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

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

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

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

Why Mamata is in trouble

1. Trinamool Congress has peaked in Bengal

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

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

2. TMC is the new Left

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

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

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

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

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

5. Complementary vote blocks

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

6. Congress’s ‘ekla chalo re’ niti

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

7. Strong vote segments of BJP

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

Opinion polls predict significant improvement in BJP’s performance 

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

However, challenges remain

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

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


#Elections2019: 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.

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

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

UP Helped BJP Gain Majority in 2014

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

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

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

Data Shows UP is Not Necessarily the Gateway to Power

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

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

Here is what the electoral history of UP tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Eyes on MGB to Defeat BJP

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

MGB Could Be Left High and Dry

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

History May Offer Solace To Modi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seamless transferability of votes

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

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

Trust deficit between members

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

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

Antagonistic vote blocks

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


Congress could play spoilsport

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

Reverse polarisation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics Is The Art Of Managing Contradictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voter Bases & the Task of Government Formation

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

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

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

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

Neither BJP Nor Congress Can Get Majority on Its Own

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

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

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

Source: www.politicalbaba.com

Modi Remains Popular Despite Lowered Ratings

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

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

Source: www.politicalbaba.comwww.indiavotes.com

An Open Contest

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

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

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

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

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

Jogi’s Inroads Into BJP and Congress

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

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

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

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

Jogi Hands a Shocker to BJP

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

(Source: Election Commission of India)

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

(Source: Election Commission)

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

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

What Didn’t Work for Jogi?

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

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

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

#Elections2019: Federal clout at power centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Elections2019: BJP, 2019, And The Durability Of The ‘Modi Factor’

The Indian National Congress has made significant inroads in the three Hindi heartland states defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party in its den. These states account for 65 Lok Sabha seats out of which BJP won 62 in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The historical trend shows that whichever party wins these state elections goes on to win the maximum seats in the Lok Sabha election that is held within three-four months of the assembly mandate. BJP’s tally is expected to reduce by half, on the basis of a simple extrapolation of the state results. The results have made the 2019 contest wide open with no clear favourites.

Did The Modi Factor Work, Or Fail In 2018?

The boost the BJP gets from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal political capital—which took the party past the finish line in elections over the last few years—has often been referred to as the ‘Modi factor’. There’s been plenty of debate after the results about the impact Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaigning had in these elections. Did the Modi factor work or fail? Opinion is divided.

  • People who are saying that Modi’s push failed, point to the party losing power in all three major states. They argue that rural or agricultural distress—resulting from radical measures like the Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation—is one of the main reasons for this defeat. They see the impact of this being so large that even popular Chief Ministers like Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan had to bear the brunt.
  • People who believe the Modi factor is intact argue that the party put up a tough fight in two out of three states and the resultant marginally hung assembly. But for Modi, both MP and Rajasthan could have met the same fate as Chhattisgarh, they argue.
  • Even critics of Modi acknowledge that he turned the party’s fortunes around in Gujarat, without which Congress could have sneaked in. In Karnataka nobody gave BJP any chance, but it was Modi’s rallies which created a swing of 2-3 percent in the party’s favour propelling it to single largest party status.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with then-Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJP President Amit Shah, in Bhopal, on Sep. 25, 2018. (Photograph: PTI)

Defining The ‘Modi Factor’

The way to put a number to this is to measure his ability to attract voters outside the party’s core vote bank and influence them to vote for BJP. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 27 percent of those who supported BJP said in a CSDS survey that they would not have voted for BJP if Modi was not the prime ministerial candidate.

This was highest in Rajasthan and the lowest in Chhattisgarh.

The Modi factor fetched the BJP 4.6 crore votes out of the 17 crore-odd votes it received in 2014.

The Modi Factor’s 2018 Scorecard

Elections are not won or lost basis a single factor. These are a host of issues which decide the outcome including the complex interplay among them. We attempt to analyse whether Modi’s influence worked or not in the state elections 2018 using three metrics.

  1. Rallies Conducted Versus Seats Won

Modi covered 197 seats through his rallies in these 3 states, roughly 40 percent of total seats. BJP had won 134 of these seats in 2013 (around 70 percent), which got reduced to 65 in 2018 (33 percent).

The party lost more than half of these seats in 2018.

In terms of the strike rate—seats won divided by seats where he held rallies—Modi seems to have performed poorer than other leaders.

  1. BJP Vote Share: 2013 Versus 2014 Versus 2018

BJP’s vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in these three states received a big boost due to Narendra Modi’s candidacy. The party’s vote share increased by 8-10 percent in these states in that round.

In the 2018 state elections, BJP’s vote share has declined significantly – by 14-17 percent from the 2014 Lok Sabha levels.

The decline in vote shares is higher than the increase from 2013 to 2014 due to the Modi boost. This signifies not only a washout of the Modi factor in these states but also high anti-incumbency against the chief ministers.

  1. Performance In Urban Seats

The urban voter has been a big supporter of the BJP. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the party’s vote share in urban seats was 42 percent, in semi-urban seats at 32 percent and in rural seats at 30 percent. BJP won 84 percent of the urban seats it contested, but its success rate in rural seats was lower, at 63 percent.

BJP’s lead over Congress was the widest in urban constituencies at 21.3 percent. The party made the biggest gains among middle and upper/upper-middle class voters.

In the urban assembly seats in three states, BJP’s tally has declined from 88 in the 2013 election to 45 this year – a near-50 percent drop.

On the other hand, Congress’ tally improved from 10 to 47. Price rise, demonetisation, GST, job crisis are the likely factors responsible for this rout. As early as June 2018, the author had pointed out in a previous BloombergQuint column that the BJP needs to worry about growing urban apathy.

  • In Chhattisgarh, BJP lost all but one of the four seats in Raipur, except one, as well as the Korba and Bhilai Nagar seats, all of which it had won in 2013.
  • In MP, BJP lost the three seats it held in Bhopal city, three out of four Jabalpur seats and one out of five Indore seats, all considered strongholds for the party.
  • In Rajasthan, it lost one of the two Bikaner city seats, the Jodhpur seat, and nine seats in Jaipur.

Risks For BJP In 2019

As the 2014 CSDS survey indicated, 27 percent of BJP’s voters had supported the party because of Modi. These are likely to be mostly urban/educated/liberal voters. This amounts to 4.6 crore votes. BJP was ahead of Congress by 6.5 crore votes in the Lok Sabha elections.

4.6 crore votes account for 70 percent of the BJP’s 2014 victory margin.

In these three states, BJP got 90 lakh extra votes due to the Modi factor in 2014. These do not belong to the anchor voting segments of BJP. They are less likely to be influenced by issues like the Ram temple, cow and caste politics, and more by development, jobs, and Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava. While the fall in Modi’s popularity ratings also indicate a dent, he still, however, enjoys a handsome lead over Rahul Gandhi. Does he have a new trick up his sleeve to repeat the victory of 2014 in 2019?

This article was first published in the bloombergquint.com on 19th Dec. 2018.

Was Rural Distress One Of The Key Reasons For BJP’s Loss In Three States? Data Says Otherwise

The Indian National Congress has formed government in the three Hindi heartland states which went to polls recently. The 3-0 verdict has led political commentators and analysts to believe that this is all attributable to rural distress brought about by demonetisation. After all:

Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) rural tally declined by 31 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, 57 per cent in Rajasthan and 68 per cent in Chhattisgarh

  • Overall, BJP tally in these three states reduced by half on rural seats in 2018 compared to 2013.

Tables like the one given below are being used to drive home the point.

Source: Times of India Data HubSource: Times of India Data Hub

Elections, however, are not won or lost on a single factor but a host of them and a complex interplay amongst them.

  • In MP, key factors were local anti-incumbency against sitting MLAs, voter fatigue with BJP, freebies, impact of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of) Atrocities Act
  • In Rajasthan, key factors were similar, plus a strong trend of people believing change is better for development, favoured the Congress.
  • In Chhattisgarh, people yearning for badlav, corruption, tribal rights, the Ajit Jogi factor, Chhattisgarhi asmita, etc, all played a key role in elections.

To say rural distress as one of the key reasons for BJP’s loss is making too simplistic an assumption without looking at the data properly. If there was truly rural distress, Congress wouldn’t have fallen short of a majority in MP and Rajasthan, which are primarily rural states. MP has 183 rural seats out of 230, Rajasthan has 162 out of 200. After 15 years of anti-incumbency in MP and Chhattisgarh, and strong trend of overthrowing incumbent in Rajasthan, along with rural distress as is being claimed, Congress should have swept all the states and not only Chhattisgarh. If there was rural distress how is BJP retaining rural seats. Not only retaining but it is gaining seats from the Congress. How is it possible? Let’s look at the data below:

Madhya Pradesh

If one looks closely at Madhya Pradesh rural data:

  • 54 seats have been retained, 68 lost and 30 gained by BJP
  • 44 per cent of 2013 rural tally has been retained by BJP, this is impossible in rural stress scenario
  • 36 per cent of BJP’s 2018 tally represents seats wrested from Congress (is this rural distress?)
  • Congress lost half of its 2013 rural seats (28 out of 56), how come?
Source: Times of India Data Hub, www.politicalbaba.comSource: Times of India Data Hub, http://www.politicalbaba.com


Similarly, if one looks closely at Rajasthan rural data:

  • 49 retains, 82 losses and seven gains for BJP
  • 37 per cent of rural tally of 2013 has been retained by BJP despite so-called rural distress
  • of the new rural seats 13 per cent are gains for BJP
  • Additionally, 2013 verdict was an aberration and percentage gains/losses (on a high base) don’t necessarily show the true picture
Source: Times of India Data Hub, www.politicalbaba.comSource: Times of India Data Hub, http://www.politicalbaba.com


Similarly, if one looks closely at Chhattisgarh data:

  • Six retains, 35 losses and seven gains for BJP
  • of the new seats 50 per cent are gains, this is not possible in rural distress scenarios.
Source: Times of India Data Hub, www.politicalbaba.comSource: Times of India Data Hub, http://www.politicalbaba.com

Vote Shares Are Even Stevens

In terms of vote shares, there is not much to choose between the BJP and Congress in rural Madhya Pradesh. Both are almost tied with Congress at 40.5 per cent and BJP at 39.5 per cent. In Rajasthan, BJP recorded 38 per cent and Congress 39 per cent vote share in rural seats. In Chhattisgarh, the gap is higher because of the historic mandate, BJP 32 per cent and Congress 42 per cent.

SC-ST Atrocities Act Impact

Out of the total rural seats in the three states, 40 per cent are reserved for SC-ST category, MP 42 per cent, Rajasthan 34 per cent and Chhattisgarh 50 per cent. We have seen how the Dalits and Tribals have voted against BJP across these three states in these elections and it’s not only due to rural distress. In MP, Congress party’s alliance with JAYS helped the party in tribal seats. In Rajasthan, the Kirori Lal Meena factor didn’t work in the ST reserved seats. In Chhattisgarh, Ajit Jogi and Mayawati dented BJP more instead of Congress in ST and SC seats respectively. BJP lost 141 rural seats in these three states and more than half are accounted for by reserved seats.

  • in MP 77 out of 183 rural seats are SC-ST, BJP had won 53 in 2013 reduced to 24 in 2018
  • in Rajasthan, 55 out of 162 rural seats are SC-ST, BJP had won 46 in 2013 reduced to 16 in 2018
  • in CG, 39 out of 78 rural seats are SC-ST, BJP had won 20 in 2013, down to 5
Source: Times of India Data Hub, <a href="http://www.politicalbaba.com">www.politicalbaba.com</a>Source: Times of India Data Hub, www.politicalbaba.com

To sum up, rural distress alone is not responsible for BJP’s inability to form government in the three states. Host of state/national level and hyper local issues determined results on each seat, and these varied from seat to seat as well as data indications.

This article was first published on swarajyamag.com on 21 dec. 2018.

It’s Now BJP Versus Congress In #Elections2019, With Third Front Challenge Ruled Out

The results of the five state assembly elections have been declared and the Congress has upstaged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Hindi heartland. The BJP’s longest-serving chief ministers, Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, had to face defeats. A variety of factors, including voter fatigue, local anti-incumbency, agriculture or rural distress, and growing urban apathy have been attributed to this defeat.

This article was first published in ‘Swarajya’ on 15th Dec. 2018

Congress vs BJP Battle in #Elections2019 Will Play Out on Social Media

Social media today is the most popular medium of communication, due to its immediacy. According to Statista, the number of social media users in India is 226 million (2018) and this is expected to go up to 336 million by 2021.

Social Media – A New Political Battle Ground

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections witnessed a significant usage of social media by political parties and leaders, especially the BJP and their then PM designate Narendra Modi to disseminate their ideology, policies and programmes and highlight the shortcomings / corruption-related scandals of the previous regime. The Congress had a weak social media presence back then.

Rahul Gandhi joined Twitter only in April 2015 while Modi had 16 million followers on social media (Facebook and Twitter) at the time of 2014 elections.

All this helped in creating what is called the ‘Modi wave’, and led to BJP sweeping the 2014 polls. After 2014, most political parties realised the importance of social media and registered their presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

The 2014 general election is touted as India’s first “social media election”. Social media impacted results of 30 to 40 percent of the total seats, according to BJP IT Cell Head Arvind Gupta. This is expected to go up to 60 percent by the 2019 general elections.

Social media has emerged as a new battleground for political parties. The Congress, which was lagging behind BJP, has pulled up its socks. This turnaround has happened since Gujarat elections 2017. Today, the Congress and Rahul Gandhi are very active, even aggressively so, on Twitter and Facebook.

Tracking BJP, INC’s Twitter Activity

Narendra Modi has five times the followers Rahul Gandhi has. Despite this, Rahul Gandhi’s average retweets and likes are much higher than Modi’s.

BJP has 10.2 million followers while Congress has 4.62 million. Here, as well as in terms of retweets, and ‘likes per tweet’, Congress is ahead of BJP.

This shows that the Congress is a strong match to BJP’s might on social media, and has created its own army of volunteers, influencers and verified handles, which play an important role in getting to trend on Twitter.

Data Source: politicalbaaba.com; Graphed by The Quint

Twitter wars between Congress and BJP is a regular affair. Who would have thought, even a year ago, that one day the hashtag #MeraPMChorHai would trend on Twitter nationally. BJP, not one to lose, made a comeback with #RahulKaPuraKhandanChor.

The hashtags used by the Congress of late are fast gaining popularity. An analysis of top Twitter trends of September 2018 shows Congress as being marginally ahead of BJP.

Data Source: politicalbaaba.com; Graphed by The Quint

BJP & Modi Continue to Rule Facebook

However, on Facebook, Modi and the BJP’s dominance is intact. Modi is way ahead of Rahul Gandhi and BJP is also much ahead of Congress on Facebook. Facebook’s user base is almost 7 times the number of Twitter users in India. Thus, Facebook’s outreach is greater.

Data Source: politicalbaaba.com; Graphed by The Quint

Social Media to Play a Bigger Role in 2019 Polls

According to Statista, in 2019, internet users in India are expected to reach 407 million. About 65 percent of India’s population is within the age group 18-35. This group spends almost 4 hours on the internet. Political parties are therefore targeting this group of voters for mobilisation, as most of them use Twitter / Facebook to consume news. Mobile internet rates plunged by 93 percent while data usage per user surged by over 25 times in three years to 2017 as per the Department of Telecom’s data. This is driving internet growth.

To sum up, social media is undoubtedly going to play a key role in the 2019 general elections.

Congress has beefed up its presence, and so have many regional parties on social media platforms. This is likely to prevent the free run BJP enjoyed in 2014 elections as ‘early adopters’, and make the battle interesting.

This article was first published in ‘thequint.com’ on 18th Oct. 2018

Lok Sabha 2019: Congress vs BJP Battle in 2019 Will Play Out on Social Media

Social media today is the most popular medium of communication, due to its immediacy. According to Statista, the number of social media users in India is 226 million (2018) and this is expected to go up to 336 million by 2021.

Social Media – A New Political Battle Ground

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections witnessed a significant usage of social media by political parties and leaders, especially the BJP and their then PM designate Narendra Modi to disseminate their ideology, policies and programmes and highlight the shortcomings / corruption-related scandals of the previous regime. The Congress had a weak social media presence back then.

Rahul Gandhi joined Twitter only in April 2015 while Modi had 16 million followers on social media (Facebook and Twitter) at the time of 2014 elections.

All this helped in creating what is called the ‘Modi wave’, and led to BJP sweeping the 2014 polls. After 2014, most political parties realised the importance of social media and registered their presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

The 2014 general election is touted as India’s first “social media election”. Social media impacted results of 30 to 40 percent of the total seats, according to BJP IT Cell Head Arvind Gupta. This is expected to go up to 60 percent by the 2019 general elections.

Social media has emerged as a new battleground for political parties. The Congress, which was lagging behind BJP, has pulled up its socks. This turnaround has happened since Gujarat elections 2017. Today, the Congress and Rahul Gandhi are very active, even aggressively so, on Twitter and Facebook.

Tracking BJP, INC’s Twitter Activity

Narendra Modi has five times the followers Rahul Gandhi has. Despite this, Rahul Gandhi’s average retweets and likes are much higher than Modi’s.

BJP has 10.2 million followers while Congress has 4.62 million. Here, as well as in terms of retweets, and ‘likes per tweet’, Congress is ahead of BJP.

This shows that the Congress is a strong match to BJP’s might on social media, and has created its own army of volunteers, influencers and verified handles, which play an important role in getting to trend on Twitter.

Twitter wars between Congress and BJP is a regular affair. Who would have thought, even a year ago, that one day the hashtag #MeraPMChorHai would trend on Twitter nationally. BJP, not one to lose, made a comeback with #RahulKaPuraKhandanChor.

The hashtags used by the Congress of late are fast gaining popularity. An analysis of top Twitter trends of September 2018 shows Congress as being marginally ahead of BJP.

BJP & Modi Continue to Rule Facebook

However, on Facebook, Modi and the BJP’s dominance is intact. Modi is way ahead of Rahul Gandhi and BJP is also much ahead of Congress on Facebook. Facebook’s user base is almost 7 times the number of Twitter users in India. Thus, Facebook’s outreach is greater.

Social Media to Play a Bigger Role in 2019 Polls

According to Statista, in 2019, internet users in India are expected to reach 407 million. About 65 percent of India’s population is within the age group 18-35. This group spends almost 4 hours on the internet. Political parties are therefore targeting this group of voters for mobilisation, as most of them use Twitter / Facebook to consume news. Mobile internet rates plunged by 93 percent while data usage per user surged by over 25 times in three years to 2017 as per the Department of Telecom’s data. This is driving internet growth.

To sum up, social media is undoubtedly going to play a key role in the 2019 general elections.

Congress has beefed up its presence, and so have many regional parties on social media platforms. This is likely to prevent the free run BJP enjoyed in 2014 elections as ‘early adopters’, and make the battle interesting.

This article was first published in The Quint.

State Elections 2018: Apart From Turnout On Voting Day, Keep An Eye On NOTA

Turnout plays a key role in determining results of assembly elections. Normally, higher turnout denotes anti-incumbency and desire of voters to overthrow the government. Lower turnout normally denotes voters are not enthused about overthrowing government and some disillusioned supporters prefer sitting at home. At the same time, NOTA has emerged as a powerful tool in the hands of the people to show their displeasure with any political dispensation.

Increase In Turnout Leads To Change In Government

An analysis of 17 big states which went to polls along with/after Lok Sabha elections in 2014 confirms this trend. Out of the 12 states, which witnessed an increase in turnout, 11 voted out the state governments/witnessed change of government. Out of the five states, which witnessed a decline in turnout, three incumbents retained the state.

MP And Chhattisgarh Don’t Follow This Trend

The two states, however, don’t follow the trend. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came back to power in MP in 2003 with an increase in turnout of 67.3 per cent versus 60.2 per cent registered in 1998. However, in subsequent elections despite an increase in turnout from 67.3 per cent (in 2003) to 69.8 per cent (in 2008) to 70.8 per cent (in 2013), the incumbent BJP has managed to retain power. Not only this, its vote share has also witnessed an increase from 42.5 per cent in 2003 to 44.9 per cent in 2013.

BJP stormed back to power in Chhattisgarh in 2003 with an increase in turnout of 71.3 per cent versus 60.2 per cent registered in 1998. In 2008, in line with the normal trend, BJP retained power when the turnout declined by 0.7 per cent. However, in 2013, despite an increase in turnout from 70.6 per cent to 75.3 per cent, the incumbent BJP managed to score a hat trick. Not only this, its vote share has also witnessed an increase from 39.3 per cent in 2003 to 42.3 per cent in 2013.

BJP Did Well In Regions Which Witnessed Higher Turnout In MP

BJP fares better in regions like Malwa North, Malwa Tribal and Mahakoshal where turnout was higher than the state average of 70.9 per cent in 2013. In Mahakoshal, BJP’s recorded vote share of 45.7 per cent, Malwa Tribal 45.8 per cent and Malwa North 51.8 per cent against a state average of 44.9 per cent. In regions such as Chambal and Vindhya Pradesh, where turnout was lower than state average in 2013, the party recorded a vote share of 37.9 per cent and 39.1 per cent respectively.

NOTA Is Increasingly Playing A Role As Well

The other factor which is increasingly playing a role is NOTA. Higher NOTA benefits the incumbent as it denotes that people are unhappy with it, but not confident whether the opposition will be able to solve their problems. Top four NOTA voting states since Lok Sabha elections have been Bihar (2.4 per cent), Gujarat (1.8 per cent), West Bengal (1.5 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (1.3 per cent). The common thread is that all returned incumbent governments to power.

In the 2013 elections in MP, the NOTA vote share was 1.9 per cent which is very high, and BJP returned to power.

In the 2013 elections for 24 seats, NOTA polled more votes than the margin of victory. Congress lost 13 seats out of the 24. Both parties are gearing up to convert the NOTA votes in their favour, specially the Congress. People of Bundelkhand have been demanding a separate state since long and denial of their demands may lead to boycott of polls or increase in the NOTA percentage.

Chhattisgarh holds the record for the highest NOTA score till date. In 2013 elections, 3.1 per cent NOTA votes were polled in the state affected by naxalism and BJP returned to power. On 12 seats, NOTA polled more votes than the margin of victory. Congress lost seven seats out of these 12. The southern region of Chhattisgarh, which has 13 seats, and is most affected by Maoist activities, polled 5.5 per cent NOTA votes. Considering the situation remains the same, we could see NOTA playing a crucial role again.

Turnout Has Increased Due To Close Nature Of Contest And Increase In Literacy Levels

According to the “rational‐voter model”, turnout tends to be higher where elections are closely fought, and literacy is higher. Elections in Chhattisgarh have been super close with less than 1 per cent vote share gap between the two parties in 2013. MP too has witnessed acrimonious contest between the BJP and Congress for almost four decades now. Literacy levels in Chhattisgarh have increased from 64.6 per cent in 2001 to 70.3 per cent in 2011, while that in MP from 63.7 per cent to 69.3 per cent during the same period.

Despite an increase in turnout, why has the BJP been able to retain MP and Chhattisgarh.

There are primarily two reasons I can think of:

Significant Erosion Of Congress Organisation

The BJP has a sizeable and strong organisation in both the states. The Congress party’s organisation is in shambles. The party is bereft of cadres. On the D-Day, you need volunteers at each booth to get out your supporters to vote. The Congress is clearly lacking the strength. The BJP is credited with having one of the best organisation structures in MP after Gujarat. It was among the first states where a BJP government was installed.

High Popularity Of The Government

MP became a BIMARU state under Congress rule with poor infrastructure, bad roads, erratic power supply, negative agricultural growth, etc. The BJP government’s single-minded development drive nursed the state back to health. Today, both MP and Chhattisgarh are amongst the fastest growing states in India. The social sector schemes have improved quality of life of the poor and the downtrodden. Generally, people are happy with performance of the governments and hence will come out in large numbers to vote for the BJP.

To sum up, as the BJP has mastered the art of booth management over the last few years, voter turnout and NOTA are likely to play a crucial role this time too in 2018. Can the Congress turn NOTA in its favour?

This post was first published in Swarajya.

Prospects of BJP in Tamil Nadu Elections 2016

Author: Krishnaswamy (@kristanjore) & Politicalbaaba (@politicalbaaba)        

Background / Performance in LS Polls 2014

In 2014 Lok Sabha Polls, NDA which included (BJP, MDMK, DMDK, PMK , IJK, New Justice Party) were able to get 19.5% vote share. BJP contested in 9 seats and DMDK contested in 14 big Parliament seats. BJP got 5.5% votes and DMDK got 5.2% out of 19.5%.

1.pngFailure to hold onto alliances for state polls

Back in later half of 2014, Amit Shah has asked TN BJP to get 66 Lakh members, appoint Election booth agent etc. However TN BJP could not do effective membership Campaign. Their missed call membership program went flat. Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan, who is a ground level worker, along with few other leaders hit the ground and try to improve the membership. However their lack of knowledge on central Govt schemes, failure to take those schemes to the people also hit the TN BJP hard.

Modi’s silence on Cauvery water issue affected them as well. On top of it, BJP failed to take advantage of Jayalalitha’s conviction, they did badly in Srirangam bypoll. Whenever local unit Opposed ADMK, Central ministers keep visiting her causing the great confusion among the voters. JJ snubbed TN BJP president by not inviting her for swearing ceremony in 2015, but Central minister Pon.R attended that function. This gave the image of TN BJP and central BJP not in sync with each other.

There are few local leaders who wanted ADMK alliance and there are few others who were looking for DMK alliance and finally, only few wanted to lead a 3rd front like in LS Polls despite moderate success in those polls.

BJP failed to resolve the DMDK, PMK tussle on CM Candidate. BJP also did not have any CM Face. H.Raja could have been projected. But his straight forward image and him being a Brahmin leader, which is considered as a taboo in TN, stopped him from being projected.

Many BJP supporters preferred Nirmala Seetharaman as CM Candidate. But it looks Central BJP and state BJP were not at all interested in this and not ready to listen to their supporters.

However, Central BJP was firm on 2 things:

1. Not accepting Anbumani as CM candidate owning to his past corruption cases and not having clean image.

2. Not blindly accepting to All the demands of Captain (similar to 2014).

So BJP dragged this issue of PMK, DMDK alliance talks for long time.

Attempt to strike a deal with DMK as well as AIADMK failed

Then came the googly from Subramanian swamy on BJP-DMK alliance, that has caused some more damages, where DMK refuted that talks in the media, whereas real talk happened backdoor.

Then Central BJP  tried alliance talks with Jayalalitha. Again few TN BJP Leaders accepted this in media, but ADMK rejected that. BJP again blinked and became laughing stock.

Finally BJP decides to go by local leadership decision

Finally, Central BJP gave up and decided to go by TN BJP way.  TN BJP known for poor negotiations and denied of Election funding from Central unit, has given high 45 seats to IJK (which is sufficiently funded).  TN BJP has further given Devanathan Party another 24 seats.

Now BJP filed their nomination in 156 seats. Out of this their candidate’s nomination was rejected in Pennagaram where Anbumani is contesting. So now effectively BJP is contesting in 155 Seats only.

Can it open its account in these elections?

Having lost the momentum between May 2014 and Apr 2016, BJP is now seen running from pillar to post, but it has lot of miles to cover, which is not possible in 2016.

At times, BJP gave the image, that they are contesting for “Naam ke vaaste” (Namesake). But with many tireless dedicated BJP Cadres, some of the BJP candidates are really doing some ground work to improve BJP’s vote share.

BJP Seat Share and Vote Share in Last 5 Elections


Let’s take a look at some of the important Constituencies, where BJP has chance to finish 2nd or 3rd. Please remember, if BJP can pull of any one or 2 of the below top 5 Constituencies, really we can see, there is a undercurrent among the TN voters for BJP, in spite of their many mistakes.

1. Coimbatore South: Coimbatore is heart of Kongu Region (Western TamilNadu). Vanathi Srinivasan, the candidate is TN Vice president. She is doing Brilliant and innovative campaign. Coimbatore South is also Strong constituency for BJP. There is tremendous support for her in campaigns. Amit Shah also campaigned. But Prime Minister Modi did not campaign in Coimbatore, which has led to a big disappointment among Kongu Region. She is almost sure to end up for 2nd place. But can she knock ADMK which is very strong in Kongu belt on Election day? Only time will answer.

2. Vedharanyam: This little known town is historically famous for Dhandi March. Rajaji has taken the Dhandi March in this small town only. This town is also a part of history and in memories of Famous Tamil Novel “Ponniyin Selvan” by Kalki. Here the candidate is Mr.VedaRathinam who is 3 time former DMK MLA. Vedarathinam was MLA from 1996 to 2011. In 2011, this constituency was given to PMK and he left DMK. He joined BJP in 2015. Known for his Clean image, Vedarathinam is giving tough fight to ADMK candidate O.S.Maniyan, whom he defeated in 2006. NaMo’s Campaign on May 11th also might give some edge to him.

3. Killiyoor: This belongs to Kanyakumari Parliamentary seat of P. Radhakrishna (MP). This constituency is also BJP’s stronghold and also Pon. Vijay is former 3 times MLA. (1977, 1980 from Janata Party and 1989 as independent). It looks he was in Congress for some time in between 2004-2010 and has now joined in BJP.

4. VilavanCode: Again this is from Kanyakumari Nagercoil region. Even though it appears, Congress sitting MLA Vijayadharini has advantage due to DMK alliance, BJP can finish 2nd.

5. Thiyagaraya Nagar(Chennai), popularly Called T.Nagar: This is a Central Retail Business hub. This constituency has reasonable number of Brahmin votes (West Mambalam area). This place is affected heavily during Chennai floods. With Clean image of H.Raja, good campaign he is giving ADMK Candidate Sathya run for his money. Sathya also has some land grabbing issue. DMK’s Kanimozhi (Former MP Somu’s daughter) also not looking that much strong.

In the seats below, BJP can finish 2nd or 3rd.

6. Padmanabhapuram: Nagercoil Parliament Seat. BJP won here on its own in 1996. BJP has good 20% votes and may end up 2nd here.

7. Hosur: Sudden Dark horse came into the race just few days ago, Hosur never elected any Dravidian parties MLA so far since 1977. Traditionally Congress won every time except 1996, when Janata Dal (part of MDMK) won. On the nomination day, suddenly there was a good crowd of 800-1000 people in the nomination rally, which nobody expected. BJP got 10% votes in 2006 and 2011.

Also, “Thali” near-by constituency which was won by Left Party Ramachandran see sudden surge of BJP votes.

So sensing some opportunity, PM Modi campaigned here. He did the campaign in 2011.

8.Nagercoil: The candidate here is M.R.Gandhi. Gandhi sir is a veteran and having clean image. Now with Pon.R as Minister might help him.  But DMK’s strong man Suresh Rajan fights here, Gandhi might come 3rd . He has slight chance to finish 2nd.

Apart from these 8 seats, BJP has good chance to improve their vote share in Mettupalayam, Coimbatore North, SingaNallur, KoundanPalayam, Soolur, KinaththuKadavu, Colachel, Kanniyakumari, Virugambakkam, Pattukkottai and Palladam.

Apart from these seats, BJP has good prospects to get above 5% votes in Kolathur, (K.T.Raghavan known face against Stalin), Tambaram (Vedha), Chennai Egmore (Maa Venkatesan writer on Hindutva Ambedkar),  Alandur  and Velachery.

From BJP alliance, IJK expected to do well in few central TN assembly constituencies.

To sum up, BJP may end up getting a couple of seats and NDA as a whole 2-5 odd seats with vote share of c.5%. It has only itself to blame for this state of affairs. It failed to capture the good vibe it created in LS polls due to Modi factor. PWF may end up getting more seats / vote share than NDA. Missed chance. It should have lead Third Front like in LS polls.

Related posts:

1. Can Amma overturn the trend? – Blog (PB)

2. Does Jayalalithaa have a chance of coming back as Tamil Nadu CM? – India Today Dailyo (PB + SC)

3. The Love Hate Relationship between BJP & Amma – India Today DailyO (PB)

Daily News Tadka – 05.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Lok Sabha passes Bankruptcy Bill, to help in ease of doing biz

Such approvals are good in line with the World Countries but all these need be implemented to the word and severely penalize the offenders is most essential than mere crowing the achievements of passing such bills.

2. Modi to launch BJP’s campaign from Palakkad

Barring Thiruvanathapuram there are no chances in other places. They may get Palakkad due to the alliance partners. All other constituencies are dominated by Christians and Muslims. They won”t vote for BJP.

3. Sonia, Ahmed Must be Summoned, Says Subramanian Swamy

How much time does Indian govt needs to close on this issue?. The way scams are being unearthed we need a more stronger and efficient body other than CBI. There may be more. If you are saddled with one case, others will never clean up.

4. CBI Summons Harish Rawat for Questioning in Sting Operation Case

First he insisted that the sting CD which was circulated was fake, but later admitted that there is nothing wrong in meeting with journalists. This confusion shows that the CD is not fake and indeed he offered money and plumb posts to the concerned congress rebels in return for support. This is nothing new in Indian politics.This happens time again.

5. Last phase of polling ends in Bengal, amid counter allegations

The more the voters turnout and percentile, the less the seats for TMC. Possibly, there could be even an hung assembly but it is not a cakewalk for Mumtazbegum this time. Along with the same there were complaints against ruling party members of intimidation and efforts to influence voters. Rabindra Nath Ghosh, a Trinamool Congress candidate in Cooch Behar district, allegedly threatened a polling officer.

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