“There is a silent majority working towards BJP’s victory” told the good doctor in Malda, “the situation is such that even TMC workers are working silently behind the scenes” he added to good measure. Locally known as a doctor who had worked hard to bring down the Communist regime at the start of the millennium, he is much loved by his vast number of patients and is completely disillusioned by Didi’s politics of ‘blatant appeasement’.
There must be some truth in that statement of that doctor in Malda, for how else does one explain the data so far? Something is happening in Bengal. One can call it a silent revolution or a Hindu backlash against minority appeasement or even a certain amount of fatigue at Mamata’s continuing of Left’s strong arm politics. Whatever one may term it as, but change is in the air.
In today’s third phase election, BJP was not supposed to perform this well, for this was a geography with abundant Muslim population where Congress and TMC were supposed to slug it out, but the saffron march has continued, although a bit dented. Of the 5 seats that went to polls today, BJP is definitely ahead in two seats while Congress is in pole position in 2 others and the one seat that is left out is a tossup as per our models.
Let us look at this phenomenon from another point of view. Of the 10 seats that have voted till now, TMC is not ahead in any of them as per our models!
Before the 2019 election season began, if somebody would have predicted that TMC could be staring at “ZERO” after 3 phases of elections, then it would have created a major earthquake in Indian politics. Of course, one can still argue that the remaining 32 seats would still help out Didi in the final analysis, momentum is certainly no friend of Momata di at this point of time. Indian elections are all about momentum, mind you.
In the neighboring Assam too, BJP’s NDA partner, the AGP (Assom Gana Parishad) has taken clear leads in the Barpeta LS seat today. It was widely expected as our pre-poll trackers had shown very high levels of anti-incumbency against AIUDF which despite replacing its sitting MP was unable to even campaign properly due to people’s anger. Also, what we observed today was that the Muslim vote was actually split between AIUDF and the Congress party’s Abdul Khaleque which may have helped the NDA in gathering momentum.
In the state capital of Guwahati too there was some localized anti-incumbency, but BJP seems to have overcome it by giving ticket to the popular mayor of the city. The other two seats that went to polls today have been classified as tossups by our models – although Kokrajhar is in the “Tossup” category by default as it is a very difficult seat to poll and we do not generally risk sending our teams to such areas.
Taking a quantum leap from the east to the west, let us look at how Gujarat unfolded today. As is always the case with Gujarat, it went slowly in the morning and started picking up as the day started to wear off. Initially, it looked as if Congress would perform beyond expectations as it was showing up decent leads, but as veteran Gujarat watchers will tell you, the early leads of Congress on polling day are quite deceptive. Once the women turnout began to pick up in the afternoon, BJP started to solidify everywhere including the rural belt of Saurashtra and North Gujarat which have posed some problems to the BJP in the last couple of years. Conversely, Congress began to give up its leads which is the primary problem of the party because it is so lacking in the organization might in the state to sustain the leads – for instance, it doesn’t have strong worker networks who would continue to mobilize vehicles on polling day in the afternoon to bring in more sympathetic voters which is what RSS-BJP excel in.
By the end of the day, even Patan shifted from being a tossup to a slender BJP lead. This is indicative of how Congress has missed out in building on the small foothold it had got among the Thakore voters of north Gujarat in 2017. Thus, there are just Anand and Sabarkantha on which Congress party’s hopes rest after today’s polling – the former showing a slender lead while the latter being in a tossup category.
There is a distinct possibility of BJP once again doing an encore winning all 26 seats in the state, all it needs is a shift of less than 1% votes towards the saffron side (from what our models have projected for now). It is quite possible that our models have been conservative in assessing BJP’s leads in the state because statistically, swings tend to be uniform in an election rather than differ greatly.
The biggest speculation in Gujarat is the margin of victory of Party President, Amit Shah from Gandhinagar. There are even wild theories about how his margin will also decide whether BJP will win all the 26 seats or not, though there is no direct mathematical link to any such speculation. What looks very likely is that Mr. Shah may well breach the 2014 record of 4.83 lakhs as the Congress then had managed to get 26% of votes in the constituency and our models are currently projecting only 19% for the grand old party.
The Gujarat trends of today are disastrous for the Congress party as it may have just missed the very last bus to 2019. With the party underperforming in both the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, its chances in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh get further eroded. Both MP and Rajasthan are yet to vote till now and by the time voting begins there, the whole election process might have lost its purpose for the Congress party. Whatever little momentum Congress had gained after December 2018 has now been put into a backburner by the end of phase 3.
From the west, let us travel down south where a bit of good news awaits the BJP. In Kerala, the party may have finally opened its account. Our models show Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat showing a reasonable lead for the BJP which means the suave international face of the Congress party and a liberal darling of Delhi, Shashi Tharoor has finally met his match.
In all other seats of Kerala, there is a direct contest between UDF and LDF with UDF taking a lead. NDA and BJP are a distant third in most seats, except for the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha seat which is in the tossup category with a three-way split. Of course, Kerala might not add much to BJP’s tally in 2019, but it is still a symbolic victory as the party is now poised to make inroads into former Communist strongholds of Tripura, Bengal and Kerala.
In the other south Indian state of Karnataka, there is more good news awaiting the saffron party. It is a stupendous performance by BJP in the wake of a Congress-JDS alliance in the state. As we had analyzed after first phase, the state is in the grip of a massive Modi wave which has demolished the secular alliance of Congress-JDS thoroughly. In this phase, Congress has managed leads only in the solitary seat of Koppal which is a surprise as that has a sitting BJP MP. Another sitting BJP MP’s seat of Bidar is also surprisingly in tossup category. Barring these two, BJP led in all other 12 seats.
The big shocker could well come from Gulbarga, where parliamentary leader of UPA, Mallikarjun Kharge is trailing by a slender margin. Although he lead throughout the day, BJP managed to reverse his leads by evening as more data came in. Mr. Kharge and his followers fancied him as a possible Prime Ministerial nominee in case UPA came to power, but even that has probably not helped him. Overall, Karnataka is likely to give BJP a tally of 22 or above whilst it had won 17 last time around.
In the north, two heartland states of UP and Bihar have shown a bit of divergence today. While NDA has performed well when compared to its 2014 tally in Bihar because of the addition of JDU, BJP has had an off color day in its outing in Uttar Pradesh.
This was always a tough phase in UP for the BJP, so it is not surprising that the party is struggling to recreate its 2014 magic here. The positive thing for BJP is that the future phases will become a lot more easier for it as we move towards Poorvanchal. Also, the party has managed to put up a decent show in the first two phases despite a formidable coalition of SP-BSP-RLD forming the Mahagathbandhan. Once we have full data along with turnout models, we will analyze both UP and Bihar in detail along with Maharashtra and Odisha.