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When we look at Uttar Pradesh, we always assume that caste should be the central theme of any electoral process in the state. This is why once bitter rivals Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have come together, haven’t they? The logic is quite simple, individually, our castes (read as Yadavs and Jatavs) are not enough to dent Modi, so let us combine our forces.

More and more data is showing us that even in a caste-cauldron state like Uttar Pradesh, a strong post-caste electorate is emerging. USHV in 2014 was the first precursor to this new development, now it is gaining further traction. The 2017 assembly elections actually gave us more evidence of this phenomenon when traditionally Mayawati voters, the EBC and SC women in rural UP shifted towards Modi in a big way.

What we have done today is possibly the very first time in India’s psephological history. We tracked 736 families spread across 6 of the 8 LS seats that went to polls today. These 736 families have benefited from at least one of the three schemes of the Modi government – the free LPG scheme, the toilet building scheme and the DBT schemes through Jan Dhan Yojana (more than 55% of them had benefited from the Ujjwala scheme of free LPG).

The results are not surprising at all as 69% or more than 2/3rds have voted for BJP in today’s election cutting across caste lines. In raw terms, 508 of those families have voted for BJP while 184 families ended up voting for others (mainly Mahagatbandhan). Yours truly was in fact, part of the team in and around Meerut today tracking these families to get a firsthand experience of voter behavior.

One must remember that various “Modi-schemes” have touched the lives of some 37 Crore Indians and have made a big impact on at least 11 Crore of them. Thus, if this trend holds even partially across UP and India, forget everything else that anybody is telling you (including us) and simply expect a monstrous majority for Modi this summer!

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But how can one resist analyzing the caste matrix when it is UP election time? So here we are. The primary signal for phase 1 is that Jatavs have fully consolidated towards the Mahagathbandhan, BJP is as of now getting even below 1 out of 5 votes from the Jatav segment which is a bit worrying. But more importantly, Yadavs seems to be a bit more split than Jatavs. In phase 1, about 23% of Yadavs actually voted for BJP as per our MAPi – Micro Analytics Projections (INTELLIGENCE) – tracker. If Yadavs indeed vote at the rate of 1 out of 4 in favor of BJP, then the Mahagathbandhan vote transfer mechanism could be deeply flawed. But of course, these are early days and we should see how this trend solidifies (one way or the other) in next two phases before reaching any conclusions.

Second important finding from west UP actually is a more worrying prospect for opposition. Our models are currently showing that Muslim turnouts have again been suppressed. Last time around in these 8 LS seats, Muslim turnouts were at around 70%, whereas today it is closer to 63%. This is logic defying, for one of the main reasons for the SP-BSP alliance was to enthuse the Muslim voters, but today the results are contraindicative.

All these factors have contributed to a better than expected performance by BJP. We began the day with BJP being strong in 4 seats of west UP and, 4 MPs being vulnerable. As of today evening, our trackers indicate 6 seats leaning towards BJP and 2 being toss-ups. One might ask, why toss-ups? Why not 2 seats to Mahagathbandhan? The answer is because, the MGB doesn’t have any strong leads in these two seats. Therefore, we will have to wait for confirmation trends of different demographic segments to reach any conclusion – which means these two seats could still go either way. The one difference from 2014 though is that BJP’s leads will be much muted in UP and margin of victory will be much smaller.

A word of caution: The first phase was just the beginning, these trends have to solidify in the next two phases for us to reach definite conclusions, because unlike 2014, BJP’s leads are not overwhelming. Also, once we get clearer turnout numbers of different subgroups, our models would be in a better position to predict clearer outcomes.

Now let us look at other states briefly. In Maharashtra, NDA is set to maintain its 2014 tally without much of a hurdle. In Bihar, the arithmetic is so strong for NDA that it is sweeping all the 4 seats this time, while BJP+ had won 3 last time. In Uttarakhand too the situation is similar to 2014 with a saffron sweep in all 5 seats. We would be analyzing some of these states, especially Maharashtra and Bihar as we go along, but suffice it to say that today was BJP’s days in all these three states.

The Eastern Parade

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Assam, Odisha and West Bengal together accounted for 11 seats in this round of polling. BJP had just 4 of those seats in 2014. Today the party is on the verge of winning 9 and also has a chance in the lone-tossup seat of Kaliabor in Assam! In the noon report we had alluded to the fact that Gaurav Gogoi was leading in Kaliabor because of BJP votes not transferring in good numbers to the AGP nominee. In the 4 hours of afternoon, things have changed drastically. What looked like an easy retainer for Congress has now become a bitter pill to swallow. Kaliabor is now well and truly in tossup territory, leaving Congress high and dry across east India. 

In Odisha, BJP is now ahead in 3 of the 4 MP seats. That is an amazing result for the party if it materializes – although it must be stressed here that our models suggest small leads in two of those seats. Behrampur is the lone tough fight for BJP here. Odisha is turning out to be a surprise story of 2019. Yes, BJP has gained in this state over the last 5 years through Panchayat poll performance and inorganically acquiring a vast number of leaders of whom the extremely resourceful Jayant Panda is a prime example, but still the party’s performance of leading in 75% of the seats on the very first day is quite a stunner. What impact this would have on the assembly elections also needs to be analyzed in detail.

Bengal is still the joker in the pack. Our models are suggesting a conservative 3% lead in both the LS seats that went to polls today. Of course, there were reports of modernized “booth capturing” by TMC cadre in Cooch Behar, but our local teams suggest that the incidents are too small when compared to past-history. Opposition voters have managed to turnout in large numbers which is also because in both these districts BJP had acquired local workers from the Left Front and TMC which has enabled them to put up a solid fight. Barring any big allegations of voter fraud, we still expect BJP to win both these seats.

There is bad news from the southern state of Telangana for the BJP. It has not only drawn a blank, but also is a distant third in all the constituencies including in Secundrabad. TRS is expectedly sweeping the state as it always happens when two elections are held so close to each other and wherein the party has done so well in the previous round. In Andhra too, BJP has drawn a blank, but we hope to do a more detailed analysis of both these states in the next two days once we have full data.

Perhaps more importantly, Congress too has drawn a blank in Telangana and Andhra which means that its already depleted seats of 2014 could be further eroding. How will the Congress party pick itself up from such a disastrous beginning will be interesting to watch as we have time and again cautioned that the party is on the brink of falling below 15% vote-share and 36 MP seats across India.

[We will be doing further analysis with more in-depth data crunching tomorrow and day after about the first day of polling]