The biggest takeaway of Phase 1 is that Narendra Modi led BJP is either holding on to its supposed 2014 peak or even improving upon it. Apart from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana – two minor states in the saffron political map – BJP has held on pretty well elsewhere in phase one including the much talked about Uttar Pradesh where the party may have even added to its overall vote-share. What is more, this time around we could actually witness a saffron surge in the East which had remained more-or-less aloof from the Modi wave of 2014.
Essentially, what Phase 1 is telling us is that there is no anti-incumbency against the central government at this point of time. This is the key difference between 2004 and 2019. In that fateful election of 2004, by the end of Phase 1, we were pretty certain that there was an undercurrent of anti-incumbency in various parts of India, but the hope was that Vajpayee’s personal charisma would overcome this in the next phases – which never really happened to a large extent.
Today, Phase 2 will show us whether the trend of the previous phase will continue or whether there will be significant divergence. Once again, like Phase 1, this is a phase where BJP did not overwhelm in 2014 as the day belonged to regional parties like AIADMK, BJD and others. In fact, AIADMK was the single largest party bagging 37 MP seats in this phase to a total of 33 by the NDA. Even in the heartland for example, BJP and NDA did not manage to win a single seat of the five that went to polls in Bihar, a state otherwise overwhelmed by the Modi wave.
In raw terms, BJP on its own (minus NDA allies) got 22838020 votes in this phase and our models will be keeping an eye on that number to see if there is any significant change one way or the other. In the changed circumstances of 2019, the NDA is now home to two of the largest parties of this phase – AIADMK and BJP – along with the significant addition of JDU (which won the seat of Purnia in 2014) in Bihar. Thus, in all probability, NDA’s overall vote-share should change dramatically in this phase.
(We will be tracking some of the key battleground states throughout the day on Phase 2 – click here to visualize our trackers)
Psephologically, some of the signals that we first captured in the first phase on Thursday last, need to be further confirmed in this phase for our models to update the trends of 2019. We are essentially looking at five major signals in this round of elections to get the first confirmation of some of the signals of phase 1.
- In the heartland (mainly UP and Bihar), the turnout of NY-OBC and NJ-SC voters is the key to BJP’s score as these groups seem to be backing Modi to the hilt. The turnout differential models are also important in the context of Muslim voter turnouts which will decide the outcomes in significant ways. For instance, at the beginning of first phase, our models had put 4 LS seats in the BJP column which had grown up to 6 by the end of voting. The 2 remaining LS seats are still classified as tossups (and not allocated to the Mahagathbandhan), if we get confirmation of some of the trends observed last Thursday, then both these could go from toss-up to “lean BJP” whereas if some of the trends are negated then these 2 seats can shift to “lean MGB”. Also importantly, we will be further tracking Jatav and Yadav voters to see if 20-25% of them are still voting for BJP which would mean vote transfer glitches for the opposition alliances.
- One of the other key takeaways from the first phase was that Congress party had further declined from its dramatic fall of 2014. We had not yet completely written off Congress after that phase because its strongholds were yet to go for polls; Congress is expected to do well in states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where it has state governments. In Karnataka, for instance, in today’s polling, Congress-JDS alliance hold 8 seats as compared to 6 of the BJP out of 14 and the alliance could do much better this time simply because of the arithmetic. Today’s trends are therefore very important for the Congress party to reverse its misfortunes of the first phase, if Congress fails today, then they might simply run out of time to recover.
- The third signal of importance is that of BJP’s surge in the east. The dramatic numbers that we got from Odisha and even Bengal last Thursday are seen to be believed. We are still holding our horses, because this is virgin territory for BJP and today’s polling will either confirm or negate those first day findings. In Odisha, BJP just holds the lone seat of Sundargarh where the old tribal warhorse, Juel Oram won by a slender margin of 18k votes last time. On the other hand, BJD won the other 4 seats comfortably, for these are strong BJD turfs, seats like Kandhamal and Aska which they have been winning with huge margins running into lakhs. If BJP is seriously making inroads in Odisha and the east, it will have to perform in these tough geographies today – only data will tell us whether BJP’s performance on day one was simply a flash in the pan.
- The fourth key signal will be that of NDA’s expansion. BJP despite being in power has shown humility and inclination to build alliances from Maharashtra to Assam to Bihar to Tamil Nadu, sometimes sacrificing even its sitting MPs. How much these allies are going to add to BJP’s kitty will be an important metric for us to measure. In Tamil Nadu for example, arithmetically, the coming together of AIADMK, BJP, PMK, DMDK and others should have a huge base to win the state, but ground realities could be quite different due to the absence of Amma and the triple anti-incumbency of central and state governments along with sitting MPs. Bihar and TN will be important states to see how much the NDA has risen from 2014 which will be important for our macro trackers that analyze the vote-shares at the national level.
(You can follow our macro and micro trackers all through polling day today, here.)
- The fifth and final signal that we are following-up today is the impact of government schemes like Ujjwala and toilet building which had shown a big upswing for BJP in phase 1 of Uttar Pradesh. We will continue our research on this theme which gives us a snapshot of an India beyond the narrow considerations of caste and ethnicity. We are also tracking the impact of NYAY scheme of Congress that promises 72000 rupees per annum to the bottom 20% of the poorest among the Indian society. Although there were not many takers for this NYAY promise in phase 1, things could change today, so we are watching this space keenly.
As our teams, spread from Akola in Maharashtra (west) to Raiganj in West Bengal (east) and from Agra in Uttar Pradesh (north) to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu (south) keep tracking today’s trends, we will also be listening to the buzz of Modi as possibly the most popular Prime Minister of India ever – 2019 could be a fascinating milestone for Modi in his journey to build the USHV (United Spectrum of Hindu Votes).