The Tamasha of Exit Polls Continues: Axis & Chanakya slog it out


Exit polls on Gujarat and Himachal are out and the trend is clear, BJP is all set to win both these elections. Not a single poll predicts a Congress victory in either state. This is in line with the pre-polls, which, despite predicting a close contest, claimed BJP would win for a sixth straight time in Gujarat. You don’t need to be a political analyst to predict Himachal, which witnesses a change of guard at the helm, every 5 years. TV channels were full of noise, energy and drama, yesterday evening, all coming up with different theories. Anchors, commentators and politicians, tried their best to make sense of the numbers. While BJP spokespersons boasted of victory and didn’t forget to credit NaMo, Congress leaders rejected the exit poll results, highlighting how they failed in Bihar and Delhi.

Exit polls are generally more accurate than opinion polls as I put it in a co-authored article for Firstpost early this year. Though they are most of the times not spot on in seat tally, they do provide a general direction of the trend. However, it doesn’t mean that exit polls can’t go wrong.

Exit polls of 2017 showed a split verdict for all states and many of them got it wrong:

– MRC, CVoter, CSDS predicted a hung assembly in UP (BJP won)

– C-Voter predicted an AAP victory in Punjab (INC won)

– C-Voter predicted a tie in Uttarakhand (BJP won)

– Chanakya and MRC predicted AAP will be joint single largest party with INC in Punjab (INC won)

– Axis predicted a Congress victory in Manipur and a BJP victory in Goa (Hung assembly in both states)

– C-Voter, CSDS and MRC predicted BJP as single largest party in Goa (Congress was SLP)

One argument is that in close elections, exit polls could go wrong. This is true and was evident in Goa, Manipur and Punjab. However, agencies were also wrong in a sweep election like UP. That said, all of them going wrong at the same time, with Congress winning is possible, but it has a very low probability. A lot of agencies have propped up in last few years and one doesn’t really know about their ownership, research capabilities and background. Many new agencies do it for free for channels to get a foothold, which impacts the quality. Some do an online post poll survey.

The focus of this paper is on Gujarat elections. The average of poll of polls shows BJP getting 112 and Congress 68 seats. In terms of vote share BJP is expected to record 48% and Congress 41%. These results if true would mean a marginal improvement for Congress, however, on a very broad level, indicate status quo, as BJP won 115 and Congress 61 in 2012. The devil lies in the details though which again has been missed by many experts. The range for BJP seat tally is 99 (lower end of Axis-India Today) to 146 (higher end of Today’s Chanakya). Similarly, range for Congress seat tally is 36 (lower end of Today’s Chanakya) and 82 (higher end of Axis-India Today). Vote share ranges are 46%-52% for BJP and 35%-43% for Congress. These are very big ranges.

Three clear scenarios emerge. Though all of them show a BJP victory, they all depict a different story. What we are seeing is that the two of the most popular agencies with good track record have very divergent views on the results. Axis shot to fame getting Delhi, Bihar and UP correct. It does a seat by seat prediction. Chanakya got 2014 Lok Sabha, Delhi and UP correct. However, it goofed up in Bihar.

Scenario I: Axis lower end of range (BJP 99, INC 82)

If lower ends of what Axis predicts is correct, it shows Congress has managed to make a severe dent in BJP citadel of Gujarat. It places serious questions on the Gujarat model of development and will ring alarm bells for 2019. Modi can’t take 2019 victory for granted. It shows he is not invincible. BJP had won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. Any losses here could mean it will struggle to retain its 282 seat tally of 2014.

Scenario II: Poll of Polls (BJP 112, INC 68)

This broadly means status quo is maintained in Gujarat. This result will provide something to cheer for both parties. BJP managed to hold on to its vote bank. 22 years of rule does bring in some element of anti-incumbency and it won despite many sections of society up in arms against it. People still don’t see Congress as a viable option. Congress should get solace in the fact that party managed to give BJP a run for their money. Most pundits had written off party’s prospects in Gujarat 3-4 months ago. It faced severe desertions having lost 28% of its MLAs who were poached by BJP.

Scenario III: Today’s Chanakya’s higher end of range (BJP 146, INC 37)

If higher end of what Chanakya predicts turns out to be true or even its median call of 135-47, then it is not good news for Congress. It shows BJP improving its position from 2012. Modi charisma still holding on. Congress unable to make dent despite creating a broader coalition. Its slow decision making and delay in forging alliance with the young troika – Alpesh, Jignesh and Hardik – and inability to project a leader versus Rupani as I put in an earlier post for Quint, despite getting rid of Shankersinh Vaghela, could be some of the factors.

If we consider forecasts for Scenario I and III as outliers, then we are headed towards status quo situation in Gujarat as per exit polls.

To conclude, the exit polls show three different possibilities and each has its own unique theme. We all need to wait till 18th to really know the actual results and then analyze the reasons. As my friend Subhash Chandra tweeted, it all depends on whether law of averages catches up with Axis, or the outlier forecaster Chankaya gets it right again. Huge stakes for both!

The article was first published here.

 

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Swing seats hold the keys to fortunes of BJP & Congress in Gujarat


Campaigning for the second and last phase of keenly contested Gujarat elections ended today. Both star campaigners Modi and Rahul held rallies and tried their best to muster in the extra votes which would help them cross the halfway mark. Voting for Phase 1 was held on Saturday for 89 seats of Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat. Turnout for 54 seats in Saurashtra & Kutch was down 5.4% and South Gujarat down 3.1% despite a high pitched campaign.Campaigning for the second and last phase of keenly contested Gujarat elections ended today. Both star campaigners Modi and Rahul held rallies and tried their best to muster in the extra votes which would help them cross the halfway mark. Voting for Phase 1 was held on Saturday for 89 seats of Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat. Turnout for 54 seats in Saurashtra & Kutch was down 5.4% and South Gujarat down 3.1% despite a high pitched campaign.

BJP has significant pockets of stronghold in Gujarat

There are 50 assembly seats which BJP has won in each of the past 4 elections in 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012. 20 of these seats are in North Gujarat, 15 in Saurashtra & Kutch, 10 in South and 5 in Central Gujarat. These strong holds are one of the prime reasons for continued dominance in past 2 decades in Gujarat. They make up on an average 42% of seat tally of BJP in each elections and 54% of seats required for a simple majority. In contrast, there are only 4 seats which Congress has bagged in each of these 4 elections. 3 of them are reserved seats, where traditionally Congress has fared better than BJP.

BJP’s retention ratio is on a decline

Retention ratio is defined as number of seats a party is able to keep hold of in the next elections. BJP has been able to retain 87 and 88 seats in 2002 and 2007 elections. This came down to 74 in 2012. 50 stronghold seats discussed above help achieve this high ratio. Congress on the other hand is able to retain on an average 20 odd seats in each elections.

However, BJP’s retention ration is continuously on a decline path from 74% in 2002 to 63% in 2012. Resultantly, the percentage of seats it is losing in each election has been rising steadily from 26% to 37% during the same period. In contrast, Congress’s retention ratio doesn’t depict a clear trend, it increased in 2007 and then dipped in 2012. Its loss ratio is of course higher than BJP.

The number of swing seats have witnessed an increasing trend

The last 4-5 elections in Gujarat since 1995 have seemingly borne striking similarities.

• BJP seat tally in range of 115-125
• Congress seat tally in range of 55-60
• BJP maintaining a lead of 10% vote share over Congress

However, the elections are also characterized by a significant number of swing seats, seats which have been changing hands in each elections compared to previous elections. In 2002, 76 seats had different winners compared to 1998. This number has increased to 88 seats in 2012. In 88 seats, voters threw out the incumbent MLA of 2007 and voted for the other major party. Both Congress and BJP won 41 of these seats each. 48 of these seats are in rural while 40 in urban areas. This depicts anti-incumbency at constituency level. There are 26 strong swing seats which have voted alternately for BJP and Congress in each of the past 4 elections of 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012. BJP won half of such seats in 2012 while Congress / Others the balance half.

Swing Seats & Winning Party 

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Swing seats hold the keys to results in 2017

The number of swing seats is likely to register an increase in these elections, as retentions are likely to reduce further. (To note, in 2012, 94 seats were retained by BJP and Congress combined while 88 seats changed hands.) BJP is facing Patidar wrath in 20 out of its 50 strong hold seats as they are based in Saurasthra, Kutch and Central Gujarat, hub of reservation agitation. On 10 strong hold seats in South Gujarat it is facing traders ire due to demonetization and GST. BJP’s performance in the swing seats is likely to determine its tally in the 2017 polls.

The article was first published here.

BJP’s 3 Pillar Strategy for #GujaratPolls


Image Credit: http://www.livemint.com

1. Playing the Gujarati Asmita Card

Modi during his visit to Vadnagar played the emotion card to the hilt. He was quoted by Economic Times as saying “Coming back to one’s hometown and receiving a warm welcome is special. I go back with your blessings and assure you that I will work even harder for the nation,” Modi said, adding. Whatever I am today is due to values I have learnt on this soil – among you all in Vadnagar.”

BJP will play the card that a win for the party in the state is validation of Modi’s tenure both as Chief Minister of state and Prime Minister of the country. It would also spread the message that any loss in home state will not only be an embarrassment to Modi but would also hurt Gujarati pride.

2. Highlighting Modi’s achievements as PM

BJP will highlight Modi’s achievements at the centre. From surgical strikes to taming China in Doklam, from fighting corruption with demonetization to simplifying tax structure through GST. How Modi has raised the stature of country internationally, how he is working for ‘Gareeb Kalyan’, make a ‘Swachch Bharat’, provide Housing to all by 2022. How he is building a New India! How he has taken up to cleanse system by targeting shell companies and benami properties!

Modi will be portrayed as a man on a mission against corrupt parties and leaders. Some of the slogans being tested are “yeh imandari aur beimani ke beech ladai hai” (it’s a fight between the honest and corrupt”) and “Fakir versus Shehzada” (a dig at Rahul Gandhi).

3. Making the elections Presidential style

The elections is all about Modi for the BJP. He is occupying the big space on posters, he will be holding big rallies, drawing big crowds. After all it was his ‘Gujarat model of governance’ which attracted voters nationally and propelled him to PM’s chair. PM Modi is expected to travel four times each month for next two months till polls.

BJP’s successful top down strategy

With Modi at the helm, BJP has been successfully following the ‘top down’ campaign style. Modi and Shah finalize candidates, knit alliances, draw campaign designs and lead from the front. Votes are sought in the name of Modi. Simple and clear message disseminated is ‘Modi at the centre and through his representative in the state will ensure development of the state’. Campaign material mostly has pictures of the central leadership. bjp-ktDG--621x414@LiveMint.jpgModi will be holding 32 rallies in the 32 districts of Gujarat starting today.

This works well for Modi who then runs state government through remote control from Delhi. This way Modi ensures nobody could challenge him or Shah in the near future.

Adivasis turn saviour as Patidar support drops for BJP in Gujarat


While social media is agog with Rahul’s NavSarjan Yatra and how his team has trumped BJP in the field in which they are masters, opinion polls predict a win for party similar to 2012. While Axis predicts 120 seats, CSDS predicts 117 for BJP. Axis predicts BJP will maintain a vote share lead of 10%, CSDS sees it shrinking to 6%. Will Gujarat which catapulted Modi to national scene become his nemesis and start his downward graph or will it be an easy victory for BJP?

Both polls suggest a common theme which has not caught the attention of analysts

Both Axis and CSDS predict massive decline of Patidar support to BJP. This is not surprising considering Patels have been at odds with the govt. since long demanding reservations. Patel votes account for one-fifth of total vote share of BJP (approximately 10% out of 50% vote share of BJP). As per Axis-India Today survey, BJP is seen losing 43% support among Kadwa and 25% support among Leuva Patels. 

Even as per CSDS-ABP News survey, the lead of BJP over Patel votes is expected to decline from 65% in 2012 to 20% in 2017. BJP support is intact among upper caste and Other OBCs. BJP is also seen losing support among Kolis and OBC Kshatriyas, due to efforts of Congress to reconstitute its traditional KHAM support.  Party is also seen losing some of its Muslim support which is fairly natural given the current national political dynamics.

adivasi2.png

This results in a loss of 10%-11% vote share for BJP, thus eliminating its entire traditional lead over Congress. 

If BJP is losing support among most of its anchor voting segments where is it actually gaining and still managing to win the elections?

BJP is gaining significantly among ST voters (Adivasis) who have been traditional supporters of Congress. In 2007 and 2012 state elections, BJP won 14 and 15 seats respectively out of the 26 reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

BJP is leading with 18% among Adivasis as per CSDS while in 2012 Congress was leading with 14% among the community. This translates into a swing of 32% in favour of BJP. Among Dalits too, BJP has managed to close the gap with Congress despite the Una incident and Jignesh Mevani led protest. The lead of 42% of 2012 is expected to reduce to 8% as per CSDS. This better show among SCs and STs is compensating for the loss among Patidars and Kolis.

From these two segments, BJP is seen gaining 5%-6% vote share, thus leading Congress by 6% on an overall basis  as per CSDS.

This is the biggest story of 2017 Gujarat polls

Despite loss of anchor voting segments, BJP is seen winning as it has further expanded its base through social engineering. While Congress was busy rejuvenating KHAM and adding Patidars to make it KHAMP, BJP seems to have snatched ‘A’ from the alliance reducing it to KHMP. Since STs and Patidars represent similar percentage of the population, Congress vote share does not show a significant jump.

Among Dalits too, BJP has been able to make a dent and reduce Congress lead. This is in line with the national trend of Dalits considering BJP as an option after the decline of BSP. RSS has been silently doing a lot of work amongst Adivasis (Shishu Mandirs, hospitals etc) which seem to have helped BJP. 

If polls are true, then Congress here has failed to manage the contradictions in its ambitious alliance. STs are generally at odds with Patidars and Kshatriyas and they share a history of antagonism. The Adivasis have turned out to be the saviours for BJP as per both surveys.

While Congress has managed to make a dent in BJP camp, it seems it has not been able to keep its flock together hence losing the gains made through acquisitions. Congress needs to focus on its traditional vote base of STs and devise a strategy to keep their support intact. Else it will be difficult to dislodge BJP. A repeat of 2012 can’t be ruled out as of now…..

Increasing urbanization has been one of the primary reasons for BJP’s success in Gujarat


Gujarat Elections is turning out to be a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. A high pitch battle is ensuing between the Congress and BJP in the state. While, Rahul is gaining traction in his Navsarjan Yatra, opinion polls predict a BJP win. However, Mission 150 looks highly improbable to achieve for BJP.

BJP has been continuously ruling the state since Mar, 1995, except for a brief period of 1.5 years when Shankersinh Vaghela led Rashtriya Janata Party was in power.

Many reasons have been attributed to this long stint and continuous uninterrupted tenor:

(1) Disintegration of KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) alliance

(2) Patidars, shifting allegiance from Congress to BJP

(3) Consolidation of Hindu votes after Ram Janm Bhoomi,

(4) Further polarization after Godhra riots,

(5) Magnetic leadership of Modi,

(6) Gujarat model of development and so on.

Increasing Urbanization One of the Less Talked About Factors Attributed to BJP’s Success in Gujarat

A lot has been written about all these factors. Today we take a look at one of the less talked about reasons of BJP dominance, increasing urbanization of Gujarat.

Increasing urbanisation has been one of the key reasons of BJP’s success in Gujarat. It’s an established fact that BJP has traditionally performed well in urban areas compared to rural areas. BJP’s vote share in rural India was 30% vs 42% in urban India in Lok Sabha 2014. Its success rate in urban India was higher at 84% vs 63% in rural areas.

BJP swept urban areas in 2012

2012 state elections results for Gujarat indicate BJP swept the urban areas which propelled it to get majority for a third straight time in the state. It won 90% of the 39 urban seats and 80% of the 45 semi-urban seats. 62% out of its total tally of 115 seats were from urban areas. In rural Gujarat, BJP was actually trailing Congress by 5 seats. In terms of vote share too, similar trend was noticed. BJP was leading over Congress by 24.5% in urban and 13% in semi-urban areas. In rural areas, Congress maintained a lead of just over 1%.

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Level of Urbanization in Gujarat Higher Than National Average & Growing at a Faster Pace

Gujarat is the 4th most urbanized and 3rd most industrialized state of India. The level of urbanization in Gujarat has been consistently rising from 34.5% in 1991 to 37.4% in 2001 to 42.6% in 2011. It has also been consistently above the level of urbanization of pan India level which is 31.1% as of 2011 census (1.33 times).

While the urban population rose by 36% during 2001-2011, rural population witnessed a mere 9% rate of growth, implying growth of 4 times in urban vs rural Gujarat. 8 municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Bhavnagar and Gandhinagar, together constitute about 75% or 1.47 crore of the total urban population. BJP won half of its tally from these 8 corporations in 2012.

Modi has cultivated a new constituency of neo middle class

BJP under Modi in Gujarat appeals to the aspirations of people in urban areas. He has developed a constituency of ‘neo middle class’ which has attracted voters from all caste blocks. This neo middle class wants jobs, better infrastructure, good roads and flyovers, good lifestyle, decent take home salary among other things. For them he is the CEO of Gujarat (‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth, 2012’). Even now after becoming Prime Minister, people consider he is the CEO and Rupani just his representative. Modi successfully managed to project himself as the messiah of this category of voters which became the anchor voting segment for the party.

Dependence on Urban Voters is a Double Edged Sword

However, this dependence on urban voters also poses a risk as is playing out in this elections. Inequality is rising in Gujarat creating a severe urban-rural divide. Only 1.2% of the households in rural Gujarat reported owning all the following assets – televisions, computers/laptops, telephones/mobile phones and scooters/ cars vs 12.7% in urban Gujarat. This is reflected in the anger of farmers against BJP rule. As per CSDS poll farmers ‘seem to have very strongly swung in favour of the Congress with 50% of them indicating their support for the opposition party.’

Loss of jobs, slowdown in economy post demonetization and lack of employment opportunities has led to dissatisfaction among youth. BJP’s decline among youngest voters (18-29-year-olds) is the steepest as per CSDS poll. The party had received 63% backing among them in August, 2017 which is now down to 44% signaling a rising discontent with the BJP. The poor condition of roads after rains in Ahmedabad also exposed the Gujarat model of development.Will the strength of BJP become its Achilles heel in this year’s elections? Or will the urban voter still vote for BJP for lack of better alternative.

We will know in less than a month’s time…

The article was originally published in TheQuint.

 

 

5 Reasons Why #GujaratElections Are Different This Time


The party which has been propagating a Congress mukt Bharat is battling a strong social media campaign of “Congress ave Che” in Modi’s home turf Gujarat. The elections are different this time and nobody can deny this. Surveys predict BJP maintaining its historical 2x seat tally of Congress.

5 Factors Which Make These Elections Different Than Others

  1. Anti-incumbency

For any party which has been ruling the state for past 20 years or so, it is but natural to have some sort of anti-incumbency. However is there sufficient anger that people want to throw out the govt. and bring any-body else in power. That’s the key question which will decide if BJP wins or loses. The degree of anti-incumbency here is the key.

Unlike 2007 and 2012, where Modi & BJP could pass on the blame for some of their failures and inaction on the UPA government at the centre, this time, this privilege is not available to the party leadership. Both in the centre and in the state, BJP is in power, so, it has to take the flak from the public for its inaction. 

  1. Absence of Modi & Shah

This is the first time in the last 15 years that these two charismatic leaders are not there at the helm. Everybody knows that their shoes are too big to fill and neither Vijay Rupani, or Anandi Ben, nor Nitin Patel can match the charisma of Modi and Shah. So, essentially, the party is bereft of a charismatic face on which it can bank to win the elections.

BJP is trying to make up for this by conducting a super campaign lead by PM Modi who is supposed to hold a rally each in 32 districts. 30 central ministers and Shah are expected to be camped for a month in the state up to the date of polls as per news reports.

  1. Traders traditional support base of BJP unhappy GST & Demonetization

Traders have been traditional supporters of BJP. They have flourished in this industrialised & urbanised state for decades. Demonetisation however has broken the back of traders dealing predominantly in cash. The small scale sector has witnessed job losses. Business has been crippled.

If that was not enough, GST aims to bring into the formal sector people outside the tax net. Many traders have been out of the net, dealing in cash and not paying taxes. Both these steps have angered this lot and caused heartburn among the trading community in Gujarat.

As per Axis-India Today survey 51% people surveyed said they were not satisfied with GST. 53% people surveyed said they have not benefited from demonetization. Fearing a backlash govt. has provided relaxations to small & medium enterprises. 47% traders surveyed said changes are only cosmetic as per CDSD opinion poll.

  1. Chinks in Hindu Vote

BJP has always contested the elections in Gujarat on the theme of Hindu consolidation.  People across caste groups have voted for BJP in large numbers (except for Dalits and STs). However, this time, due to agitations from Patidars, from Dalits, and OBCs, it is turning out to be a caste-based election.

The Hindu vote, which consolidated in favor of BJP in the past elections, is unlikely to happen this time. Patidars, Dalits, as well as the section of OBCs, could vote for Congress, as their demands have not been met. The young Turks Hardik, Jignesh and Alpesh are leading these fronts. 

  1. Vikas Ganda Thayo Chey

The revered Gujarat model is being challenged on social media platforms. Vikas Ganda Thayo Chey has become a popular slogan signifying, all is not well with this model in Gujarat. 66% surveyed have heard of this slogan. 49% people said it depicted the real condition of Gujarat as per CDSD opinion poll. There is severe inequity. It has slipped in a lot of human development indicators post-Modi and the famous Gujarat model is being questioned.

Critics could argue that there was never this Gujarat model in place first of all, and Modi created a perception of Gujarat model to win votes. This perception is likely to damage the BJP this time. Congress is trying to create a perception that after Modi, Gujarat has fallen from its path of development. If people buy this then there are dangers for BJP.

Is media overplaying the frustration / degree of displeasure amongst people and will BJP emerge victorious as it happened in UP? Only time will tell…

 

The Caste Calculus in #GujaratElections


Key Highlights:

  • While BJP will try to make it a Hindu vs Muslims contest
  • Congress is trying to make it a caste based contest and divide the Hindu vote
  • Congress has to not only revive the KHAM alliance but also expand its anchor voting segment groups
  • It also has to successfully manage the contradictions within this alliance

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Caste plays a dominant role across states, in elections all over India, and Gujarat is no different. Different caste blocks have voted either for the BJP or the Congress over the years. There have also been significant shifts in the preferences of these voting blocks.

Upper caste account for 15%, Patidars 16%, Kolis 8% and Other OBCs 27% of population. SC / ST represent 25% of population and Muslims 9%. Kolis are part of OBCs.

The Upper caste, the Baniyas, the OBCs, and the Patels have been traditional supporters of BJP accounting for two third of population. Dalits, Muslims, Scheduled Tribe have been traditional supporters of Congress accounting for one third of population.

Patels, historically voted for the Congress till late 70’s – mid 80’s, then drifted towards BJP due to reservations plan of Congress and have been continuously voting for the BJP since then. Congress under Solanki formed the KHAM alliance (Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasi and Muslims)and won in 1980 as well as 1985 riding on their support.

The Ram Janmbhoomi movement galvanized the Hindus across caste groups and broke the KHAM alliance once and for all. BJP has been growing from strength since then almost doubling it seats from 67 in 1990 to 127 in 2002. The Godhra riots in 2002 has converted the contest into a Hindu vs Muslim contest and bolstered the party’s fortunes.

Caste Wise Voting for INC & BJP Based on Average of 2002, 2007 & 2012 Results

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Source: CSDS Post Poll Reports (2002-12)

BJP has been maintaining an overall lead of 10% vote share over Congress. Support for BJP from Upper Castes, Patels, Kshatriya, Kolis and Other OBCs is much higher compared to Congress. The range of lead is between 10%-70%. Congress outclasses BJP in securing support from SCs, STs and Muslims. The range of lead is between 10%-50%.

This time, due to the Patel agitation, and Hardik’s declared support for Congress, there are doubts over whether BJP will be able to secure the 2/3rd support of the community as in the past. In fact, Axis – India Today poll suggests BJP might lose 25%-30% support of the community.

To win the elections, Congress needs not only a significant proportion of votes from Patels, but also through Alpesh Thakur, it needs to make a dent in the OBC vote bank of BJP. This is not going to be easy as Modi himself is an OBC and enjoys significant support among the community.

Until and unless the Congress is able to form a caste coalition accounting for 55%-60% of the population, it will be difficult for it to win the elections. It needs to convert a Hindu vs Muslim contest into a caste based contest. Through the induction of Alpesh, Jignesh and Hardik, it has managed this to some extent. 

It will also have to successfully manage the contradictions in this alliance, between OBCs and the Patels, between the Patels and Dalits. If Patels get reservation, do they get it from the OBC / SC / ST quota? If not, it will be very difficult, to get it approved by the courts.

Politics is the art of managing the contradictions and taking everybody along. This, the BJP has mastered over the years. This came to the forefront specially during the UP elections, where it managed to pull together all caste groups of Hindus. This included upper caste, lower caste and extremely backward caste despite some of these caste blocks being antagonistic to each other.

Whether BJP is able to retain Gujarat with 2/3rd of seats or Congress makes a severe dent in its citadel, only time will tell. Caste blocks and polling behaviour of anchor voting segments will determine the result. Interesting times in Gujarat…

#GujaratPolls: Even with support of young turks troika, it’s an uphill task for Congress


Image Credit: http://www.news.raftaar.in

The three young Turks of Gujarat politics, Hardik Patel, Jignesh Devnani, and Alpesh Thakur, have joined the Congress or openly declared their support for the Congress party. These three individuals represent the Patidars, Dalits and OBCs of Gujarat, accounting for half of population of the state.

All the three were frustrated with BJP’s inaction on their demands. The bigger question is, “Can these three individuals make a bigger dent in the BJP’s vote share?“ For this we will need to find out whether these three
people are true representatives of the communities they claim to be leaders of.

There have already been a lot of criticism of Hardik Patel for declaring support to Congress and section of the community are alleging a sell-out. Similarly, in case of Alpesh Thakur, there have been accusations of him always being in the Congress, so, his joining the party is nothing new.

Can these three people rejuvenate their faith in the community and get them to vote for Congress? Do they have the sizable influence, which can turn the tables in favor of Congress? These are the things which one will need to keep an eye on in the run-up to the elections.

Jignesh Devnani’s support to Congress also may not get additional votes to party as Dalits anyways have been supporting the party as seen in the chart below.

 

Axis and India Today did an opinion poll on Gujarat elections and they reported that 10% of Patels support Hardik. This support roughly translates into 1.5% vote share. Even with this support, Congress would be lagging behind BJP by 8%-8.5% as historically BJP has enjoyed a lead of 10%.

The real question is about the OBCs. OBCs generally all over India after Modi, at the helm of BJP, have backed BJP in large numbers. Modi is himself an OBC and hence, is able to draw votes from the community. So how much dent Alpesh can make is questionable.

Nonetheless, these three young Turks along with Rahul Gandhi will give some sleepless nights to the BJP in the run-up to the elections. Its only natural to have some sort of anti-incumbency after a long 25-year rule. Modi doing 50 rallies is a testimony to the fact the the contest is close. But even with the support of these young turks, Congress has an uphill task at hand.

Its also interesting to see how Congress will manage the contradictions within the three support groups. Patels and Dalits have had an acrimonious relationship on the issue of reservations. OBCs see Patels with suspicion and eyeing their pie of the reservations. If Patels get reservation they could most likely get it from Dalits and OBCs share.

Interesting times ahead in Gujarat…

#GujaratPolls: Go local should be the mantra for Congress


Image Credit: http://www.jagran.com

Gujarat has been witnessing heightened political activity in the past month with elections approaching nearer. Prime Minister Modi has made three visits in the past month to the state. PM launched his soft campaign by holding a road show with Japanese PM Abe on his visit to inaugurate bullet train project last month. He was in his home town Vadnagar launching many welfare projects couple of days back. He will be attending the concluding function of party’s Gujarat Gaurav Yatra on 16th Oct. FM Arun Jaitley also announced sops in GST focused on small and medium traders of the state who were reportedly unhappy.  Rahul Gandhi is in Gujarat for three day tour holding rallies and interacting with voters as part of second leg of NavSarjan yatra. While opinion polls suggest a BJP sweep, as per some reports internal polls indicate party will not have it easy.

BJP is completely banking on Modi’s charisma and Amit Shah’s organizational skills to sail it through. After all neither Vijay Rupani nor Nitin Patel nor Jitu Vaghani have similar fan following across the state. Most candidates will be seeking votes in name of local lad Modi who went on to become Prime Minister. BJP has carefully crafted a strategy to win the polls for fourth consecutive time.

BJP’s three pillar strategy is centered on:

  1. Playing the Gujarati Asmita Card

 Modi during his visit to Vadnagar played the emotion card to the hilt. He was quoted by Economic Times as saying “Coming back to one’s hometown and receiving a warm welcome is special. I go back with your blessings and assure you that I will work even harder for the nation,” Modi said, adding. Whatever I am today is due to values I have learnt on this soil – among you all in Vadnagar.”

BJP will play the card that a win for the party in the state is validation of Modi’s tenure both as Chief Minister of state and Prime Minister of the country. It would also spread the message that any loss in home state will not only be an embarrassment to Modi but would also hurt Gujarati pride.

  1. Highlighting Modi’s achievements as PM

BJP will highlight Modi’s achievements at the centre. From surgical strikes to taming China in Doklam, from fighting corruption with demonetization to simplifying tax structure through GST. How Modi has raised the stature of country internationally, how he is working for ‘Gareeb Kalyan’, make a ‘Swachch Bharat’, provide Housing to all by 2022. How he is building a New India! How he has taken up to cleanse system by targeting shell companies and benami properties!

Modi will be portrayed as a man on a mission against corrupt parties and leaders. Some of the slogans being tested are “yeh imandari aur beimani ke beech ladai hai” (it’s a fight between the honest and corrupt”) and “Fakir versus Shehzada” (a dig at Rahul Gandhi).

  1. Making the elections Presidential style

The elections is all about Modi for the BJP. He is occupying the big space on posters, he will be holding big rallies, drawing big crowds. After all it was his ‘Gujarat model of governance’ which attracted voters nationally and propelled him to PM’s chair. PM Modi is expected to travel four times each month for next two months till polls.

BJP’s successful top down strategy

With Modi at the helm, BJP has been successfully following the ‘top down’ campaign style. Modi and Shah finalize candidates, knit alliances, draw campaign designs and lead from the front. Votes are sought in the name of Modi. Simple and clear message disseminated is ‘Modi at the centre and through his representative in the state will ensure development of the state’. Campaign material mostly has pictures of the central leadership.

This works well for Modi who then runs state government through remote control from Delhi. This way Modi ensures nobody could challenge him or Shah in the near future.

While BJP would want to turn this elections into Presidential style, Congress should not fall for this trap. If Gujarat elections is converted into a contest between Modi and Rahul, BJP would win hands down.

Congress should run a much localized campaign:

Congress party should run a very localized campaign. They should refrain from attacking centre and Modi. Modi is very popular in state despite reports of anti-incumbency. Even section of critics feel state was doing wonders till he was at the helm. Successors have not been able to keep pace with his development model giving clean chit to Modi.

Congress needs to attack the sitting MLAs of BJP for their non-performance. It should try to take advantage of anti-incumbency against these MLAs. It should highlight the bankruptcy of top leadership of state and try to portray that they cannot take the state forward on development path. Modi cannot run the state as well as he did from centre through his representative. The focus has to be on how Gujarat has slipped in rankings on HDI and economic parameters post Modi.

Constituency specific detailing will help the party. Strategy should be tweaked depending upon seat demographics. Wherever traders are in majority, exploit anger against govt. on demonetization and GST. Wherever Patels are in majority, focus on measures to pass on reservation benefits to economically poorer sections of community. For farmers focus should be on agrarian stress. In Ahmedabad, focus on condition of road infrastructure post heavy rains.

To conclude, Congress cannot win a Modi versus Rahul contest in Gujarat. However, it has a better chance if it succeeds in converting elections into 182 mini elections, fought on local issues, focused on non-performance / weak links of BJP MLAs. While BJP talks of nationalism, national security, corruption, foreign affairs and other national issues, Congress should focus on roads, drinking water, education, heathcare, jobs, farmers, traders, dalits and other regional issues. Go Local should be the mantra of Congress if it wants to improve its tally and give BJP a run for their money. It’s an uphill task though!

The article was first published here.

 

#GujaratPolls: A Historical Perspective


Key Highlights:

  • State has been a Congress bastion till late 1980s enjoying support of upper caste, patidars & baniyas
  • In early ’80s Congress rooted for reservations to Dalits and OBCs creating the unbeatable KHAM alliance
  • Patels, a powerful block, disillusioned from Congress, started backing BJP
  • BJP formed its first govt. in the state in 1995 backed by the Hindu consolidation, created by Ram Mandir and Patidar support
  • BJP has been ruling Gujarat since then (only for brief period Shankersinh Vaghela, who split from BJP and later joined Congress, was the CM)
  • In 2001, Modi became the CM and rest is history
  • He consolidated BJP’s position in the state through his development model despite setbacks like Godhra
  • His work and organizational skills propelled him to become PM of India
  • Modi-Shah still hold sway over BJP govt. and control the state through remote control
  • Contest is fairly bi-polar, both BJP & Congress have increased their vote shares since 1995
  • BJP has maintained a lead of 10% in vote share over Congress

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The state has been a fiefdom of Congress till late 1980s. Party ruled the state with minimal competition till then. Gujarat has been an industrious state and Swatantra Party which advocated a market based economy did have some presence initially but soon fizzled out. The first non-Congress government was formed in 1975, an alliance of Congress break away group plus Bhartiya Jan Sangh, Bhartiya Lok Dal and independents / others. It didn’t last long as it was dismissed by Indira Gandhi. After the victory of Janata Party in 1977 nationally, a Gujarati, Shri Morarji Desai, was appointed as the first the non-Congress Prime Minister of India. Soon after, the non-Congress government in state was re-instated. In 1980, Congress made a comeback in the state in line with its strong performance in national elections.

Solanki stitched the KHAM alliance before the 1980 election that completely shifted the power balance from Patel-Brahmins-Baniyas to OBCs, Dalits and tribals in the caste constellation of Gujarat. To counter Solanki’s OBC and KHAM politics, the upwardly mobile Patel community nurtured the BJP. In 1981 the state saw a bloody anti-reservation stir that left 40 dead and a whole lot of property burnt in the course of its 100 furious days. More than that, it totally devastated the social fabric of the state. In 1985, Solanki returned with a record 149 seats, violence spread again and he had to step down.In 1990 in the aftermath of OBC reservations by VP Singh, a hung assembly situation emerged in Gujarat. Janata Dal and BJP formed the government. After BJP withdrew support to National Front govt. in Delhi, Chimanbhai’s govt. survived through Congress support. In 1995, for the 1st time BJP secured an absolute majority on its own bagging 121 seats. Keshubhai, a Patel became the CM. However, Shankersinh Vaghela, split the party and became CM for a brief period of 1 year. In 1998 elections were held before the expiry of term in 2000 and BJP again romped home with Keshubhai in the lead.

1985 1990 1995 1998 2002 2007 2012
CONGRESS 149 33 45 53 51 59 61
BHARTIYA JANATA PARTY 11 67 121 117 127 117 115
JANATA PARTY 14
JANATA DAL 70 0 4
OTHERS & INDEPENDENTS 8 12 16 8 4 6 6
TOTAL 182 182 182 182 182 182 182

In Oct. 2001, Keshubhai resigned as CM after losses in by-elections and Narendra Modi was appointed as CM. The rest is history. Despite large scale Godhra riots after he took oath, in which he was accused of abetment and later discharged by courts, Modi has emerged stronger after each elections. He led BJP to its highest tally of 127 seats in 2002. The Gujarat model of governance propelled him to become PM candidate in 2013. After taking oath as PM, BJP named Anandiben Patel and then Vijay Rupani as CM of Gujarat. However, it’s well-known fact that Modi-Shah Jodi holds the remote control of govt. from Delhi.

In terms of vote share, both blocks BJP and Congress have held onto their support base, in-fact they have witnessed an increase in their vote shares since 1995. This has made the contest increasingly bi-polar. However, BJP have maintained a 10% lead over Congress throughout this period as seen in the graph below. Let’s see if it can maintain this lead, or Congress makes some dent in its anchor vote segments…

 

#GujaratPolls: An Interesting Battle On the Cards


Dates for the all important and eagerly awaited Gujarat elections have been announced. The two phase poll will be held on 9 & 14 of December with counting on 18th. Can BJP continue its winning streak and push Congress into permanent hibernation in the state? This question is in everyone’s minds. BJP has been ruling the state for past 20 years which is long enough and only natural to develop some sort of anti-incumbency. Congress has received a jolt with senior leader Shankersinh Vaghela leaving the party just before polls. Many of its MLAs have joined the BJP. Its tallest leader in the state Ahmad Patel just managed to scrape through in Rajya Sabha elections by just 1 vote.

Rains in Ahmedabad and not so great handling of the situation has resulted in social media being agog with ‘Vikas Ganda Thayo Chey’. Its virality has reached significant proportions. BJP govt. has taken a series of steps to pacify Patidars but the agitation continues. OBC leader Alpesh Thakor has joined Congress. Hardik may follow suit. Jignesh Mevani, the Dalit leader has vowed to defeat the BJP. Both Rahul Gandhi & Narendra Modi have held many rallies in the state. PM is seen visiting the state every other day to announce sops. Navsarjan Yatra & Gaurav Yatra have crossed swords. Rahul is gaining good traction as per reports. However, initial opinion polls (CSDS, Axis & VMR) suggest a BJP sweep mainly due to TINA factor.

It is a close battle, with large sections of public – traders, dalits, farmers, patidars unhappy with BJP government. Congress as usual has been slow to react and started campaign pretty late. It should have finalized alliances with the three young turks pretty early. It’s state leadership doesn’t generate the confidence to be able to throw out Rupani and take advantage of simmering discontent. People are unhappy but are they unhappy enough to bring back Congress, which many Hindus believe, will embolden the minorities of the state. Will they vote for Gujarati asmita? Modi is after all a Gujarati chora. Any defeat here would weaken the son of soil Modi at the centre. Many complementing and contradicting factors at play here.

#GujaratPolls: Patidars are the kingmakers & that’s why every party is wooing them


With elections round the corner, the Patidar community is in demand in Gujarat. BJP acted tough on the Patidar demand for reservations under Anandiben rule, even filing case of sedition against their leader Hardik Patel. However, realizing their political clout, BJP government recently invited major representatives of community for talks. On 27th Sep., BJP government announced a slew of measures to placate Patidars.

How far this will assuage the community members remains to be seen? Hardik’s group has vowed to continue the agitation and support whichever party in polls that will provide reservation to Patidars in government jobs. Congress party is also sending feelers to the caste block in a bid to en-cash their disenchantment with BJP setup. Rahul Gandhi begun his Navsarjan Gujarat Yatra by visiting Patidars dominated areas during his recent three day visit.

Patidars or Patels are an economically and politically influential group of Gujarat.Until late 1970s they had complete political dominance over the state and were ardent Congress supporters. However in 1980s the Congress shifted focus and formed the famous KHAM alliance (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) given the reservation dynamics and Indira’s Garibi Hatao slogan. This peeved the Patels who shifted allegiance to BJP. Today, one-third of BJP MLAs are Patels and so are seven senior cabinet ministers.

Patidars account for close to 16% of state population. The caste break-up of the state is such that both BJP and Congress enjoy equal support among excluding Patidars, i.e., 42% each. While traditionally KHAM have voted in large numbers for Congress, upper caste and OBCs have voted for BJP. It is Patidar support which has been clinching the deal in favour of BJP for past two decades.

Traditional Support Blocks

BJP – 42% Congress – 42% King Makers
Brahmins 3%,Other Upper Caste 12%,

OBCs 27%

Khastriya 8%,Adivasi 18%,

Harijan 7%,

Muslims 9%

Patidars 16%Not yet clear who they will support

 

Source: CSDS, NES, Gujarat Calculus 2012

Amongst Patels there are two sub communities – Leuva and Kadva. Hardik is a Kadva Patel. Keshubhai Patel is a Leuva Patel. More than 2/3rd have been voting for BJP since the 1990s. Leuvas account for 60% while Kadvas account for 40% of community population. Congress has higher support amongst Leuvas compared to Kavdas.

The community is strongly united and votes en-block. 63% Leuvas and 82% of Kavdas voted for BJP in 2012 exhibiting significant consolidation. The only other category which shows such high support for any party is Muslims, 72% voted for Congress in 2012. Patidars can decide the fate of 73 assembly constituencies, 40% of total assembly strength of Gujarat.

Voting Pattern of Patels in Last 3 State Elections

patel 1 patel 2

Source: CSDS Post Poll Surveys

Congress has witnessed a significant fall in fortunes from 55.6% vote share in 1985 to 38.9% vote share currently. BJP’s graph has been consistently rising from 15% to 48% levels during the same period. In the last three elections it has hovered between 48%-50%. Congress has also been improving its performance from a low of 30.7% in 1990 to 39% in 2012. The demise of Janata Dal in the state has helped improve performance of both parties. The contest is very bipolar in nature with these two parties capturing 90% of total votes. On an average BJP-Congress have maintained a gap of 10% vote share as shown below.

Performance of BJP-Congress in last 3 Decades in State Polls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: http://www.indiavotes.com

The break-up of BJP vote share over the years shows that c.one-fourth of it can be attributed to Patidar support. OBCs including Kolis form the largest chunk of voters of BJP, followed by Patidars and then Upper Caste. Out of 48% vote share BJP received in 2012, 11% came from Patidars voting for party. If one removes the Partidar votes from BJP graph above, the two lines of Congress and BJP will merge, leaving both the parties with almost equal vote shares. So the 10% advantage which BJP enjoys is essentially because of Patidar support.

BJP’s worry is just not limited to entire community switching to Congress. Even if a section of Patidars (around one-third) don’t vote for the incumbent, and switch sides, it will become a very tight election and too close to call out the winner.

In 2012, Keshubhai Patel rebelled against BJP and contested elections under Gujarat Parivartan Party. Though it bagged only 3.6% vote share, it led to the defeat of BJP candidates in 23 seats in Saurashtra and Kutch. People would agree that the current Patidar agitation is much bigger in comparison to Keshubhai revolt.

To conclude, Patidars with 16% of population hold the keys to government formation in Gujarat. While other caste / community blocks have already firmed up their minds, Patels are keenly watching the developments / announcements of parties on reservations. They know the caste-population dynamics makes them ‘kingmakers’.

While there are talks of Third Front, at this moment, Patidars backing any such front looks improbable, as it has minimal chances of winning. Enjoying the fruits of power for more than last two decades makes it very difficult for Patidars to remain out of power. So they will bargain with the two prominent parties, get their fair share of demands met and back such party to the hilt.

BJP has started Gujarat Gaurav Yatra from October 1st from Karamsad, Sardar Patel’s birth place, in continuation of its efforts to woo Patidars. It will over the next few months intensify efforts to create divisions within the community if Hardik doesn’t come on board. Interesting times ahead, watch out this space for more on Gujarat polls…

The article was first published in The Quint.

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