“Almost 70% of the core BJP-RSS vote went to Congress this time, while a section of traditional Congress vote diverted to BJP”, averred a local BJP Karyakarta a few days after the November 9th elections, “Pawan Kajal (of Congress) will surely capture the Kangra seat, he had won it as an independent candidate last time again due to his core BJP-RSS support base (sic)” he concluded.
A month later, that local BJP Karyakarta was proven to be right as Kangra town had voted for Congress despite a massive saffron wave sweeping across the district where BJP had managed to capture 11 out of 15 seats. 5Forty3 Datalabs conducted a study of the 4 contrarian assembly seats using newly developed polling booth analytics tools and mass voters-psyche mapping techniques which clearly showed deceptive voter behavior dissonance in these specific segments of the society.
In polling booth after polling booth, we found that majority voters’ primary choice was BJP, but the eventual voting expression got distorted due to extraneous hyperlocal factors. In fact, Palampur was the only assembly seat in Kangra district where voters’ actively chose to vote for Congress over BJP and the former won by a decent margin of 4324 votes.
Similarly, in Gujarat, the other state that went to polls, we found that 18-22% (as per estimates based on different parameters) of the Congress contestants were either former BJP leaders or those with a built-in RSS umbilical cord. Indeed, this is the single biggest factor in Congress party’s improved seat tally. Otherwise it was a no contest election.
The media/social-media narrative of Gujarat being a close contest is an utter distortion of facts. Fact is that 20 lakh extra voters participated in the 2017 assembly election as compared to last time while BJP secured 16 lakh extra votes this time as compared to 2012. In fact, BJP got a whopping 50% of the votes in this election which was the highest ever in any assembly election since its ascent began in 1990. BJP’s lead over Congress was a huge 8%. In Indian assembly elections, a lead of 8% should be considered a landslide. Furthermore, this highest ever vote-share for BJP in assembly elections came after 22 years of being in power which should have logically led to potent anti-incumbency.
Yet, most of the headlines and narrative suggests that Gujarat was a big embarrassment for the Modi-Shah team simply because Congress got a better seat conversion ratio in the assembly elections. The fact though is that BJP won around 50% vote-share in both Gujarat as well as Himachal Pradesh. This feat coming after a stunning performance in Uttar Pradesh also in 2017 indicates a pattern of BJP’s tremendous ascendancy across the length and breadth of the country which has the potential to truly impact the 2019 election.
Throughout 2017, 5Forty3 Datalabs has been tracking six states and 23 underlying sub-geographies to measure the support for Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. Not surprisingly, support for Modi has only been increasing over the period of time in all these geographies, despite massive negative campaigning by the media. It is quite apparent that most Indians trust Modi and as the PEW research shows, people’s faith in their government is at the highest level since almost a decade.
Arguably, Narendra Modi is the most popular Prime Minister India has ever seen. With such unprecedented numbers, Modi heads towards 2019 with a massive advantage which he did not have even in 2014 but still managed to get a clear majority. The one significant change that Modi and BJP will have to incorporate before going into 2019 is to massively propagate pro-incumbency optimism across India. If 2014 BJP campaign was built on a negative platform of anti-incumbency against UPA government, the 2019 campaign needs to be built on a clearly distinguishable positive platform.
One of the greatest examples of a very successful positive pro-incumbency campaigns in the history of global democracy is the 1984 Reagan re-election campaign famously known as “Morning again in America”. If BJP and Modi can recreate a campaign of hope built on a new Indian dawn, then 1 out of 2 Indians could potentially want to press the Lotus button on the EVM, come 2019.