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All the three big leaders, apart from Modi, who have been attracting the maximum crowds were deployed in just one roadshow on the last day of campaigning. BJP’s national president, Amit Bhai Shah, Chief Ministerial candidate, B.S. Yeddyiurappa and the extremely popular B. Sriramulu all camped in the distant Badami on Thursday where Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was trying his luck out as a second “safer” bet.

This was a surprising choice at the very outset because one would have logically expected that BJP would have probably chosen Bangalore city or even some other urban conglomeration like Hubli-Dharwad or Belgaum for the final day blitzkrieg in order to maximize their gains. Yet, the party in its wisdom chose Badami to expend all its energy for that one final push and thereby lies the story of Karnataka assembly elections 2018.

Electoral trend in Badami had turned in the last one week and Siddaramaiah no longer had the same confidence of the people. The voters of Badami had begun to question his reasoning for choosing this historic town as his electoral vehicle. The caste arithmetic was in any case against the CM as Lingayats and Nayaks held the key to winning Badami. MAPi – Micro Analytical Projections (INTELLIGENCE) – Election Tracker has also begun to pick this trend as Siddaramaiah’s lead first reduced from 8 percentage points to 3 percentage points and now stands at a mere 1 percentage point.

In fact, our statistical models and algorithms give a special weightage of 3 points to big leaders like Siddaramaiah – because historically Indian voters have tended to be status-quoists when it comes to powerful leaders – otherwise, CM is already in greater trouble in Badami. Karnataka’s political history though has been a graveyard of Chief Ministers and powerful politicians in the past. For instance, the mighty Nijalingappa was defeated in Davangere in 1967. Similarly, Virendra Patil, Ramakrishna Hegde, Devegowda etc. have all met their waterloo battles at one point or other. Looks like it is Siddaramaiah’s turn now.

Badami is just the trailer, Karnataka on the whole will turn saffron today even as a mini-wave is building up. Powerful BJP strategists who were worried that the party had stagnated at around 75-80 seat range until a fortnight ago are now extremely confident about BJP coming to power. Even MAPi Election Tracker is now beginning to show that BJP has already touched the 100-seat mark, while Congress is stuck at around 60 seats. All BJP has to now do is convert about a dozen close contests and the party would be through to a clear majority.

Yet, most news channels, journalists and pollsters have been peddling these theories ranging from a hung assembly with a slight advantage to Congress to Congress being an SLP (Single Largest party) to Congress winning a clear majority. Why are they indulging in such skullduggery? The answer to that question is two-fold:

 

  1. Most of these journalists are plain incompetent as they have zero knowledge of elections or electoral data analysis despite being star anchors and columnists. Same holds true for those dime-a-dozen pollsters who pick random numbers from thin air.
  2. Some of these journalists and pollsters are doing this deliberately by fudging their data and analysis despite signals to the contrary.

 

Let us simply ignore the first set for their lack of knowledge or understanding. It is the second set that are most dangerous because time and again they have been part of those groups who have tried to manufacture an electoral verdict. The game is extremely sinister in Karnataka because it was almost a do-or-die battle for Rahul Gandhi, the self-anointed heir to India’s throne. Why do big news channels and journalists do this when it has the potential to affect their reputation and careers? For instance, why would a news channel deliberately air a completely corrupted CSDS survey that has been created with false numbers and lies? Similarly, why would so many media houses constantly quote a Cfore survey despite knowing that it is a Congress sponsored exercise?

If anything, Indian democracy is truly in danger because of media creatures like these who are willingly manufacturing a false narrative using fake polls. For 4-5 years now, ever since the ascendancy of Narendra Modi, this drama has been unfolding in every election season, but Karnataka should be the time when we should say “enough is enough”. Civil society and the government should demand accountability now, for future elections in India are in danger of being affected by such attempts to manufacture trends.

Any electoral projection is after all an exercise in probability and therefore fraught with danger of misinterpretations. So why are we so sure about our understanding of Karnataka assembly elections 2018 apart from deploying MAPi-Election Tracker which in any case is a new data-tech experiment? Let us look at five metrics that should be clear to any sane political analyst:

1] The Core Voter Concept: In every geography of India each political party has a core-vote and an addendum vote and this is a base principle on which most credible electoral projections are built. For example, the VWISM (Voter Weightage Index Sampling Methodology) statistical model built by 5Forty3 Datalabs which has had near 100% accuracy across India in some 20 elections has been built on a foundation of this “core voter theory”.

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In Karnataka, both Congress and BJP have a core-vote base of 29% each as of now. Congress party’s core vote-base is built on Kurubas, Minorities and SC Right (mostly made up of Chalavadi SC community). Simply using terms like AHINDA without quantifying the actual core-voters is nothing but lazy journalism. BJP, on the other hand, also has a core-vote base of 29% consisting of Lingayats, SC Left+Others (consisting of Madigas, Lamanis, Bovis etc.) and Brahmins. The key difference is that Congress’s core-vote is spread across the state whereas 92% of BJP’s vote base is concentrated in just 120 assembly seats of the state. This is why BJP gets much higher seat conversion ratios than the Congress party – its simple math, no rocket science at all. 

A sprinkling of addendum votes then gets added to this core-vote base of both the main rivals. In this election, the Eedigas, Kabbaligas, Bunts, ‘urban Hindus’ are getting on to BJP bandwagon, while smaller OBCs, ‘secular urbans’ etc. are on the Congress’s side. It can be stated without any doubt that BJP enjoys a clear edge on this metric simply because of concentration of core-votes and better traction of addendum votes. 

2] The Campaign Impact: In every election, there will be those 5-7% fence sitters who are not on to any party but decide to vote in a particular way after the campaign unfolds. A majority of these fence-sitters belong to what we term as “no wastage” category, because these voters invariably want to vote on a bandwagon effect to the leading party as they don’t want to waste their votes. This is an uniquely Indian voter psyche, wherein these non-partisan voters simply have one philosophy that their vote should not go for a wasted cause. This is a phenomenon we observe in every election in every state from Uttar Pradesh to Kerala and West Bengal to Karnataka.

Anybody who has been to Karnataka over the last fortnight will tell you whose campaign has been effective. One has to be blind as a bat not to see the Modi impact. Literally lakhs of people creating Mexican waves to stop Kannada translators from interfering a Modi speech, those chants of “Modi, Modi” wringing through the air, the overtly enthusiastic response to Modi’s clarion call of “Sarkara Badlisi, BJP Gellisi” and last but not the least, the atmosphere around the venue where youth are thronging with war cries of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and waving flags and what not. Mind you, all of this was getting transmitted to every TV in the state on a virtually daily basis for the last week of campaign. Should one spell out what impact it would have had on those ‘fence-sitters’?

Wait, there is more. While the Modi blitzkrieg was unleashing itself, literally under the radar was B.S. Yeddyurappa who was crisscrossing the entire North Karnataka Lingayat belt reaffirming the support base and reassuring them about his leadership under the threat of separate religion. Where were Congress Lingayat leaders at the same time? Absolutely invisible. M.B. Patil, the so called Siddaramaiah’s answer to B.S.Y and the face of “Lingayat Minority Religion” just never ventured out of his constituency because he is himself on a sticky wicket. Since Congress never campaigned or explained why Lingayat separate religion was needed, the backlash began to unfold in the last days of campaign and is now threatening to turn into a Lingayat tsunami against the Congress party. Ask the hapless Congress contestants in North Karnataka districts like Bidar and Bagalkot and see how they will privately curse M.B. Patil and Siddaramiah for their plight. In fact, the Congress campaign was mostly limited to press conferences of former PM Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma etc. while Siddaramaiah was the only star speaker in the rallies.

Similarly, Sriramulu’s roadshows and corner meetings attracted such huge Nayak crowd, especially the youth, that it now threatens to be a virtually one-sided affair in the ST/Nayak belt of Chitradurga-Bellary-Raichur districts. Congress never had a counter to this. The only weak alternative that was offered was Satish Jharkiholi who was in for a rude shock when he campaigned in CM’s ‘safe seat’ Badami. When Jharkiholi visited the Nayak dominated areas of Badami and sought votes for Congress, he met with a resounding “No” from the voters. There you have it, the second metric also favors BJP.

3] Anti-incumbency: Over the last few days many journalists have para-dropped from Delhi and have made sweeping statements like “there is no visible anti-incumbency in Karnataka”. This is now a new catch phrase which every second journalist is parroting. What is visible and invisible anti-incumbency anyway? In fact, you can bet your last dime that immediately after Karnataka election, every journalist worth his salt will talk about anti-incumbency sweeping India. It is like they all get together in the press club and decide what to parrot from now on.

There are actually two types of anti-incumbencies in India. One is issue based anti-incumbency and the second is personality based anti-incumbency. For example, the entire north and central Karnataka belt is reeling under a major water crisis which has angered voters to such an extent that many sitting MLAs are not even allowed to campaign in their areas. This is an issue based anti-incumbency which will have a big impact on election day. Then there is personality based hyperlocal anti-incumbency wherein MLAs are themselves very unpopular because of lack of performance and accessibility. Since Congress had the largest number of MLAs and since it was also in power, the maximum anti-incumbency is against Congress MLAs. For instance, take the case of Vinay Kulkarni in Dharwad. There have been a whopping 81 murders in his constituency in five years, how does one expect the voters to vote him back? There are many such examples across the state. Therefore, yes, the Congress government is suffering from both kinds of anti-incumbencies.

4] The Index of Opposition Unity: In every election, pundits analyze the IOU, but in Karnataka they simply failed to inform the Congress about this crucial factor. BJP and JDS are virtually fighting this election with an understanding in three-dozen seats. Take the case of Chamundeshwari where CM is again struggling because of massive Vokkaliga anger against him. Now, if BJP manages to successfully transfer its core-votes of Lingayats and Valmikis to JDS, Siddaramaiah is virtually guaranteed of a defeat.

This was a very bad strategy of Congress party to have a dual fight with BJP as well as JDS. It also tells us that this template of creating a big tent of an united opposition in 2019 is nothing but a pipedream. It sounds nice in theory to write about how Maya and Akhilesh will come together for their own survival, but extremely difficult in practice to match these party structures beyond temporary arrangements like bypolls.

5] The Bhagya Factor: If there is one dark horse among all the factors, it is the various Bhagya schemes of the Siddharamaiah government, especially the Anna Bhagya scheme of providing rice at 2 rupees to the poor. Till now none of the ground data has shown that the Bhagya factor has had any significant impact on voting decision. Could it be possible that there is a silent vote for Siddharamaiah’s welfare schemes? One cannot rule that out, but it seems highly unlikely simply because unlike other South Indian states Karnataka has never displayed a penchant for such populist ideas.

Four out of five metrics are clearly pointing at an impending BJP victory in Karnataka. Rest of it is all noise – the Kannada pride, Reddy brothers, corruption issue all these are nothing but media talking points with virtually zero traction on the ground.

So as Karnataka goes to polls today, what is the most likely outcome? At the outset let us be very clear, BJP is unlikely to achieve a UP like sweep simply because it is not in contest in almost 4 out of 28 districts of the state. Essentially BJP is contesting in 180 assembly segments and the party has a good strike rate of 60% and above in these, but to achieve a UP like sweep, it will have to have a strike rate of 75% and above. Hence, the most likely outcome of today’s election is that BJP would either get a simple majority or come very close to a majority.

You can track all the 224 assembly segments of Karnataka by using MAPi Election Tracker on ChunavpediA here