#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: Priyanka Gandhi Effect: Mahagathbandhan ‘Cholbe Na’ for Congress

The Congress has announced that it will adopt a policy of Ekla Chalo Re in the key states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls scheduled in April-May 2019. This comes days after the party appointed Priyanka Gandhi as General Secretary and in-charge of Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

This has punctured the hopes of a nationwide mahagathbandhan to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After months of parley, no concrete movement has taken place regarding the grand alliance and the one-to-one-contest concept.

The last nail in the coffin was hammered by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. The day the mahagathbandhan for Uttar Pradesh was announced, she attacked the Congress with the same intensity with which she attacked the BJP.

The Congress had no choice but to dump these efforts and focus on doing well on a standalone basis. With less than a 100 days left for voting, the party chose to stick to the partners who are already a part of the UPA, rather than look for new partnerships now. This is a big setback for anti-Modi forces in the country. Many people are already blaming the Congress for its failure to bring the whole Opposition under one roof, suggesting that this will help the BJP.

The Grand Old’s Party victory in the three Hindi-heartland states has boosted the morale of the party workers. The formal entry of Priyanka Gandhi, party strategists feel, will improve the party’s prospects among the youth and women. It will also provide a fillip to its UP prospects where, with just two seats, the Congress has nothing to lose.

The party is likely to damage the prospects of both the BJP and the SP-BSP alliance by attracting votes from the core constituencies of Brahmins (BJP) and Dalits-Muslims (SP-BSP).

Congress strategists feel it is in a better position to defeat the BJP nationally. Regional parties can tame the BJP in some states, but it is up to the Congress to defeat the saffron party on a pan-India basis.

Reasons Why Congress Has Decided to Fight Alone

1. Complementary Vote Blocks

Many regional parties have been formed out of anti-Congressism.

Trinamool Congress is a splinter group of the Grand Old Party, though it is now the bigger brother in Bengal. The Telugu Desam Party has always been opposing the Congress tooth and nail in Andhra. Parties like the TMC and Aam Aadmi Party, even SP-BSP, have complementary vote blocks as the Congress – Dalits, minorities, the poor and downtrodden. Allying with regional parties disturbs the Congress’ long-term strategy of growing and becoming strong in these states.

This means that in 11 states, accounting for half of the Lok Sabha strength, the contest is likely to be triangular or multi-cornered.

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

2. No Guarantee That Regional Parties Will Support Congress After Results

Two opinion polls aired recently, one of C-Voter and another of Karvy, predicted a hung Parliament. In this scenario, the Congress doesn’t want a situation where the parties it forms mahagathbandhan with, go on and support the BJP after the polls. Many regional parties have been with the NDA in the past or have formed governments with the BJP’s help – Trinamool, TRS, JMM, TDP, PDP, INLD, RLD, BSP, JDS, HAM, RLSP, BJD etc.

3. Regional Parties Gaining Strength Reduces Prospect of Rahul Becoming PM

The opinion polls show that regional parties are likely to play a key role in government formation at the Centre. If they gain strength at the expense of the Congress, then it even dilutes the prospects of Rahul Gandhi to emerge as the PM candidate.

The objective is to keep the BJP out of power and at the same time not let regional parties get the entire benefit of reversals, which the BJP is likely to face.

4. Regional Parties Don’t Help Congress in Key Battle States vs BJP

Many think that the Congress is not able to transfer votes to partners it forms alliances with, and that’s why the party was left out by SP-BSP in UP.

While it is not completely wrong, the Congress thinks these parties do not bring any additional votes to any party outside their home turf. Neither Mamata, Naidu nor Akhilesh can get the Congress votes in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, etc.

Being a national party, the Congress cannot accept paltry seats in states where it is not that strong, as it will not send a good message. It alone cannot be expected to follow coalition dharma, for a larger cause. And such states account for one-fourth of the Lok Sabha’s strength.

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

Decision to Have a Likely Impact on Bihar?

The Congress has an alliance in place in four states, accounting for one-fourth of the House’s strength. The seat-sharing discussions in Bihar have become complex with seven-eight parties entering the fray for 40 seats. The Congress is also unhappy with Tejashwi for meeting Mayawati after her scathing attack on the party, and promising her one seat from Bihar.

The two main parties are also divided over the 10 percent reservations issue, as Congress aspirants are mostly from the forward castes, while the RJD has been championing for the rights of backward classes.

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

To sum up, one-to-one contest has gone for a toss, and the mahagathbandhan has died even before it was born.

This article was first published on thequint.com on 29 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: Mamata Banerjee’s mahagathbandhan initiative the real ‘sabka saath, sabka vinash’

Mamata Banerjee held a rally of Opposition parties in Kolkata on Saturday in which leaders from more than 20 parties were present. Those present at the ‘United India’ rally at the Brigade Parade Ground included former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, BJP rebels Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha, chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal, Chandrababu Naidu and HD Kumaraswamy and former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav and Gegong Apang.

“Badal do, badal do, Delhi mein sarkar badal do,” Mamata proclaimed from the rally. The Trinamool Congress chief, however, skirted around on the question of who will lead the mahagathbandhan and said it will be decided after the general elections. Yashwant Sinha rephrased BJP’s slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ and said the actual slogan was ‘sabka saath, sabka vinash’. Shourie emphasised on putting up a single Opposition candidate against the BJP.

Let’s look at which parties and groups attended the Kolkata rally and which parties gave it a miss.

The rally is being seen as merely a show of strength by Mamata. She nurses prime ministerial ambitions and is trying to emerge as the natural choice for the regional parties.

However, she has competition from Mayawati who had stayed away from the event. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has said in the past that he would not shy away from any responsibility, also gave the event a miss. Their representatives were, however, present.

The mahagathbandhan has not yet been formalised and is bereft of any structure and is not expected to project any prime ministerial candidate. At a time when elections in India are approximating the presidential style more and more, not having a prime ministerial candidate and clear leadership could prove to be costly for this loose aggregation of parties.

In 2014, 28% of the electorate gave importance to the prime ministerial candidate while voting for the Lok Sabha according to CSDS National Election Studies. Having confusion over leadership will exclude this set of voters from the target voter group of this alliance.

The internal differences and contradictions in this so-called mahagathbandhan are also coming to the forefront. Many parties and leaders have fought the Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP, TDP and so on their entire lives. For them to now share the stage with these parties causes uneasiness.

Sharad Yadav scored an own goal by talking about the “dacoity” in the Bofors deal, while what he wanted to criticise was the Rafale deal. While the DMK has been rooting for Rahul as the Prime Minister, its leader MK Stalin didn’t mention it during his speech. A day after the event, RJD’s Tejaswi Yadav rooted for Rahul as the Prime Minister.

While Shourie was rooting for a one-to-one contest, there were leaders sitting on the dais, who have excluded the Congress from an alliance in their backyard, like Uttar Pradesh. Parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have now and again denied any sort of pact with the Congress in Punjab and Delhi.

The table below shows the status of one-on-one contests in states for which regional parties were present at the rally.

The event was more pomp, show and noise than substance. No seat-sharing details emerged. Nor any common manifesto. It was clearly an attempt to organise forces to remove Narendra Modi from power.

The mahagathbandhan includes leaders and parties well past their prime and don’t have much presence left in their respective states. The mahagathbandhan, if formalised, would be the real ‘sabka saath, sabka vinash’. And it may have just provided a powerful narrative to Modi for the general election: all corrupt leaders have ganged up to throw an honest person like me out of power!

This article was first published on mynation.com on Jan. 21st 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: Congress Will Be the Biggest Loser in Mamata’s ‘Formula’ for 2019

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is leading efforts to form a Third Front of regional parties. To that end, she recently met Sonia Gandhi in Delhi and invited Congress to join the proposed ‘grand alliance’.

Mamata has mooted the idea of ‘one-to-one’ contests, implying that parties which are strong in respective states should contest against BJP in those seats, and other parties of the Front should not put up a candidate and support them wholeheartedly.

She is hoping to create a 1977 like situation when big Opposition parties contested under the common banner of the Janata Party to defeat Indira Gandhi.

Theoretically it appears to be a fantastic strategy to beat Modi in 2019. BJP just received 31 percent vote share and non-BJP parties 69 percent in 2014. The sheer arithmetic puts odds hugely in favour of such an alliance. However, it is easier said than done. And for the Congress, it is a particularly difficult decision to take.

On a pan India basis, Congress is in contention in 70 percent of seats.

  • 46 percent of the seats have either a ‘direct Congress’ or ‘Congress allies vs BJP’ or ‘BJP allies contests’ (Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh),
  • 19 percent of the seats have a triangular Congress vs BJP vs regional party contest (Delhi, Punjab, West Bengal etc.)
  • 16 percent of the seats have a BJP vs regional party contests (Uttar Pradesh, Odisha)
  • 12 percent of the seats have regional parties competing against themselves (Tamil Nadu, Andhra) and
  • 6 percent of the seats have Congress versus regional party contests (Kerala, Telangana)
Congress party won 44 seats in 2014, where one-third of its victories were against regional parties. It finished runner up in 224 seats and in 17% of such seats, regional parties emerged winners.
Congress party won 44 seats in 2014, where one-third of its victories were against regional parties. It finished runner up in 224 seats and in 17% of such seats, regional parties emerged winners.
Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com 

Issues With Congress Joining a ‘Third Front’

There are significant issues with the Congress entering any such alliance with the Federal or Third Front. Here are some of these issues:

1. Risk of ceding space to regional parties as well as BJP: How will Congress leave out its claim for seats in predominantly regional, Congress vs regional and triangular contests? If Congress agrees, then it risks ceding its space to regional parties in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Also there is a risk of BJP latching on to this opportunity and becoming the main opposition in these states. This will create issues for the Congress when Assembly elections are held in these states in due course. In states like Kerala, if Congress agrees to a one-to-one in alliance with CPI (M), then BJP can get entry in the state.

2. Regional parties do not bring anything to the table for the Congress:The regional parties do not bring any votes to the Congress party where it is locked in direct contest with BJP in states like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, etc. Neither Trinamool nor TDP nor other parties have any votes there. On the other hand, Congress, in all probability would be able to transfer a section of its votes to Mamata, CBN, KCR, Naveen etc.

Most of the regional parties didn’t even contest outside of their states like AIADMK, DMK, TDP, YSRCP, TRS, BJD to name a few. Only a few parties, namely TMC, SP, BSP, JDU and AAP contested outside the states in which they are in power/have influence. However, they received more than 95 percent of the votes from their stronghold states. Only AAP and BSP have some presence outside their home state as seen in table below.

3. Congress will have to lead this alliance, regional parties may not agree: The question of who will lead the alliance is a tricky one. Congress, which is a national party, would not like to be seen playing second fiddle to regional parties. It would do its perception a lot of damage, especially when Rahul Gandhi is witnessing an increase in popularity. It will be seen as the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi not having the confidence to beat Narendra Modi. This is why Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary of Congress has asked Mamata to join a Congress-led alliance and not vice-a-versa. On the other hand, the regional satraps see Rahul as a novice and may not agree to his leadership.

4. Some regional parties can desert alliance after results in case of a hung Parliament: There is no guarantee these parties won’t flock to BJP after results if it emerges as the single largest party. TDP, TMC, TRS have all been part of NDA previously. But in order to maintain a better state and Centre relations, they might budge.

5. Congress should prefer state level strategic alliances: The Congress party should instead opt to have state-level strategic alliances where it is weak and try to replicate the model it has in Bihar with Lalu’s RJD. A similar template can be adopted in states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

To conclude, Congress has more to lose than to gain in agreeing to the one-to-one formula proposed by Mamata. Apart from bringing like-minded anti-Modi, anti-BJP parties on a common platform, it isn’t of much use to Congress as it has to fight a lone battle with the BJP in most seats where regional parties can’t contribute much. State level alliances will help to maintain its national party character and will serve the party better in the long run.

This article was first published on thequint.com on 6th April 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.

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.

Why Do More Muslims Vote For BJP In Madhya Pradesh Than In Any Other State?

Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the longest serving Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. He has exceeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat. He is, today, one of the tallest mass leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He remains the most preferred CM candidate of voters in Madhya Pradesh across polls, even in polls which project a Congress win. Chouhan is credited with bringing the state out of BIMARU and making it one of the fastest growing states of the country today. Chouhan belongs to the backward Kirar community (Other Backward Class) and has successfully connected with the electorate in the state. He is soft-spoken, humble and approachable unlike many other politicians.

This article was First Published on swarajyamag.com, on 15th nov 2018.

Can Congress bounce back?

Author: NS

Editor: Politicalbaaba

One of the most fascinating elections in one of the largest democracies in the world are over. Narendra Modi is the new Prime minister of India. And has started on an excellent note, not putting a foot wrong till date.

Related Post: “NaMo Arrives, Democracy Wins” https://politicalbaaba.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/namo-arrives-democracy-wins/

But what now for the other political parties who have suffered a devastating defeat in the 2014 general elections. What are the lessons to be learnt from the people’s mandate and what is the way forward for them. Lets look individually at each of the opposition parties

First of all, lets start with the Congress.

There is no doubt that this is the most ‘crippling’ defeat of all times for the Congress. And I deliberately use the word crippling. Sure they have lost elections before. But never before has their vote share dropped below 20%. Throughout the hindi heartland of Rajasthan, MP, Chattisgarh, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and even Maharashtra, the party has only managed to win family strongholds – The Gandhis, Scindia, Kamal Nath, and Pawar/Chavan.

From the 50s to the 80s, the USP of the Congress was that it is the party which won independence for India. But since the 90s, this factor has been diminishing at an increasing rate and is perhaps irrelevant today. Probably this was the first election with no voters with memories of August 15, 1947. Well we certainly now have our first Prime Minister who was born in Independent India.

The Congress needs to quickly appreciate the fact that are no major differences between the policies of the Congress and many of the regional parties, including AAP. They all indulge in the same ‘left of the centre’ politics. In such a scenario, there has been a clear division of the ‘anti-right’ vote between the Congress and the ‘other than BJP’ parties. To think of it, why would a ‘left of the centre’ vote in, lets say Delhi, opt for the Congress when it has the option of AAP – which is nothing but a corruption free Congress in terms of its policies

Thus this mean that all is lost for the Congress. Well no. Wherever the ‘anti-right’ vote weakens (JDS in Karnataka), the Congress would regain its vote share. But only if it has a strong regional leadership. There is an excellent opportunity in UP. The ratings for the Akhilesh government are at an all time low. Even in Bihar, the JDU has shot itself in the foot. A long term strategy for the Congress would have been to even kill off the RJD in these elections. But they revived it by entering into an alliance.

Or the Congress can also hope that there are more claimants to the ‘right of the centre’ votes. Most of these are today in alliance with the BJP. A Shivsena in Maharashtra or a Naidu in Andhra fighting separately can create problems for the BJP and revive the Congress in these states. But today, the state leadership in these states and in Gujarat/MP/Rajasthan/UP/Bihar have been completely destroyed by the Congress’s policy of parachuting leaders and dictating policies from 10 Janpath.

Does the Congress let go of the Gandhis. Well the current results suggest that at present, the Gandhis are more a liability than an asset. But I slightly differ. I still feel that the 19% vote the Congress has retained has a lot to do with the Gandhis. Infact, the Gandhis are the USP of the Congress on a national front. But the Gandhis need to quickly come to terms with the fact that they need to share power with the regional satraps. To think of it, how strong the Congress would have been if it would have retained Mamta, or even Pawar.

Does Rahul Gandhi go? Well this is a distinct possibility. Because he is clearly disinterested. But lets also remember, the 2004 loss of the NDA was solely blamed on Modi. He was not even allowed to campaign in UP/Bihar/MP in 2009. So the same Rahul Gandhi, who has been ridiculed today can re-invent himself. But only if he is interested. Clearly, his attitude today suggest, that is not the case. Priyanka also carries more baggage than required.

So where will the Congress find a new Gandhi after Sonia. Well, maybe a certain Gandhi who won in Sultanpur, UP. Make no mistake, the Congressis love power like a fish loves water. It is their oxygen that keeps them alive. They can go to any extent and ditch anyone to stick to power. Stranger things have happened in politics.

We shall discuss the impact of the people’s mandate on the electoral policies of AAP and other regional parties such as an increasingly jittery Raj Thackeray, or Jayalalitha and Mamata who are issuing full page ads in many of the national dailies in our next posts. Till then. Keep blogging

Comparison of Projections vs Actual Results

This post was due for long. A lot of readers demanded this post.

We present below a comparison of Politicalbaaba pre poll, post poll projections vs actual results and where we were bang on and were we were wrong.

In Jan. 2014, PB had projected 230 seats for NDA and 10 seats for TDP.  Arrangement with TDP was not finalised at that point of time. So in effect 240 seats for NDA. Post poll information was collected from many sources and media friends in a massive never attempted before exercise of seat by seat predictions. This number came to be 266. This could be termed as a conservative estimate. While initial reports pointed to a 300 type number, sources on ground were not confident. Plus we didn’t have the benefit of exit polls as our numbers were declared before exit polls. However, we said that 250 is the floor and NDA won’t get below this.

It turned out that NDA bagged 336. Major difference was UP (73 vs 42), Bihar (31 vs 20) and Maharashtra (42 vs 30). Plus NDA bagged more seats in J&K and Assam. I has always said / tweeted that anything below 220 – no wave, 220-250 Modi wave, 250-280 Modi frenzy and 280+ Modi Tsunami. Tsunami it was as BJP got majority on its own. It played upon its strengths all seats in Gujarat / Rajasthan, 27/29 in Maharashtra and 7/7 in Delhi.

In 18 of the 36 states / UTs Politicalbaaba projections were bang on as detailed below.


An analysis of the seat wise estimates show that we were on in 68% of the seats. I would say not bad at all.


There were learnings for me in this exercise and feedback from you all helped. Dil was saying 300, dimag said just short of majority. Dil was right…..

Should Regional Parties be allowed to contest National Elections?

India currently has too many political parties

India currently has 6 national parties (Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM, Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party) and 52 recognized state / regional parties (prominently Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), AIADMK, DMK, Biju Janata Dal, Akali Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Rashtriya Lok Dal, National Conference, Telugu Desam Party, Trinamool Congress etc.). Plus there are hundreds of unrecognized parties. All of this results in a high number of candidates per constituency (~15 in 2009 Lok Sabha elections vs ~5 in 1st Lok Sabha elections). Among these candidates, some are serious, some non- serious, some propped up by one party to cut into votes of opposition party, some who stand on their own and threaten to cut votes in turn for a deal. Basically any Tom, Dick and Harry can stand up in elections.   Too many parties have brought in the era of unstable coalition politics A large number of candidates confuse the voters and leads to a chaos. National elections should be fought on national issues and presence of a number of state parties dilutes the main agenda. For state / local issues you anyways have state assembly elections.

Since 1989 Lok Sabha Elections, no single party has got majority and all governments have been coalition governments. This has led to a lot of instability. India has seen 9 Prime Ministers since 1989, out of which 5 have not lasted their full term. Even governments which have lasted full terms like Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh, Narasimha Rao have seen periods when allies have shown tantrums on bills proposed by their own supported governments.  The period also witnessed the decline in strength of Congress which in turn led to the emergence of strong regional satraps. Many of them have been offshoots of (i) the erstwhile Janata Dal (Mulayam’s SP, Ajit Singh’s RLD, Lalu’s RJD, Nitish’s JD(U), Patnaik’s BJD, Deve Gowda’s JD(S)) and (ii) Congress (Mamta’s TMC, Pawar’s NCP).

Regional Parties have no ideology & are hungry for power

These parties in most of the cases win seats fighting against Congress / BJP and after the elections join whichever combination has majority leading to horse-trading. They have no ideology & are hungry for power.  Few e.g. below:

– Ajit Singh was a Cabinet minister in Congress’s govt. in 1991 under N. Rao, NDA’s govt. in 1999 of Vajpayee and now recently joined UPA’s Manmohan govt. in 2012

– National Conference (Abdullahs) have been in NDA’s govt. in 1999 and now in UPA’s govt. of Manmohan since 2009

– Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been in NDA’s govt. of 1999 and UPA’s govt. of 2009. Recently pulled out

– Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) supported Rao’s govt. in 1991, was with NDA govt. in 1999 and now with UPA govt. after jointly forming government in Jharkhand

– Karunanidhi’s DMK was in NDA’s govt. in 1999 and in UPA’s govt. in 2004 & 2009 before pulling its ministers recently

– Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has been in NDA’s govt. in 1999 and also in UPA’s govt. in 2004, joined back NDA recently

– Sikkim Democratic Front has been in NDA’s govt. of 1999 as well as UPA’s govt. of 2004

– Nitish’s JD(U) was in NDA govt. in 1999, broke alliance with BJP recently, luring Congress for an alliance in 2014

How come these parties have supported both Congress & BJP governments who are ideology wise poles apart? Shows the ideological bankruptcy of these state parties!

What regional parties pray to god for?

Scenario I: There is a hung Parliament

  •   “Others” apart from two main combinations BJP & Congress get the maximum seats
  •   The subject state party gets the maximum number of seats in “others” category
  •   Congress / BJP are forced to do a Deve Gowda / Chandrasekhar formula to keep each other out
  •   This way leader of the state party with highest number of seats becomes the Prime Minister

Scenario II: There is a hung Parliament

  •   BJP or Congress whoever emerges as the single largest party can’t form government without them
  •   They in turn will bargain for maximum malai ministerial berths
  •   They will keep blackmailing the govt. throughout the tenure

Pity the intelligence of people who vote for regional parties in national elections

I am intrigued by the psyche of the voter who votes for a regional party candidate in Lok Sabha elections. There might be reasons like national parties have not put up good candidates. Then their decision is justified. But most of the time it is because they want their caste / state leader to become PM. Regional representation is also given as a reason. If a national party candidate wins will he not be representing the region? Deve Gowda episode has made all regional leaders day dream to become PM. Do voters of these parties ask their leaders what will they do if they don’t get majority on their own? Who will they support and why? Will they sit in opposition? If after elections regional party aligns with a national party, then the voter would have been better off giving vote directly to national party. Why go the indirect way?   

Electoral reforms the need of the hour

Currently to be a national party you have to be state party in 4 or more states. To be a state party you need >=6% of votes polled in the respective states. The definition of national party / state party also needs to change and it should be based on votes polled in Lok Sabha & State elections respectively. One suggestion could be that any party getting more than 5% of votes in Lok Sabha elections be called a national party. This is needed to get rid of instability at the center. This way you will not get a hung Parliament. A lot of countries have a 2/3 party system. Why can’t we?

BJP & Modi Create History

BJP led NDA has secured absolute majority 336 / 543 in 16th Lok Sabha.  Not only this, BJP has also secured majority on its own (282). For the first time in 30 years after 1984, a party / alliance has got absolute majority. This is very good news for India and will take us beyond the shaky coalition era. Also its the first time that a non- Congress party has secured majority in Lok Sabha elections. Janata Party did get majority in 1977 after emergency but it was a coalition / umbrella where several parties joined to take on Indira just before the elections.

The mandate has stunned political pundits, while all of them predicted a NDA win or near win, nobody except for Today’s Chanakya predicted that NDA would get ~340 seats. Politicalbaaba estimated 266 seats for NDA. Where it went wrong will be analysed in detail in another post. However, I had said that if BJP gets <220 no Modi wave, 220-250 Modi wave, 250-280 Modi frenzy, 280+ Modi tsunami. It seems there was a tsunami.

The stupendous performance an be attributed to only one man – Modi. From the day he was appointed BJP Chief of Election Campaign to PM candidate the man has worked very hard. Attending 400+ rallies, criss-crossing entire India, visiting 25 states, delivering thundering speeches, drawing massive crowds.

From Kashmir to Kanyakumari this man was seen as one who could take India to new heights and solve it of all its evils. People voted for Modi irrespective of the background of local candidate. BJP and Modi fought Presidential style elections and the first time in Indian politics after Indira Gandhi, people voted on the basis of personality.

He has re-defined Indian political landscape and electioneering forever. Case studies can be made on his campaign. Use of high tech media, social media, strategically targeting youth power and raising issue of development.

TINA factor worked well for him as there was no competition. No other party declared a PM candidate, except for AIADMK (but it was a state party). Ruling party Congress was afraid of pitting Rahul against Modi. Strong anti incumbency wave against 10 years of UPA rule plus good governance model of Gujarat was played to the hilt by Modi to succeed. Even in UP and Bihar which are drenched deep in caste based politics and where minority community has size able population, BJP+ won 103 / 120 seats. This re-instates success of Modi formula of development.

Now starts the tougher journey for Modi, expectations are high, people want him to solve problems of plenty – inflation, low growth, unemployment etc. People are also impatient and would want to see results soon. Let’s see whether he can keep up on his promises. All the best Modi, all the best India, all the best Indians……

For All India Results Partywise please see: https://politicalbaaba.wordpress.com/elections-2014/all-india-2014-results-partywise/

Related post: Campaign Style of Top 3 Guns: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/indiapoliticswatch/how-the-top-guns-modi-rahul-and-kejriwal-campaign/article1-1218076.aspx





The Tamasha of Exit Polls

Post the last voting day on 12th of May, there has been a splash of exit polls across news channels each coming up with their party wise seat forecasts. All of them have tied up with one research agency or another and claim to be the biggest and most accurate. One news channel is already in soup as the research agency claimed it did not carry out any survey for the said channel.

Most of the news channels predict a Modi led govt. in the center, some project outright majority and some close to majority.

Party / Alliance Times Now News 24 CNN-IBN C-Voter ABP News
NDA 249 340 277 289 281
UPA 148 70 97 101 97
Others 146 133 169 153 165

While the end result is the same, what is interesting though is that most of them have very different state wise projections. This is bizarre, sample of similar people in each constituency gives different state wise results but more or less same end result. Lets see below.

Uttar Pradesh: All polls point to a BJP+ / NDA sweep. Today’s Chanakya perhaps is an outlier here and if its nos. are true then you have to give credit to Modi for converting a caste based vote bank state vote on issue of development. Range of SP is 4-15 and BSP is 3-13 big ranges.

Madhya Pradesh: All polls point to a BJP+ / NDA sweep. Times Now perhaps is an outlier here and gives 9 seats to Congress. What was Arnab’s team smoking when they did the survey?

Maharashtra: All polls point to a BJP+ / NDA sweep. Today’s Chanakya perhaps is an outlier here and if its nos. are true then Congress / NCP is decimated here. Range for Congress is 9-19.

Karnataka: This is the comedy of errors state. 4 / 6 channels say NDA will get more seats, 2 / 6 say UPA will get more. Times Now and Today’s Chanakya are the complete outliers here. Range for BJP is 8-20 and Congress is 7-17. Huh!

Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra + Telangana): This is another comedy of errors state. 3 / 5 channels say BJP / TDP will win, while 2 / 5 say Jagan’s YSR Congress will win. Utter confusion. Again here Times Now / H. Today are outliers. Range for NDA is 12-18 and YSR is 8-18. Can’t make anything out of it.

Gujarat: The state is clearly Modi-fied.

W. Bengal: All polls point to a Mamata TMC sweep. Range for TMC is 20-28 and Left is 4-16.

Rajasthan: All polls point to a BJP sweep. Except for our favorite Arnab who says Congress will get more seats than BJP. Laughable.

Bihar: All polls point to a BJP lead. ABP-News shows a slender lead. Again Times Now is a blooper here. 10 seats for JD(U) / Nitish. Range for Congress 2-10, JDU 1-10.

Odisha: The comedy of errors state returns. 4 / 5 pollsters say Naveen’s Biju Janata Dal will lead while 1 / 5 says BJP will get the most seats. Range for BJP 2-10.

Tamil Nadu: All polls point to a AIADMK lead. But again differ on seats. Range for AIADMK is 22-30, DMK 5-12 and NDA 0-7. What to make out of it?

Kerala: All polls point to a UPA lead. But again differ on seats. Range for UPA is 11-17 and Left is 3-9.

Punjab: The comedy of errors state returns. 3 / 5 pollsters say NDA lead while 1 / 5 says UPA and 1 / 5 says NDA & AAP will get 5 seats each. Ranges are bizarre – NDA 5-8, UPA 3-7 and AAP 0-5. Uff!

Assam: 2 /3 polls say BJP will get maximum seats while 1 says BJP and Congress will split honours.

4 states are clear comedy of errors, no clue who is right, who is wrong. In 6 states there are severe range issues. Truth will come out on 16th so lets wait.

The pollsters take sample from the same set of people who voted in a constituency, views of a small sample is extrapolated for the entire voting universe. And then if all of them have different results, then it raises questions about accuracy and brings in the element of margin of error. And all of them barring News 24 have more or less same results. Lets wait for actual results on 16th.

All these surveys have a stated margin of error of 3%. In 2009, 113 / 543 (20%) seats were decided on a victory margin of <=3%. This time due to multi cornered contests in many states plus high fever campaign plus Modi wave (real / created) the seats were margin of victory will be <3% will minimum double for sure. This time for many seats victory margin will be <15,000 votes (76 seats in 2009).





What could be the strategy of Regional Parties?

Regional parties could hold the keys of govt. formation at the center as most surveys predict a hung assembly. What will they do? Who will they support – NDA or UPA? This is analyzed in detail below. The main assumption of this article is that it will either be a UPA led or NDA led govt. at the center.

First lets have a look at parties which do are not part of any pre-poll alliance.

(i) Samajwadi Party:

Support NDA – Never

Support UPA – Yes, It already provides outside support to current UPA govt. Might even join govt. if able to snatch a good deal.

(ii) Bahujan Samaj Party:

Support NDA – Yes (probability low). It has formed govt. in Uttar Pradesh with BJP in the past. Relationship soured after that. A good deal, specifically, bifurcation of UP state into ¾ smaller states and helping Maya to become CM in at least 1 of those states could lead it to support NDA. Enemy of BJP & BSP is common – SP / Mulayam.

Support UPA – Yes, probability high. It already provides outside support to current UPA govt. Might even join govt. if able to snatch a good deal.

(iii) Janata Dal (United):

Support NDA – Never

Support UPA – Yes. It could provide outside support. Might even join govt. if able to get a good deal (special status for Bihar).

Party likely to split and a section led by Sharad Yadav could support NDA.

(iv) Left Front:

Support NDA – Never

Support UPA – Yes. It could provide outside support to UPA govt. in name of preventing communal forces (NDA) from coming to power. It did provide such support to UPA I before nuclear deal.

(v) Biju Janata Dal:

Support NDA – Yes (probability medium). It was part of NDA govt. during 1998-2004. Even in Orissa both BJP and BJD were allies in govt. Things could change if BJP emerges stronger in Odisha. BJP emerging as principal opposition party to BJD is likely to impact its decision.

Support UPA – Never, as Congress is currently its biggest opposition party in Orissa.

(vi) AIADMK:

Support NDA – Yes (probability medium). Amma has good equations with Modi which will help. BJP stitching an alliance and making a dent into her vote base has annoyed her though.

Support UPA – Yes if Congress dumps DMK publicly. Though DMK has ditched Congress, Congress has not closed doors for rapproachment.

So she could go either ways. She is an unreliable partner having played a crucial role in Vajpayee’s govt. downfall. NDA would not want to depend upon her support.

(vii) YSR Congress:

Support NDA – Yes. Will have no other choice, than to be in good books, to get some reprieve from CBI. Plus if he becomes CM of Seemandhra will need funds from center.

Support UPA – Despite lot of animosity with Congress, could still support it by striking a deal wrt CBI cases.

He will go with whoever forms government.

(viii) Trinamool Congress:

Support NDA – No. Was part of NDA govt. during 1998-2004. Recently there has been lot of animosity as BJP getting stronger in W.Bengal and resultantly cutting into her vote base. This has made her jittery / nervous and relationship has reached a point of no return.

Support UPA – No. Was part of govt. in UPA I and UPA II till very recently. It will not be with Left Front in same govt. and Left expected to support Congress.

(ix) Telangana Rashtriya Samiti

Support NDA – Yes. Was part of NDA govt. during 1998-2004. Like Jagan has no choice and would like to be in good books of center for funds for Telangana.

Support UPA – Yes.

Will go with whoever forms the govt.

(x) Aam Aadmi Party 

Support NDA – Never.

Support UPA – Yes, pay back time for AAP. Ideologically it is close to Congress.

(xi) DMK:

Support NDA – Yes (probability medium). Karuna has praised Modi before elections. Also to get some CBI reprieve for his daughter and other ministers. Condition can’t be in same govt. with Amma / Jaya.

Support UPA – Yes. To be in good books of center. Could go back to UPA.

So he could go either ways. Some may argue TN state elections are 2 years away and he would not want to risk minority vote bank by allying with BJP. Please be reminded that DMK was in NDA govt. of 1999-2004. Could join and pull rug before state elections.

Both YSR Congress and TRS will have to provide outside support as TDP might oppose their entry into cabinet. DMK also could provide outside support and not join ministry. They may want but BJP would not want to give any ministries to DMK.

Now lets have a look at parties which are part of either UPA or NDA and whether they will switch alliances.

NDA: NDA is a rainbow coalition of 28 parties currently led by BJP. Most of these parties are very small (0 / 1 MP) and have joined the bandwagon recently to capture the Modi wave. Shiv Sena and Akali Dal are the mainstay of the coalition and won’t leave it at any cost. Even TDP won’t dump NDA. All other 24 parties can dump the coalition for better prospects. Comfort factor is that they together won’t account for more than 10 seats.

UPA: UPA is a rainbow coalition of 12 parties currently led by Congress. Some of the partners have left due to dwindling prospects like DMK. RLD (Ajit Singh), RJD (Lalu), NCP (pawar), JMM (Soren) and NC (Abdullah) are the mainstay of the coalition. Lalu won’t leave the coalition at any cost and support NDA. Ajit Singh is a habitual hopper and could change sides. JMM is another party which keeps on hopping. It is currently heading the Jharkhand govt. supported by Congress 18 MLAs. Incidentally BJP also has 18 MLAs and JMM govt. could still survive, if it hops to NDA and Congress pulls the plug. NC won’t support though it was part of Vajpayee govt. earlier. It needs Congress backing in the state. Plus Abdullahs have become anti Modi. If anyone else leads NDA they could hop.

That leaves us with the curious case of Pawar. He has been giving hints of closeness with Modi and then taking it back . NCP runs a govt. with Congress in Maharashtra. State elections due in Oct. 2014. It wanted to join NDA as per rumours but Shiv Sena vetoed its entry. If Pawar provides outside support now he will have to go out from Maharashtra govt. He would like his ministers to enjoy another 6 months of raj. He will take calls post Maharashtra assembly elections. If NCP-Congress combine loses, then he will give outside support to NDA.

Regional parties want malai, and who ever gives them malai with jalebi they will join. Please see related post on why regional parties should be banned from contesting in national elections.


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