots in 2019

The regional parties can smell blood after a tight contest in Gujarat and bypoll results in Rajasthan. They see the prospect of a hung Parliament and the return of true coalition governments which would enhance their bargaining power.

Even some right-wing columnists like Minhaz Merhant, Swapan Dasgupta, and recently, Rajesh Jain have voiced their apprehensions about a Narendra Modi sweep of the scale of 2014 being repeated in 2019.

I have been saying this for long that since BJP has peaked in many states, it is difficult for the party to maintain its previous tally, and there isn’t enough scope to compensate for the loss of seats. This means we are staring at a depleted BJP in Lok Sabha in 2019, though it may continue to be the single largest party.

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which has 15 Members of Parliaments (MP), is on the verge of leaving the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Its MPs have been at odds with the government on the granting of special status to Andhra Pradesh. Even though truce has been achieved for now, the alliance stands on shaky grounds.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), BJP’s oldest allies, have also voiced concerns advising PM Narendra Modi to practice Atal coalition dharma.

BJP has also dumped Naga People’s Front for the newly floated Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party just few days before the state polls. Some of the allies are apprehensive of BJP’s ambition to grow in their backyard, and are even fed up with their arm-twisting tactics.

Why Regional Parties Are A Threat To BJP-Congress Dominance?

The performance of the regional parties has been stable over the years. Since 1952 to 2014, in the Lok Sabha elections, the aggregate vote share of the two parties, Congress and BJP, has averaged 51 percent, while that of regional parties and independents has averaged 49 percent.

While Congress maintained its centrist position in Indian polity in earlier years after Independence, parties like SAD, Bangla Congress, and DMK demanding regional autonomy sprang up to challenge Congress’ dominance.

In 1967, out of 21 states, non-Congress governments were installed in nine states (43 percent). This assault was massive, and hit at the core of Congress’ one party dominance since its formation in 1885.

The seeds of a first non-Congress government at the Centre were sown in many ways in 1967, and in a decade’s time, the nation saw its first non-Congress PM when a united opposition, consisting of many regional parties, contested under Janata Party banner.

The entire east coast from West Bengal to Orissa to Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu has been a den of regional parties.

Vote Share of Congress, BJP and Regional Parties in Lok Sabha Elections
Vote Share of Congress, BJP and Regional Parties in Lok Sabha Elections
(Source: indiavotes.compoliticalbaba.com)

From 1989 to 2009, regional parties played a key role in each government formation at the Centre, as any single party failed to get a majority. Regional parties have recorded 220 odd seats in all elections except for 1991, when Congress got a boost post Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

The combined seat tally of BJP and Congress has been in the range of 280-320, except for 1991.

(Photo: indiavotes.com)

The Resurgence of NDA and Where They Are Failing Now

Regional parties usually want to be in the good books of the powers at the Centre, and that’s why we have seen many parties jumping ship from NDA to UPA, and are now back in NDA.

The NDA was formed just before the 1998 Lok Sabha Elections, and comprised 14 parties, which increased to 17 parties in 1999. However, in 2004, allies such as Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, Omar Abdullah’s National Conference and the DMK, started to desert NDA.

Many parties changed sides after Vajpayee’s loss, prominent ones being Trinamool Congress, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Rashtriya Lok Dal.

After the loss of 2004, the NDA was reduced to just three parties – BJP, Shiv Sena and SAD until mid 2013, when Modi was announced as PM candidate. With conditions building in favour of Modi and BJP in the run up to the elections, the number of parties in NDA swelled back to more than 20.

In 2014, after 30 years, a single party, the BJP, got an absolute majority which ended 2.5 decades of influence of regional parties on governance.

Although ministries have been allocated to NDA allies, the BJP is running the show without consulting them on key issues. This has been brought to the fore by the two oldest allies, Shiv Sena and SAD, who have stood rock solid behind BJP for all these years.

Power at the Centre has moved from Congress to the BJP, but the increase in BJP’s vote share has largely been at the expense of the latter. The two parties together bagged 50.8 percent vote share in 2014, which is similar to their combined long term average of 51 percent.

Regional parties and independents won 49.2 percent near to their long term average of 49 percent, with independents having a small share of 3.2 percent. While the BJP and Congress bagged approximately 27.8 crore votes in 2014, serious regional players bagged 23.6 crore votes, with independents at 1.7 crores and hopeless contestants recorded the balance of 1.7 crore votes.

The sheer size and die-hard vote block of regional parties shows that they may play a key role in government formation at the Centre in 2019.

Congress performance is bound to improve in 2019, which will likely be at the expense of BJP, going by the past trends. A hung Parliament cannot be ruled out, though it is difficult to ascertain the degree of shortfall.

It’s because of this arithmetic that regional parties see themselves as kingmakers again. BJP should be nervous, start treating allies with respect, and keep them in good humour. As SAD MP Naresh Gujral recently quipped, “It is in BJP’s interest to not ride roughshod over the interests of its allies.”

Allies are not lifelong partners and are itching to hit back.

This article was first pblished on thequint.com on 15 Feb 2018

#Elections2019: Non-Yadav OBCs, non-Jatav Dalits hold key to success in UP Lok Sabha elections 2019

Mayawati and Akhilesh have announced an alliance for the key state of Uttar Pradesh. The BJP won 71 out of 80 seats from the state in 2014 which propelled it to cross the halfway mark in the same year. Data shows that the split of votes between the SP and BSP helped the party. Though two plus two is not always four in politics, and there are several challenges ahead for mahagathbandhan in UP, which has made the contest interesting.

Caste is cast in stone in UP

Caste plays a key role in politics in India, more so in the Hindi heartland states. A survey by The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Azim Premji Institute shows that 55% of Indians are likely to prefer the candidate of their caste in elections. The ‘agadey versus pichadey’ contest has been intensified in UP since the Mandal issue.

The Ram mandir issue did unify the Hindu voters in 1990s but it reversed back to caste based politics in the 20th century. In 2014, Modi’s development agenda trumped caste politics and the BJP swept the state. Upper caste account for 18%, Yadavs 10%, Non-Yadav OBCs 29%, SCs 21% (Jatavs 14%, Non Jatavs 7%) and Muslims 20% of population of the state. The upper caste has been traditional supporters of the BJP, Dalits of BSP and Yadavs and Muslims of SP.

Dalits consist of Jatavs (Chamars) and non-Jatavs. The Jatavs account for 12% of the population. Mayawati belongs to this caste group. The balance 9%, include Dom, Dhobi, Pasi, Kori, Valmiki etc are collectively called the non-Jatavs. Both these groups have historically supported the BSP. But the level of BSP support has been lower among non-Jatavs (half) than Jatavs (three-fourth).

The non-Yadav OBCs consist of 200 plus sub-caste groups like Kurmi, Koeri, Lodh, Gujjar, Rajbhar, Nishad etc and account for 29% of the population. These groups have different dynamics and do not vote en-block like Yadavs. These other sub-groups have not exhibited rigid caste loyalties.

BJP successfully created 2 niche caste blocks in 2014

The BJP effectively exploited the disillusionment among the NYOBC and non-Jatavs. These voters previously used to back the SP and BSP respectively. Non-Yadavs were unhappy with reservation benefits and party positions in the SP hijacked by Yadavs. Similarly, non-Jatavs were unhappy with Jatavs getting government jobs out of quota and plum positions in the BSP.

The SP is effectively controlled by Jatavs while the BSP by Mayawati, who hails from the Jatav community. Sixty percent of NYOBC and 45% of non-Jatavs supported the BJP in 2014 and accounted for 20.6% vote share almost half of NDA support of 42.3%. This effectively reduced the SP to just five seats and the BSP couldn’t even open its account.

Support of all other caste blocks almost fixed 

The support of all other caste blocks in UP is fixed. These voters have already made up their mind as they are traditional supporters. The upper caste is likely to go with the BJP. The damage by ordinance on SC-ST Atrocities Act has been controlled by the recent 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections in government jobs and educational institutions. The party suffered badly in Madhya Pradesh, where a section of upper caste and in Chhattisgarh, where a section of OBCs deserted the party in recent elections.

The minority vote is likely to go with the mahagathbandhan. Now there is no confusion among these voters as to who is in the best position to defeat the BJP. The Yadavs are likely to stick with the SP. The Jatavs are likely to vote for Mayawati as they want to see her as the Prime Minister. The Jats are likely to back Ajit Singh’s RLD. They can’t go with mahagathbandhan as they share an acrimonious relationship with minorities.

NYOBCs and non-Jatavs to play role of kingmaker in 2019 

Over the years, Uttar Pradesh has witnessed many small parties springing up, catering to the demands of such sub-groups like Apna Dal (Kurmis), SBSP (Rajbhar), Nishad Party (Nishads), Mahan Dal (Shakyas / Mauryas). Apna Dal was part of the NDA and has influence in east UP. The SBSP allied with the BJP for the state elections in 2017. Mahan Dal was part of the UPA in 2014. The Nishad Party, whose candidate defeated the BJP in Gorakhpur by-poll contesting on SP ticket, is likely to be with mahagathbandhan and get two seats.

The BJP is facing pressure from allies in seat distribution and has lost some influence over Nishads (4% of the population). Non-Jatavs may not wholeheartedly support the decision of Mayawati to seal alliance with Akhilesh. How come they will vote for perpetrators of decades of violence on them? These blocks account for about 40% of population and will play the role of kingmaker again.

BJP needs to increase support among NYOBCs, non-Jatavs

Mere maintenance of the previous support will not be enough for the BJP in the wake of the mahagathbandhan. It needs to increase its penetration among these communities to guarantee a good performance in Uttar Pradesh.

In my opinion, it could take the following steps:

  • Continue working on the smaller groups of most backward and extremely backward OBCs.
  • Identify key influencers/community leaders and initiate dialogue with them.
  • Give 40% tickets to NYOBCs like in Assembly polls.
  • Give max tickets to non-Jatavs in SC reserved seats.
  • Keep allies happy, either give more tickets than 2014 or accommodate in the state ministry.
  • Exploit inherent contradictions between SP-BSP in mahagathbandhan.
  • Keep highlighting fact that the PM belongs to the backward community (Asmita factor).

To sum up, the BJP needs to increase its support among NYOBCs and non-Jatavs to thwart competition from the mahagathbandhan, as they could well again play the role of kingmakers.

This article was first published on http://www.mynation.com on 16 Jan, 2019.

#Elections2019: क्या उत्तर प्रदेश का महागठबंधन 2019 में मिशन मोदी का बाधक है?

उत्तर प्रदेश में बुआ और बबुआ की जोड़ी ने शनिवार को मायावती के जन्मदिन पर राज्य में गठबंधन की घोषणा की। बहुजन समाज पार्टी (बीएसपी) और समाजवादी पार्टी (एसपी) दोनों 38-38 सीटों पर चुनाव लड़ेंगीं जबकि अन्य के लिए चार सीटें छोड़ी हैं पर किसके लिए छोड़ी हैं, यह स्पष्ट नहीं है। मायावती ने गरजते हुए कहा कि यह गठबंधन नरेंद्र मोदी और भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) की रातों की नींद हराम कर देगा।

भाजपा विरोधी दल और विपक्ष अपने गढ़ में भाजपा को हराने के लिए इस जोड़ी पर अपनी उम्मीदें लगा रहे हैं। नोट करने वाली बात है कि भाजपा ने 2014 में उत्तर प्रदेश में अपनी कुल सीटों की एक-चौथाई सीटें ही जीती थीं। प्रधानमंत्री मोदी वाराणसी से सांसद हैं। जहाँ एक तरफ महागठबंधन उत्तर प्रदेश में भाजपा को हराने और दिल्ली से मोदी को बाहर करने की उम्मीद कर रहा है, वहीं पार्टी अध्यक्ष अमित शाह ने भाजपा के राष्ट्रीय सम्मेलन में कहा कि राष्ट्रीय जनतांत्रिक गठबंधन (राजग) अपने रिकॉर्ड को बेहतर करेगी और 2019 में 74 सीटें जीतेगी जो 2014 की टैली से एक अधिक।

उप-चुनावों में महागठबंधन की जीत से इसका सही मूल्यांकन नहीं किया जा सकता

पिछले साल हुए उप-चुनावों में गोरखपुर, फूलपुर और कैराना की तीन सीटों पर एक अनौपचारिक महागठबंधन ने भाजपा को करारी हार दी जिससे विपक्ष का विश्वास बढ़ा और उन्हें साथ आने की ज़रूरत महसूस हुई। महागठबंधन को उम्मीद है कि वह राज्य भर में भाजपा को हराने में सक्षम है जैसा कि उन्होंने उपचुनावों में किया था। उनके रणनीतिकार यह भूल जाते हैं कि उप-चुनाव स्थानीय मुद्दों पर लड़े जाते हैं।

जब मतदाता अपने मताधिकार का प्रयोग करने गए तो उन्हें केंद्र सरकार और प्रधानमंत्री का चयन नहीं करना था केवल उनके स्थानीय प्रतिनिधि का चुनाव करना था। फूलपुर और कैराना को किसी भी तरह से भाजपा का गढ़ नहीं कहा जा सकता क्योंकि 2014 में चुनावी इतिहास में पहली बार भाजपा ने फूलपुर को जीता। लोग मुख्यमंत्री और उपमुख्यमंत्री राज्य सरकार के लिए अपनी लोकसभा सीट छोड़ने की वजह से भी नाखुश हो सकते हैं।

अंकगणित में महागठबंधन एक खतरा पैदा कर रहा है लेकिन इसे कई चुनौतियों का सामना भी करना पड़ सकता है

महागठबंधन का संयुक्त वोट शेयर 2014 के वास्तविक आधार पर लगभग एनडीए के बराबर है। दोनों गठबंधनों को देखें तो भाजपा की उच्च जाति और गैर-यादव व अन्य पिछड़ा वर्ग के वोट ब्लॉक का अनुपात महागठबंधन के दलितों, आदिवासियों, अल्पसंख्यकों और यादवों के बराबर है। यदि 2014 में सपा और बसपा ने एक साथ चुनाव लड़ा होता तो एनडीए को 41, महागठबंधन को 37 और कांग्रेस दो सीटों पर बँटी होती।

हालाँकि, यह बात राजनीति के नए छात्रों को भी पता है कि किसी भी गठबंधन को वोटों का पूरा हस्तांतरण होने का पूर्वानुमान लगाना खतरनाक है। 5 प्रतिशत-10 प्रतिशत वोटों के एक छोटे रिसाव से भी अंकगणित बदल सकता है। बसपा ने पिछले गठबंधनों में वोट हस्तांतरण करने की अपनी क्षमता दिखाई है लेकिन बसपा उम्मीदवारों को सपा के वोटों के मिलने के बारे में कुछ नहीं कहा जा सकता है।

सपा और बसपा दोनों ने 2014 में अधिकांश सीटों पर चुनाव लड़ा था। अब लगभग आधे सपा और बसपा के उम्मीदवारों को इस बार मौका नहीं मिलने की संभावना है जिससे महागठबंधन को बड़ा झटका लग सकता है। उनमें से कुछ को शिवपाल यादव की पार्टी द्वारा चुना जा सकता है जिन्होंने घोषणा की है कि वे सभी सीटों पर चुनाव लड़ेंगे।

कुछ को कांग्रेस द्वारा भी समायोजित किया जा सकता है जिन्हें राज्य में महागठबंधन से बाहर रखा गया है। सपा ने एकजुट होकर 2014 के लोकसभा चुनाव लड़े थे। चाचा शिवपाल के पास पुरानी समाजवादियों का समर्थन है जबकि भतीजा अखिलेश नई समाजवादी पार्टी का प्रतिनिधित्व कर रहे हैं। भले ही शिवपाल यादव की पार्टी 2-3 फीसदी वोट शेयर हासिल करने में सक्षम हो लेकिन महागठबंधन के लिए यह नुकसानदेह होगा।

सपा का वोट शेयर उप्र के कुछ हिस्सों में केंद्रित है जबकि बसपा का वोट शेयर तुलनात्मक रूप से अधिक फैला हुआ है इसलिए बसपा 2014 में एक भी सीट जीतने में नाकाम रही थी। इसका मतलब है कि सपा बसपा से ज्यादा सीटें जीत सकती है जिससे तनाव बढ़ेगा और मायावती के साथ साझा मतदान के बाद अखिलेश पर वोटों का हस्तांतरण नहीं करने का आरोप भी लगा सकते हैं।

मायावती की चमक पहले से कम हुई है। जबकि उन्होंने जाटव मतदाताओं (12 फीसदी-14 फीसदी आबादी) को बनाए रखने का प्रबंधन कर रखा है और गैर-जाटव मतदाताओं (7 फीसदी-9 फीसदी आबादी) पर अपनी पकड़ खो दी है जो की भाजपा में स्थानांतरित हो गए हैं।

महागठबंधन से अजीत सिंह की राष्ट्रीय लोकदल गायब है जिसकी पश्चिमी उत्तर प्रदेश में जाटों के बीच बहुत बड़ी उपस्थिति है। प्रेस कॉन्फ्रेंस में मायावती भाजपा के साथ-साथ कांग्रेस की भी बहुत आलोचना करती नज़र आ रही हैं लेकिनअखिलेश ने कांग्रेस पर सवाल से अपना मुँह फेर लिया जिससे इस मुद्दे पर दोनों की असहमति झलकती है।

यदि वे कांग्रेस की आलोचना करते हैं तो इससे इस पुरानी बड़ी पार्टी को उत्तर प्रदेश में जमकर चुनाव लड़ने का प्रोत्साहन मिलेगा। 2014 में उप्र में कांग्रेस को 7.5 प्रतिशत वोट मिले, दो सीटों पर जीता और छः सीटों पर उपविजेता रही। इसका आठ से 10-विषम सीटों पर प्रभाव है, जो महागठबंधन के अंकगणित को खराब कर सकता है।

…और यह 2019 के लिए भाजपा को कथात्मक (नैरेटिव) प्रदान करता है

सपा और बसपा जिन्होंने आखिरी बार 1993 में गठबंधन किया था और पिछले दो-ढाई दशकों से इनकी एक-दूसरे के साथ अनबन थी जहाँ मायावती मुलायम सिंह यादव और कंपनी पर उनकी (कुख्यात गेस्टहाउस मामला) हत्या का प्रयास करने का आरोप लगाया करती थीं। वे दोनों ही शीर्ष दावेदार रहे हैं और इसलिए कई वर्षों से विरोधियों के रूप में जमकर प्रतिस्पर्धा की है।

मोदी को रोकने और उनकी विश्वसनीय छवि को धूमिल करने का प्रयास करने के लिए बने अवसरवादी गठबंधन को भाजपा जल्द ही करारा जवाब देगी। पार्टी महागठबंधन से युवा दलितों और यादवों को हटाने की कोशिश करेगी। अल्पसंख्यक वोट 2014 लोकसभा चुनाव में बसपा (18 प्रतिशत), सपा (58 प्रतिशत) और कांग्रेस (11 प्रतिशत) के बीच विभाजित हुए थे।

महागठबंधन को उम्मीद है कि अल्पसंख्यक वोट (20 फीसदी) उनके लिए मज़बूत और पक्के हैं। इससे भाजपा को यह आरोप लगाने का अवसर मिलता है कि महागठबंधन अल्पसंख्यक तुष्टिकरण की राजनीति में उलझा हुआ है। यह भाजपा के पक्ष में हिंदू वोटों को अच्छी तरह से समेकित कर सकता है और उसी तरह का परिणाम मिल सकता है जैसा कि 2014 में मिला था।

मायावती को इंतजार है अपने ‘गौड़ा’ पल का?

मायावती जो उप्र से बड़ी सीटें जीतने की उम्मीद करती हैं, वे 1996 में देवेगौड़ा की तरह त्रिशंकु संसद की स्थिति में भारत का प्रधानमंत्री बनने के लिए प्रेरित हो सकती हैं। यह उस पार्टी के नेता के लिए एक कठिन काम है जिनका वर्तमान में लोकसभा में एक भी सांसद नहीं है।

मायावती की दृष्टि में ये चुनाव बसपा के अस्तित्व के लिए बहुत महत्वपूर्ण हैं। यदि इस बार फिर से स्थितियाँ अनूकूल नहीं होती हैं तो पार्टी विलुप्ति की कगार पर भी खड़ी हो सकती है। इसलिए उन्होंने दाँव लगाने के लिए मुलायम के बेटे अखिलेश को हाथ पकड़ा है।

देखा जाए तो सपा-बसपा का एक साथ आना भाजपा के लिए चुनौती प्रस्तुत करता है और उसे अपना दबदबा बनाए रखने के लिए अपना किला मज़बूत करना होगा।

हालाँकि गठबंधन का नाता मात्र अंकगणित से ही नहीं है बल्कि इसमें रसायन विज्ञान का भी योगदान है। उप्र में एक आकर्षक प्रतियोगिता चल रही है और दोनों पक्षों में संबंधित ताकत और कमजोरियाँ हैं जिसका मतलब है कि प्रत्येक सीट पर ज़ोरदार टक्कर देखने को मिल सकती है।


This article was first published on hindi.swarajyamag.com on 16 Jan, 2019.

#Elections2019: Can The UP Mahagathbandhan Put The Brakes On Mission Modi In 2019?

The bua and babua jodi in Uttar Pradesh announced their alliance in the state on Mayawati’s birthday on Saturday. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) will contest on 38 seats each, leaving four seats for the others, not clear for whom. Mayawati thundered that this alliance will give sleepless nights to Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Anti-BJP parties and opposition are placing their hopes on this duo to defeat BJP in their stronghold. To note, BJP won one-fourth of its total tally in 2014 from Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Modi is a member of Parliament from Varanasi. While the mahagathbandhan hopes to defeat BJP in Uttar Pradesh and unseat Modi from Delhi, party president Amit Shah thundered at BJP national convention that National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would better its record and win 74 seats in 2019, one more than 2014 tally.

By-Poll Victories Not An Honest Measure Of Mahagathbandhan

In by-polls held last year, an informal mahagathbandhan handed defeat to BJP in three seats of Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana, giving a boost to opposition confidence and necessitating the need for them to come together. Mahagathbandhan hopes that it will be able to defeat BJP across the state like they did in by-polls. Their strategists forget that by-polls are contested on local issues.

When voters went to exercise their franchise, they didn’t have to select central government and prime minister, only their local representative. Phulpur and Kairana cannot, by any standards, be called BJP strongholds, with party winning Phulpur for the first time in electoral history in 2014. People might also have been unhappy at the chief minister and deputy chief minister leaving their Lok Sabha seats for roles in state government.

Arithmetically, Mahagathbandhan Poses A Threat But It Faces Many Challenges

The combined vote share of mahagathbandhan is almost equal to NDA based on 2014 actuals. The proportion of vote blocks of both alliances, BJP’s upper caste and non-Yadav Other Backward Classes are equal to mahagathbandhan’s Dalits, tribals, minorities and Yadavs. If the SP and BSP would have contested together in 2014, the honours would have been split with NDA at 41, mahagathbandhan at 37 and Congress at two seats.

However, even the new students of politics know that it is dangerous to assume full transfer of votes in any alliance. Even a small leakage of 5 per cent-10 per cent could change the arithmetic. While BSP has shown its ability to transfer votes in previous alliances, same cannot be said about SP votes to BSP candidates.

Source: CSDS NES 2014.Source: CSDS NES 2014.

Both SP and BSP contested on most of the seats in 2014. Now almost half of SP and BSP candidates are likely to not get a chance this time, this could lead to big rebel headache for mahagathbandhan. Some of them could be latched up by Shivpal Yadav’s party, which has announced that it will contest all seats.

Some could even be accommodated by Congress, which has been excluded from mahagathbandhan in the state. A united SP contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Chacha Shivpal has the backing of the old Samajwadis while bhatijaAkhilesh represents the new Samajwadi Party. Even if his party is able to get 2 per cent-3 per cent vote share, it will be damaging for mahagathbandhan.

SP’s vote share is concentrated in some parts of UP while BSP vote share is comparatively more spread out, that’s why BSP failed to win a single seat in 2014. This means that SP could end up winning more seats than BSP, which will increase tensions between partners post polls with Mayawati accusing Akhilesh of not reciprocating transfer of votes.

Source: CSDS NES 2014.Source: CSDS NES 2014.

Mayawati is well past her prime. While she did manage to retain the Jatav voters (12 per cent-14 per cent of population), she has lost her grip over non-Jatav voters (7 per cent-9 per cent of population), who have shifted to BJP.

Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal was missing from the alliance, which has a sizeable presence among Jats in western Uttar Pradesh. While Mayawati was very critical of BJP as well as Congress at press conference, Akhikesh ducked the question on Congress, already showing signs of perhaps a disagreement on the issue.

The fact that they have criticised Congress will push the grand old party to contest fiercely in UP. Congress bagged 7.5 per cent vote share in UP in 2014, winning two and finishing runner-up on six seats. It has an influence on eight to 10-odd seats, which could spoil the arithmetic of mahagathbandhan.

…And Provides Narrative To BJP For 2019

SP and BSP, which last formed an alliance in 1993, were at loggerheads for past two-and-half decades with each other with Maywati accusing Mulayam Singh Yadav and company of trying to assassinate her (infamous guesthouse case). They have been top contenders and hence opponents competing fiercely for many years.

BJP will drive home the opportunistic alliance point to stop Modi and attempt to dent the credibility/reliability of mahagathbandhan. The party will try to wean away the young Dalits and Yadavs from mahagathbandhan. The minority vote was split between BSP (18 per cent), SP (58 per cent) and Congress (11 per cent) in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Mahagathbandhan hopes minority votes (20 per cent) would consolidate behind them. This provides an opportunity for BJP to allege that mahagathbandhan is engaging in minority appeasement politics. This could well consolidate Hindu votes in favour of BJP and hand a similar result as in 2014.

Mayawati Waiting For Her Development Gowda Moment?

Mayawati, who hopes of winning sizeable seats from UP, could propel her to become the prime minister of India, in case of a hung Parliament situation, like Deve Gowda in 1996. That is a tough task for the leader of a party, which has currently not a single MP in Lok Sabha.

For Mayawati, these elections are very important for BSP’s survival. If it is routed once again, party could face extinction. So, for that she has held the hand of bete noire Mulayam’s son Akhilesh.

To sum up, the coming together of SP-BSP does pose a challenge to BJP and it will have to slog to retain its tally.

However, alliances are not all about arithmetic but also chemistry. A fascinating contest is on in UP, both sides have respective strengths and weaknesses. It could well boil down to each seat.

This article was published on swarajyamag.com on 13 Jan, 2019.

#Elections2019: BSP-SP Alliance Is A Challenge But UP’s History Gives BJP Hope

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party today held a joint press conference to announce the much-awaited grand alliance (mahagathbandhan) for Uttar Pradesh. The BSP and the SP will contest 38 seats each, leaving 4 for others, mostly 2 family seats of the Congress and 2 for others (Nishad Party, in all likelihood). Mayawati thundered that this alliance will give sleepless nights to the BJP. Akhilesh commented that the BJP was trying to promote hatred in the land of Lord Ram and dividing people along communal lines. In theory, the MGB poses a stiff challenge to the BJP in 2019 after defeating BJP candidates in three by-polls last year, including the seats previously held by the CM and Deputy CM.

UP Helped BJP Gain Majority in 2014

The BJP swept the state bagging 71 out of 80 seats, even higher than at the peak of the Ram Mandir temple movement. One-fourth of the BJP’s overall tally (71 out of 282) came from Uttar Pradesh, which propelled it become the only party after Congress in 30 years to attain majority on its own. Modi decided to contest from Varanasi which had a ripple effect in the entire state. Amit Shah attained the status of Chanakya after this historic victory. Is Uttar Pradesh That Important?

Uttar Pradesh is India’s largest state in terms of population. It accounts for 80 seats, the highest in the country, in the parliament thus making up for 15% of its total strength. Majority of the Indian prime ministers (9 out of 15) have come from Uttar Pradesh, or were MPs from the state including Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandrasekhar, Atal Bihari Vajapyee and Narendra Modi.

It seems, therefore, important for a party to do well in Uttar Pradesh if it wants to form government at the centre. Mayawati is also hoping to become the prime minister of the country by winning maximum seats from Uttar Pradesh in 2019.

Data Shows UP is Not Necessarily the Gateway to Power

Elections data from 1989, the advent of coalition era, shows otherwise. Most parties that have done well in Uttar Pradesh have not been able to form government at the centre or have had no role in government formation. Out of the last eight governments, parties which scored the maximum seats in the state could form government only half of the times in 1989, 1998, 1999 and 2014.

As a matter of fact, the party which scored the least in UP in 1991 and 2004 went on to form the government.

Here is what the electoral history of UP tells us:

❖ In 1989, Janata Dal scored more than 50 seats and formed the government.

❖ In 1991, the BJP scored more than 50 but couldn’t form the government.

❖ In 1996, the BJP, again, scored a 50 but failed to form the government.

❖ In 1998, the BJP formed the government after sweeping the state.

❖ In 1999, the BJP’s tally reduced to half (29), with just 3 more seats than the SP, but it managed to form the government.

❖ In 2004, the SP got the maximum seats, but the Congress, which got less than 10 seats, formed the government. SP didn’t get any cabinet berths.

❖ In 2009, the SP again got the maximum seats, but the Congress formed the government. The SP and the BSP, despite doing well like in 2004, didn’t get any cabinet berths.

❖ In 2014, the BJP swept UP and Modi became the prime minister.

All Eyes on MGB to Defeat BJP

Opposition parties are placing a lot of hope on the SP and the BSP to dent the BJP and reduce its chances of coming back in power. If the BSP and the SP would have contested together in 2014, BJP’s / NDA’s tally would have reduced by 32 seats, down from 73 to 41, assuming seamless transfer of votes. They do present a potent combination of Dalit, Muslim, Tribal and Yadav voters, representing almost half of the population of the state and could give a tough fight to the BJP.

MGB Could Be Left High and Dry

The SP and the BSP bagged more than half of the seats of UP contesting independently during 1999-2009. However, they were not able to extract ministerial positions in the centre. The harsh stand which Mayawati has taken against the Congress in the press conference today, leaves little scope for MGB to partner in a non-BJP government led by the Congress in 2019.

History May Offer Solace To Modi

Even if MGB is able to damage the BJP by 30 odd seats in UP, as some opinion polls predict, there is hope still for the party. It is already seen devising strategies to make gains in East, North East and South. The party which doesn’t do well in UP has also gone on to form governments in the centre in the past, and this data gives hope to BJP.

To sum up, MGB good show in UP doesn’t guarantee them the hot seat in 2019, neither it means Modi can’t come back to power. As data shows, UP doesn’t necessarily hold the keys to power in the centre.

This article was first published on thequint.com on 13 Jan, 2019.

#Elections2019: Mahagathbandhan: From lack of trust to vote blocks, 5 challenges before grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh

As per press reports, a deal has been sealed between SP, BSP and RLD for a grand alliance (mahagathbandhan) in Uttar Pradesh to take on the BJP. As per the deal, the SP and BSP will get 37 seats each to contest, while Ajit Singh’s RLD will get three seats and Nishad Party one seat. The mahagathbandhan has left out Congress from the seat-sharing arrangement, however, it will not field any candidate in the Gandhi family-stronghold seats of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

The BJP had swept the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, bagging 71 out of 80 seats, representing one-fourth of its overall tally of 282. An informal mahagathbandhan defeated the BJP in three by-polls of Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana held last year which ultimately crystallised in this form. This has given hope to the anti-Modi / anti-BJP parties that by restricting the party tally in UP, they can stop Modi from coming to power again in 2019. However, in politics two plus two is not always four. Additionally, we have often heard that in alliances, chemistry is more important than arithmetic.

Even though the mahagathbandhan has successfully sealed the alliance, there are significant challenges ahead.

Seamless transferability of votes

Any alliance is built on the assumption of seamless transferability of votes, but that seldom happens as we have seen in the past. There are leakages and the quantum of leakage ultimately decides whether an alliance is successful or not. Even after adding the vote shares of SP, BSP, and RLD, they are still a notch below NDA on the basis of 2014 numbers.

The key question is whether all the supporters and cadre of one party would vote for the candidate of the other parties in their respective seats with the same zeal and enthusiasm as if it’s their own candidate. The question becomes trickier because of the acrimonious relationship shared by the SP-BSP in the past with Mayawati accusing SP leaders of attempt to murder. The case is still on.

Trust deficit between members

Mayawati is a pale shadow of her past. The BSP has received a serious drubbing in UP, both in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. Today, it has no MP in Lok Sabha, just four MPs in Rajya Sabha and less than 5% of the house strength as MLAs in Vidhan Sabha. The SC voter has moved away from the BSP in large numbers. New outfits like Bhim Army and new leaders like Jignesh Mewani are attracting the Dalit youth. The BSP was facing an existential threat, and to revive her political fortunes she has for the time decided to work with bete noire Mulayam’s son Akhilesh. But this alliance will always be marred by trust deficit.

Babua may be pitching for Bua for PM, but Bua is missing the point that there is a threat to her vote bank which can shift to SP in the Assembly elections in 2022. Both are using each other. Bua to get maximum seats, prevent a 2014-like performance and then bargain with whichever party/group emerges as a contender to form the government; while Babua, not interested in national politics as of now, is working on a long-term strategy of finishing the BSP. And on top of it, you have Ajit Singh, who has been a minister in PVNR as well as the Vajpayee government.

Antagonistic vote blocks

The mahagathbandhan is banking on DJMY (Dalits, Jats, Muslims and Yadavs) combination, accounting for 44% of the state’s population. But herein lies a big problem. Yadavs don’t vote for BSP (only 3%), Jatavs and Other Scheduled Caste don’t vote for SP (only 4% and 11% respectively). The caste combination consists of antagonistic vote blocks who don’t see eye to eye. Dalits accuse Yadavs of exploiting them and many SC-ST Atrocities Act cases are registered against powerful OBC groups like Yadavs. To assume they will vote for candidates from the community is wishful thinking.


Congress could play spoilsport

The Congress, which on an average has 6%-8% vote share in the state, has been kept out of the alliance. While it is true that the party doesn’t have much support left in the Hindi heartland state having lost its anchor vote segment of Brahmins to BJP, Dalits to Mayawati and Muslims to SP.
In a close contest where both the NDA and mahagatbandhan are even stevens in terms of vote share, this extra 6%-8% even after accounting for leakages could have been handy. Data shows that if the SP and BSP had contested together in 2014, the NDA could have been reduced to 37 seats. If the Congress would have joined the alliance, the tally of NDA would have dropped by another 13 seats.

Reverse polarisation

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, according to many analysts, the BJP benefitted due to the split of the minority vote between BSP (18%), SP (58%) and INC (11%). So much so, that the BJP won some of the minority-dominated seats as well. Minorities account for 18%-20% of the state’s population and not a single MP was selected from the community in 2014. Proponents of the alliance claim that this time the vote wouldn’t split and get consolidated behind the mahagatbandhan as they are in the best position to defeat the BJP. Even the Congress may not be able to retain previous support.

This is however fraught with big risk of counter polarisation, more so in the overhang of Ram Mandir construction demand at its peak in the state. Any polarisation or perceived polarisation could consolidate Hindus behind the BJP cutting across caste lines upsetting mahagathbandhan’scalculations.

To sum up, the mahagatbandhan poses a stiff challenge to the BJP in Uttar Pradesh which is considered as a gateway to power at the center. However, that said, it is not going to be so easy for the mahagathbandhan because elections are not all about arithmetic alone!

This article was first published on mynation.com on 09 Jan, 2019.

#Elections2019: 10 Per Cent Reservation For General Category: Four Reasons Why This May Be A Political Game-Changer

The demand for reservations based on economic status has been long standing, and the BJP has attempted to fulfil it through this move.

There are four reasons why this move is a masterstroke, and will help the BJP in the upcoming elections:

1. It caught the opposition unawares, making it difficult for them to oppose it

The opposition and the media did not have a clue about this mega move. There was some speculation that the BJP could announce some sops for farmers, but the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo managed to surprise everyone with this move. Though the Congress is calling it a jumla, it will be very difficult for them to oppose it in Parliament. It’s a catch-22 situation for the opposition.

If they vote against the amendment, they could face the wrath of upper caste groups. Congress received 2.5 per cent of its total 19.5 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections from the upper caste. If they vote for the amendment, the ultimate credit will be taken by the BJP.

2. It soothes the nerves of the upper caste anchor voting segment of the BJP

The upper castes account for approximately 20 per cent-25 per cent of the country’s population. In the Hindi heartland states, where the BJP won maximum seats in 2014, their proportion is even higher.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 47 per cent of the upper caste voted for the BJP as per CSDS. The BJP received 8.9 per cent of its total 31.3 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections from the upper caste.

According to a Dainik Bhaskar report, the upper castes account for 31 per cent of the Hindu population and enjoy influence in 125 Lok Sabha seats. Over the past few years, a section of the upper caste was unhappy with the excessive appeasement of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) community by the party.

The amendment to the SC-ST Act nullifying the Supreme Court order served as the last nail in the coffin. There were upper caste protests in the three Hindi heartland states, especially Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In fact, one of the upper caste groups deserted the party in both the states, leading to the loss in the recent state elections.

In MP, specifically, a section of the upper castes was angry about the following issues:

  • SC-ST amendment
  • Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s controversial ‘mai ka lal’ statement. (Shivraj Singh Chauhan during the campaigning phase had said that no one can end reservations for the backward communities in the country)
  • Both key positions of CM and state BJP president post occupied by OBC members

The dissent even led to the formation of the Samanya Pichhda evam Alpsankhyak Samaj (SAPAKS), which was an anti-reservation front. Posters were put up in many villages warning BJP leaders from entering and seeking votes by declaring that ‘yahan forward caste rehte hain’ (forward castes stay here).

Though the party bagged only 0.4 per cent vote share, it scored more votes than the margin of victory in two seats leading to the BJP’s defeat. These seats played a crucial role in a hung assembly, where the difference between Congress and the BJP in the end was as narrow as only five seats.

In the Gwalior Chambal region, which has huge population of upper castes (roughly 30 per cent), BJP suffered a massive hit. Realising their folly and making amends, the party appointed prominent Brahmin face Gopal Bhargav as leader of opposition in the assembly. This coincided with the declaration of the reservation, making the message adequately clear.

3. It will be difficult for courts to interfere in a constitutional amendment

Many commentators as well as the opposition have been claiming that this move will not stand judicial scrutiny and will be challenged as the Supreme Court has in many judgements capped the quota at 50 per cent. What they fail to realise is that BJP is talking about a constitutional amendment.

If the amendment passes through both houses of Parliament, then though it can be challenged, it will not be easy for courts to strike it down unless they feel it is against the spirit of the Constitution.

Further, these issues are fought in the people’s court. Even if it is struck down, the BJP can go to the voters and say it had good intentions but courts are not allowing, and it will try through other means.

4. It does not touch the quota of existing beneficiaries, so there remains nothing to be opposed

The quota proposed is over and above the 50 per cent for SC-ST and OBCs provided in the Constitution. Since this doesn’t disturb their existing benefits in admissions and jobs, they are not likely to oppose the move by the BJP government.

In Bihar, Mohan Bhagwat’s economics-based reservation statement was tweaked by the opposition to portray that the BJP wants to remove reservations, and the party had to pay a heavy price in elections. It has to guard itself against such rumour-mongering this time as well.

Politics Is The Art Of Managing Contradictions

The SC-ST Amendment Act proved to be a double whammy for the BJP. It failed to elicit support from the Dalit community in the three state elections but it also alienated the core supporter of BJP, the forward caste. Congress and other opposition parties have succeeded in painting the BJP as anti-Dalit.

This strategy of bringing in reservations for the upper caste communities will help the BJP consolidate its anchor vote segments of upper caste and OBCs, which account for 60 per cent of the population.

The elections could well turn out to be upper caste (UC) + non-Yadav-OBCs + ST as one voting block versus Yadavs + Dalits + Muslims as the other. The BJP did manage to get the highest support of Dalits in 2014 (24 per cent) but this is likely to move back to Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress in 2019.

To sum up, the BJP has taken a bold step of moving towards eliminating caste-based reservations. It helps politically as well after suffering setbacks in three states as it assuages its core vote bank.

This article was first published on swarajyamag.com on 8th Jan. 2019.

#Elections2019: Modi’s Approval Ratings, Swing Voters to Shape Result

With the Lok Sabha elections due in April-May this year, the invincibility of the ruling party at the Centre, that is, the BJP’s herculean election machinery and the durability of the ‘Modi factor’, is being openly questioned.

This notwithstanding, it doesn’t look like the Congress party alone can beat the BJP in the 2019 general elections. Thus, the idea of a mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) has been afloat for a while, but it is yet to see fruition.

100 days is a long time in politics, and the narrative for the general elections in 2019 is yet to be set. Here, we analyse the math for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Voter Bases & the Task of Government Formation

BJP’s lowest vote share during this period (as above) (excluding the 1989 number when party was still young) is 18.8 percent in 2009. This is its core vote bank, comprising core voters drawn by the Hindutva narrative, politics of Ram temple, and the fervent nationalism of the party. The Congress’s lowest performance is 19.5 percent in 2014; its core vote bank is drawn by secularism, their centrist ideology, and the Gandhi family legacy.

So, the combined anchor voter base of both parties is 37-38 percent, which will vote for these parties regardless of what happens.

With regional parties’ core vote banks at 43.5 percent (lowest in 1991), this leaves a floating voter base of 18 percent, which has been alternating between the Congress, BJP and regional parties over the years, and holds the key to government formation.

Source: www.politicalbaba.com
  1. Highest tally of regional parties was in 1989 (in the aftermath of Bofors) when they got 261 seats, and the lowest was in 1991 when they got 179 seats (the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi which boosted INC seats due to sympathy)
  2. Average tally of regional parties is 231 over last 8 elections
  3. BJP-INC combine’s average tally is 312, with 272 being the majority mark; neither has gotten a majority on its own since 1989
  4. Except in 2014 when Congress was routed, scoring below 50, could BJP cross the half-way mark
  5. Half-way mark for BJP or INC on their own has been difficult historically, since the beginning of the coalition era in 1989. Especially when both parties do not have a wider pan-India presence, the Congress in the north and east, the BJP in south and east
BJP & INC Tally Since 1989
BJP & INC Tally Since 1989
Source: www.indiavotes.com
BJP+INC Combine vs Regional Parties’ Tally Since 1989  
BJP+INC Combine vs Regional Parties’ Tally Since 1989  
Source: www.indiavotes.com

Neither BJP Nor Congress Can Get Majority on Its Own

The Lok Sabha elections since 1989 has exhibited tendencies of the ‘see-saw game. The pivot of the see-saw in this case is the block of regional parties who, on an average, have bagged 230 odd seats, leaving 310 odd seats for the BJP and the Congress, each sitting on one end of the see-saw.

  • BJP’s tally decreased from 182 in 1999 to 138 in 2004, while Congress’s increased from 114 to 145 during the same period
  • BJP’s tally increased from 116 in 2009 to 282 in 2014, while Congress’s fell from 206 to 44

With a strong pivot, the BJP and Congress are likely to gain or lose seats at the expense of each other. With an average combined tally of 312 in last 8 elections, it is very difficult for either of them to get a majority on their own, as the majority of 272 accounts for 88 percent of their combined tally over the past 3 decades. On an average, BJP-Congress combine has bagged 57 percent of seats, while regional parties have bagged 43 percent of seats. 2014 clearly stands out as an outlier.

Source: www.politicalbaba.com

Modi Remains Popular Despite Lowered Ratings

In 2014, 60 percent of the votes polled by BJP comprised its core voter base; 13 percent votes were brought in by the individual candidates / strong state leadership, while a whopping 27 percent was pulled by the ‘Modi mania’.

BJP successfully managed to pull more than 2/3rd of the floating voters towards itself, and won a historic mandate. The BJP defeated Congress by 6.5 crore votes; 4.6 crore was on account of the ‘Modi wave’. While there is a dip in his popularity ratings and Rahul is catching up, Modi still enjoys a handsome lead.

Source: www.politicalbaba.comwww.indiavotes.com

An Open Contest

To sum up, the contest is wide open for 2019. The mood of the floating voters, see-saw dynamics of the polls (given a strong pivot), and the durability of the ‘Modi factor’ may well decide the course of 2019 elections.

Jogi Wanted to Play Kingmaker But Dented BJP & Helped Congress Win

If there’s one state that has truly surprised pollsters, it is Chhattisgarh. The Congress has swept the state, leading in 67 seats, at the time of authoring the piece.

The exit polls were in fact, divided on Chhattisgarh. Three different opinion polls showed a BJP victory, a Congress victory, as well as a tight contest. Chhattisgarh has witnessed bi-polar contests since its inception.

But it is for the first time in its history that Chhattisgarh has witnessed a three-cornered fight, with Ajit Jogi’s Janata Chhattisgarh Congress and the Mayawati-alliance showing their might to both national parties. Jogi contested on 55 and Mayawati on 35 seats.

Jogi’s Inroads Into BJP and Congress

The Jogi element made the contest interesting, after all he is the tallest tribal leader of the Congress, and the first and only CM from Congress in the state. He left the Congress in June 2016 and formed the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh.

Since Jogi had been with the party for many years, many felt that he would damage the Congress and it would be a cakewalk for the BJP this time. However, it was a very simplistic assumption to have made.

Jogi and Mayawati enjoy the support of much of the SC/ST community which account for 44 percent of the population. Jogi also enjoyed good support among the Satnami community in the state. While BJP had won 9 of the 10 SC seats in 2013, INC had won 18 out of 29 ST seats in 2013. So, from the start it was clear that he would damage both.

In an interview to Bloomberg Quint, Jogi claimed he’s making inroads into both BJP and Congress vote banks. When Jogi formed his own party, Congress alleged that he was the B-team of BJP.

Jogi Hands a Shocker to BJP

At the time of publishing, the tally was: Congress: 67, BJP 17, Jogi-Mayawati alliance 7 seats. The BJP tally is down by two-thirds. A massive blow. Leads for 5 seats are not available. With this, the Congress has taken a significant lead in Chhattisgarh. A lead so comfortable that it seems almost certain that they will form the next government in the state.

(Source: Election Commission of India)

The vote shares of parties explain the severe blow which Jogi has dealt to BJP, the opposite of what was expected. BJP’s vote share has declined by 9 percent. At the same time, Jogi’s party (which was not in the fray the last time) along with Mayawati, has gained a 6 percent vote share, mostly at the expense of the BJP. On the other hand, the Congress has gained 1.4 percent vote share. Jogi’s dream of playing the kingmaker has been shattered.

(Source: Election Commission)

A look at the SC-ST reserved seats, 39 in total, also makes the picture clearer. While the SC seats have remained with the BJP over the years, ST seats have changed hands many times.

  • BJP, which won the majority of SC seats in 2008 and 2013, lost in a big way in these elections
  • Due to the Jogi impact, ST seats which were expected to come to BJP (as per the trend of the last 2 elections), actually stayed with the Congress. They in fact improved their tally by 4 seats
(Source: Election Commission)
(Source: Election Commission)

What Didn’t Work for Jogi?

Jogi’s party failed to make its symbol reach every village and taluka of the state. Due to Jogi’s association with the Congress over many years, much of the rural populace still felt he was with the Congress. So, while they wanted to vote for Jogi-Congress, they ended up voting for the Congress’s ‘hand’ symbol. Also, the fact that the Congress managed to create a perception of him being hand-in-glove with the BJP, helped the Congress.

To sum up, Ajit Jogi did play the role of a game-changer, but helped his parent party in turn, albeit inadvertently. He seems to have dented BJP and helped Congress win. Congress is all smiles, while Jogi must be ruing his decision. Jogi is like a Diwali rocket; nobody knows where it will go and whom it will hit.

This article was first published on ‘thequint.com‘ on 11 Dec. 2018.

#Elections2019: Federal clout at power centre

Regional parties have played a key role in government formation at the Centre since the advent of the coalition era in 1989. BJP’s loss in three Hindi heartland states have given them hope of a hung Parliament in 2019 where they could again play the role of a kingmaker. Many such parties are discussing with Congress to form the mahagathbandhan (MGB) to take on the BJP. Alliances in key states of UP, Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, which account for 207 seats, out of which NDA won 150 in 2014, will decide the course of 2019.

Uttar Pradesh: The entire premise that BJP will have a tough time in 2019 is built on the alliance between Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in UP. It was tested in bypolls to three seats earlier this year where BJP recorded big losses. BSP and SP have a solid vote base of Dalits, Muslims and Yadavs accounting for 44 per cent of the population. The alliance has proved it can seamlessly transfer votes in bypolls. Both parties are known for their anti-BJP stance. They are toying with the idea of joining MGB. Though, Congress is well past its prime in the Hindi heartland and is confined to two family-stronghold seats, it can be a game-changer in 13 seats.

Strategists in both parties feel while they will be able to transfer votes to Congress, the reciprocity is unlikely to happen like in 1996 (BSP-INC alliance) and 2017 (SP-INC alliance). There’s not much value which Congress brings to the table in UP. Both these parties may not want to tie their fate to MGB, and  instead join the Third Front and wait for results.

Bihar: The fight is veering towards a bipolar contest in Bihar. BJP-led NDA consisting of JDU and LJP vs RJD-led UPA consisting of Congress, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Upendra Kushwaha and Sharad Yadav. BJP inducted Kushwaha before 2014, to make a dent in Nitish Kumar’s Kurmi/Koeri vote bank which accounts for 12 per cent of population. After JDU’s ghar wapsi, BJP faced the problem of plenty. It eased out Kushwaha and retained Paswan who has considerable clout among Dalits (6 per cent of population). He will also act as NDA’s counter to Manjhi who is a leader of Mahadalits (10 per cent of population). Both alliances have almost equal support, NDA of upper caste, Kurmi / Koeri and Dalits while UPA of Muslims and Yadavs. Mahadalits and Most Backward Classes (24 per cent) hold the keys to success in Bihar. RJD hopes to encash on the double   anti-incumbency, against Modi’s 5-year and Nitish’s 13-year rule. Paswan who is a political bellwether has decided to stay with NDA. The problem of plenty has now shifted to UPA, so one can expect a big tussle on ticket distribution there.

Maharashtra: BJP almost won the state elections contesting independently held six months after Lok Sabha polls. It did partner with Shiv Sena to form the government, but their relationship strained forever. Shiv Sena which was the bigger brother in the state found itself to be the junior partner. It is playing the role of opposition within the NDA, sharply critical of Modi and has announced plans to contest 2019 elections alone. On the other hand, NCP and Congress have sealed a 24-24 formula for elections. Congress has adopted an accommodative approach for bigger goal of defeating BJP. Shiv Sena is adopting ‘hum to doobenge sanamtumko bhi le doobenge’ strategy.

As per my analysis, Shiv Sena could be routed and get 2-3 seats (current 18) while BJP may not suffer much with loss of 4-5 seats (current 23), based on 2014 numbers. UPA could gain 20-odd seats. Uddhav is making noise to extract his pound of flesh from BJP. Both parties need each other and will come to the table soon.

Tamil Nadu: All allies of BJP in state (PMK, DMDK, MDMK, PT) have left NDA. The political landscape has changed with Jaya’s death, split in AIADMK and entry of superstars Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan in politics. DMK stays with UPA and could play a crucial role in 2019 as state exhibits a strong trend of AIADMK and DMK alternately sweeping the state in central elections. BJP initially hoped to ally with AIADMK however, split of TTK, has forced a rethink. It needs to bag few seats here to negate losses in North and West where it has maxed out. It has also sent feelers to Rajini. Rajini could join NDA and Kamal UPA in my opinion.

Apart from these, other key players are AITC, BJD, TRS and CPM: AITC is facing the heat from BJP in West Bengal. It needs support of Congress to thwart attempts of BJP. However, Congress doesn’t gain much from the alliance as Mamata Banerjee doesn’t have any votes outside Bengal. Mamata is averse to joining any Third Front as the leadership issue has become complicated.

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Naveen Patnaik has maintained an equidistance approach from BJP and Congress. He is not keen on joining UPA as Congress is the principal opposition party in Odisha. BJP is also gaining strength there and his joining NDA will help BJP piggyback on BJD’s vote bank.

TRS can’t join UPA as Congress is the principal opposition party in Telangana. War of words between Modi and KCR during state polls have ensured he can’t join NDA immediately. He is floating the idea of Third Front to make a rainbow coalition of regional parties. Akhilesh has shown interest while Mamata and Naveen have been non-committal.

CPM can’t join MGB, as it is left with sizeable presence only in Kerala and Bengal. If it joins MGB it risks losing space to Congress in Kerala. It can under no circumstances join hands with Mamata in Bengal.

All regional parties have a common wish: a hung Parliament. The elections circus has just begun.

This article was first published on dnaindia.com on 29 Dec. 2018.

Madhya Pradesh verdict 2018: BJP looks strong despite loss in state Assembly elections

The Congress managed to romp home in Madhya Pradesh the key poll promise of farm loan waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh. The BJP’s tally reduced significantly among rural as well as urban seats in MP. Despite the amendment to SC-ST Atrocities Act nullifying the Supreme Court order, Dalits and tribals supported the Congress. The BJP received a drubbing across regions ranging from 3% to 9% decline in vote share. If not for an improved performance by the BJP in the Vindhya region, the Congress would have gained a majority on its own. In strongholds like Malwa and Mahakoshal, the BJP’s tally reduced to half, while in Gwalior-Chambal to one-third.

The focus now moves to the Lok Sabha elections to be held in April-May next year. The BJP swept the state, bagging 27 out of 29 seats in 2014, riding on Modi wave and popularity of Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Ten percent of the BJP’s current strength in Lok Sabha comes from MP. That’s why it is very important for the party to maintain its performance in 2019. There are rumours that the party may want Shivraj to contest from Vidisha, the seat of Sushma Swaraj, who has declined to contest in 2019 due to health reasons. However, Shivraj has announced that he would not contest the Lok Sabha elections and focus on the state instead. There are also rumours that he could be made the agriculture minister in the wake of agri distress in the country, along with the demand of the Congress to waive off farm loans. He is responsible for turning around the agriculture sector in MP and the party may want to use his experience at the Centre.

While the Congress is ahead of the BJP in the Assembly elections in terms of seats, a simple extrapolation of Assembly elections mapped to Lok Sabha seats by the author shows that the BJP would still be ahead with 17 seats, with Congress lagging at 12. While there are 51 districts, there are only 29 Lok Sabha constituencies in MP. Many times, different seats of same districts, which may exhibit a similar voting pattern, are allocated to different Lok Sabha constituencies. Hence, the results could be different.

1.  Congress couldn’t sweep the state despite 15 years of natural anti-incumbency. In fact, the party’s vote share is less than the BJP’s by 0.1%. The party even failed to get a simple majority on its own, highlighting the fact that Shivraj and Modi factors can’t be written off yet.

2. The Lok Sabha elections are contested on different issues than state elections. While 15 years of rule developed a fatigue factor in state elections, Modi’s tenure is only five years old. He will pitch and showcase his five years’ of performance versus the Congress’s 55 years of rule and ask voters for a second chance to fulfill his promises.

3. Modi is fairly popular in the state. Overall, as per India Spend report, the BJP lost 70% of seats where he campaigned. In MP, he won 50% of seats where he held rallies. Schemes like PMAYG and Ujjwala are very popular in the state.

4. MP is the best-performing state as far as PMAY(G) and Ujjwala scheme of Modi government is concerned. More than 10 and 50 lakh beneficiaries respectively are present here. The schemes represent the aspirations of the poor man to own a house. The Ujjwala scheme has transformed the lives of women in villages and protecting them from health hazards and improving their lifestyle. This will add to the popularity of Modi among the poor and Shivraj among women.

5. The Congress has made tall promises and it has less than 3 months to deliver. It has announced a farm loan waiver as soon as they come to power, but it is caught in details and modalities. There is no clarity on the amount and number of farmers, who will be benefitted in MP, while elsewhere it is clear. It has applied a cut-off date as March 31, 2018, while other two states have announced farm loan availed till November 2018 for a waiver. This has upset a section of farmers. The whole issue is so tricky as seen from what transpired in Punjab and Karnataka that it is unlikely to be resolved before the Model Code of Conduct kicks in for Lok Sabha polls.

6. The Scindia camp has been unhappy with Maharaj not getting the CM chair. As per reports, Digvijay Singh and Kamalnath camps have taken control of the state and could corner majority of the plum portfolios in ministry. If Scindia is not accommodated with a national role or state PCC post, he and his supporters could be de-motivated and may not work with the same zeal in Lok Sabha elections.

7‘Tiger abhi zinda hai’ – Shivraj Singh Chouhan has taken Twitter by storm. Tweets are pouring in from across the country on the way he handled the loss with grace. A section of people as per reports are ruing their decision. In the process of voting out their unpopular local representative, they didn’t realise results could be so tight at the state level and Mama could lose. This is expected to get sympathy for Mama and the BJP. He has already started touring the state like a common man by using the railways. He has said that he would not let Kamalnath sleep easily if he doesn’t deliver on promises.

At the end of it all, the BJP still holds an advantage in MP and the result in the state would end up bolstering its 2019 bid for power.

This article was first published on mynation.com on 25th Dec . 2018.

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