Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala’s pioneering work of 1980’s in the field of psephology (whatever their ideological leanings) is what is famously known as IOU – Index of Opposition Unity. IOU is an uniquely Indian derivative that has remained relevant for many decades despite the changing political climate. Whenever IOU is high, the argument goes, the main ruling party gets defeated in electoral battles whereas the opposite is true when the IOU is low.
Throughout the 80’s and part of 90’s when Congress was the main ruling party, the IOU was extensively used to understand India’s electoral pulse by many pollsters and pundits alike. Since the advent of Modi in 2014, once again, it has been argued that it is the low IOU that is helping Modi win elections – despite many contraindications.
There is one statistical limitation for IOU that Mr. Roy and company never really discuss much – maybe they are too scared to even consider the prospect. What if the main dominant party reaches 50% popular vote-share? The IOU will simply start losing its relevance in such a scenario because no matter how many parties one can unite, there is simply no beating a party that manages to get 1 (or nearly 1) out of every 2 voters to go out and vote for them.
The 2019 presumption of opposition is broadly built on the same IOU theory. Therefore, Congress and JDS who together commanded nearly 60% vote-share in 2014 in the 14 LS seats of Karnataka that voted today came together to defeat BJP. All they needed was nearly 70-80% vote transfer to each other to defeat BJP in many number of seats. What happened was the exact opposite. Their respective vote-banks simply bypassed the alliance and voted for the BJP. At no time in history has BJP got so many Vokkaliga votes as today – and conversely at no time in history have so many Vokkaligas opposed both Congress and JDS. The irony is that it was a rare election when both the parties fought together for the same subset of voters!
In Vokkaliga strongholds, Vokkaligas are not voting for the INC-JDS alliance. For instance, it would have been unthinkable for a BJP candidate to get virtually same support as that of a Devegowda family member in the family pocket borough of Hassan. But it has happened today as the seat is now in toss-up territory. Similarly, in Mandya where Nikhil Kumaraswamy led throughout the morning hours – thanks to much better organizational might of JDS which has 7 sitting MLAs – began losing steam by post-afternoon once the women folk and farmers started coming in large numbers voluntarily to vote for BJP-supported independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that it is Vokkaliga women who have sunk Kumaraswamy’s ambitions in his own backyard!
Traveling all the way from South Karnataka to Braj bhoomi in western Uttar Pradesh, the story remains the same. Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, the two longstanding rivals in the state came together to build a combined vote-share that could defeat BJP. What is the result so far? In the first phase we saw that the whole USHV has remained intact with NY-OBCS (including Jats), upper-castes and a big chunk of NJ-SCs all voting saffron.
In today’s second phase in Uttar Pradesh, we saw that even a big chunk of Yadavs preferred to vote for BJP rather than the alliance partner BSP’s candidates. It is quite the coming of age of the Hindu voter across India, for most of them now want to vote together to elect a Prime Minister who works rather than simply remaining in the silos of a caste-based party that is supposed to cater to their interests. Many erstwhile voters of both SP and BSP ask why should they vote for the alliance, “neither party will be in a position to form a government (at the center)” they aver.
The Jatavs too, always considered as core Mayawati voters, haven’t voted overwhelmingly for the party. In Nagina, for instance, former BSP MLA and current Congress candidate Omvati Jatav has taken a segment of key Jatav votes which is giving BJP a clean lead in the seat. In the neighboring Amroha which also is home to a vast number of over 5 lakh Muslim voters, BSP’s Danish Ali is not getting traditional Samajwadi votes who are all supporting BJP because they simply do not want to support a Maya sponsored candidate – many local SP leaders also see Danish Ali as a threat to their political careers and are working to defeat him.
By evening, BJP was seen to be leading in almost all the seats that went to polls today in UP and may well end up sweeping this phase like it did in 2014. This time the possible saffron sweep is coming despite the grand opposition alliance. Index of Opposition Unity theory lies in tatters in both Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh where two major opposition alliances were supposed to halt the Modi juggernaut only to falter in a big way.
Due to some technical difficulties, we do not have enough real-time numbers from Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra, but whatever little trend data we have is suggesting a continuity of the phase 1 trajectory in today’s polling too. Of course, we will do a more detailed analysis of these 3 states as we get all the data and our servers begin to map the same to polling booths of the respective states.
In Bengal, we observed a highly polarized and super-charged atmosphere on the second day of polling. In Raiganj where the Muslim vote is getting split in virtually three parts, BJP is consolidating the Hindu voters. In Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling too, BJP was seen to be ahead in today’s polling. Our models are in fact, suggesting a clean sweep in this phase of Bengal elections mainly because NRC (National Registry of Citizens) has found great amount of traction here among Hindu voters.
Also, our ground teams have suggested that due to better deployment of central forces, local TMC goons couldn’t disrupt the electoral process leading to much better participation rates among voters in opposition stronghold areas. The momentum so far is with the BJP in Bengal and the party has to sustain it for at least the next 2 phases to make most of this eastern sunrise.
In Odisha too, BJP’s rise is continuing unabated. Our only regret is that we are not really covering the Odisha assembly elections – as we are already stretched beyond the threshold covering the national elections. If there is even partial transmission of BJP’s Lok Sabha momentum to local assembly elections, then the decades long Naveen Patnaik government could be in trouble. Although it must be stressed here that a lot of our ground teams and fieldworkers have reported that many voters are experimenting with a split of LS vote to BJP and assembly vote to BJD.
Our models are currently suggesting a 3 seat gain for BJP in this phase in Odisha with the caveat that one of the seats has very slender leads and we are yet to get about 25% of the remaining data from the state. Whatever be the end results, BJP has taken giant strides in the eastern part of India and today’s polling is once again testimony to that.
Tamil Nadu is the one state that may have gone against today’s trends as raw data suggests a more solid performance by the DMK led alliance than the BJP stitched AIADMK alliance. There are two x factors that need to be further analyzed in this state – A] the performance of smaller players like the Kamal Hassan Party and the TTV Dinakaran led outfit which have got some traction in almost all regions of the state and B] the role of last minute money distribution which plays a major role in the state’s elections and it is one aspect which is said to be a strong point of the ruling AIADMK even after Amma’s death.
We will do a full data analysis of all these states before we go into the next phase. For now, let us try and measure how the 5 major signals that we talked about today morning have performed today.
Mostly, second phase has confirmed all the data and signals that were apparent in phase one, but we are still being a bit conservative at this point of time – better conservative than being sorry. Yet, if these trends continue for the next phase, the results will be virtually apparent to even the most casual political observer. Therefore, come Tuesday, the third phase could well be the decider round of polling for 2019.