At around noon on April 10th 2014, almost exactly 5 years ago in the first big phase of elections, data was showing a huge surge for BJP across the heartland – mainly UP and Bihar. We were checking and counter-checking with our teams to verify if the data that was coming in was actually authentic or not. There was a sense of disbelief, because although BJP was expected to do well, the sheer volume of BJP’s performance was staggering. In hindsight, it appears all so easy and ordained, but on the polling day 5 years ago, nobody really believed BJP would alone cross 250 MP seats – it was a feat that was not achieved in India’s electoral firmament for 3 decades!
This time the excitement is quite less. Not that the data is any different. It is just that we are now prepared to see this kind of surge, we simply expect Modi to achieve the impossible. In Assam and Bihar, by noon, it is clear that BJP+ is an unassailable lead. We always knew Nitish Kumar’s entry into NDA would add a big chunk of support, but Bihar as of now looks like a one-way street. Although BJP is only contesting one seat and NDA allies are in fight in the other three, the sheer magnum of support seems to have overwhelmed the RJD-Congress+ alliance.
Same is the story in Assam. Just like 2014, Kaliabor is the only seat where there is some contest because AGP’s Moni Madhab Mohanta is not getting the requisite vote transfer from BJP which is giving the lead to Congress party’s Gaurav Gogoi by default. In all the other 3 seats, BJP is surging ahead and had taken substantial leads by noon in at least 2 of those constituencies. In fact, in 2014, Jorhat was an important bell-weather seat because Congress party’s B.K Handique had never lost the seat and we at 5Forty3 Datalabs were the first to sense the huge swing on the evening of first day of polling. This time again BJP is leading here with big margins and Assam seems to be totally saffronized now.
The big news now comes from Odisha. Here there is keen contest in all the four seats, but by noon BJP has actually taken leads in two seats of Kalahandi and Koraput. If these leads hold till evening, expect major earthquake in Bhubaneshwar as the state is also facing assembly elections. In Kalahandi, state BJP chief Basant Panda is leading Congress party’s Bhakta Charan Das whereas BJD is actually a distant third. Similarly, in Koraput too Jairam Pangi is leading both BJD and Congress quite substantially.
In West-Bengal too, as expected BJP is leading in both the seats. All these 6 seats in Odisha and Bengal were held by regional parties and if BJP manages to win a big chunk of them – as of now BJP leads convincingly in 4 out of 6 seats – then the whole gambit of opposition alliance standing a chance against BJP in 2019 would completely collapse.
Of course, the caveat is that we are still in early days of 2019 election season. First of all, BJP has to hold its leads in Odisha and Bengal and then go the distance. We will need more data and more confirmative trends over the next two rounds of polling to be fully sure. Yet, at this point of time the biggest story is BJP’s rise in the east.
Uttar Pradesh, widely believed to be the kurukshetra of 2019 is still not giving us a full grip over voting patterns. Yes, BJP is ahead of the race overall and may have even improved from its position until yesterday when we had put 4 out of the 8 seats that are voting today as “vulnerable”, because by noon today, BJP is now stronger in 5 seats and only 3 seats are in the vulnerable category.
Uttar Pradesh will be difficult to crack before the end of polling today (and beyond), because turnout differential modelling of different demographic sub-groups is crucial to understand UP. As of now, most voting groups are behaving exactly as expected, but how many are turning out in real numbers will give us a better clue to the puzzle of UP. Also, the most crucial element of Muslim votes needs to be mapped further – as our ground teams usually report Muslim votes in many segments only after closing of polls.
[Andhra numbers are delayed as third party teams are involved in groundwork. Once we have full data, we will give a clearer picture]