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“You know what is the striking contrast between today and 5 years ago (sic)?” Saroja Tai asks with a twinkle in her eyes. “5 Years ago all the government awards (the Padma awards) were given to only big superstars and rich business men, today the government recognizes ordinary Indians from different sections of the society who have contributed something”.

Saroja Tai runs a small home food processing unit in a village near Ichalkaranji, somewhere in-between Sangli and Kolhapur, and her Pooranpolis (a jaggery parantha delicacy famous in Maharashtra) are something to die for. She is well known among many local NCP leaders as “Vaini” (sister-in-law) and has a bit of fan following of her own.

What Saroja Tai was articulating on Monday (just a day before Kolhapur and Sangli voted) is something unique that we kind of tend to overlook in all the milieu. It is this symbol of what a new India under Narendra Modi represents to ordinary hard working people of India even if they belong to opposition support groups (NCP in this case). What Modi has done is something that goes beyond simple economic policies or Balakot airstrikes or even building toilets and providing bank accounts. He has liberated that elitist part of India which ordinary people could never even dream to aspire in the past and opened it up for the common man. When the government honours small time folk singers, social workers or entrepreneurs of small villages and towns of India, it is like giving them their pride back. By honoring them, the government is telling them that their achievements are no lesser than that of a Bollywood superstar.

A few NCP workers sitting nearby are candid too, “there was no opposition in Maharashtra for 5 years, our party was absent throughout… the only opposition in the state was Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray, now he too has mended fences and gone back to the BJP” they rue. “Even today there is no opposition, we have no leader to take a stand against Modi and Fadnavis so we have imported a bounced cheque” one of the NCP worker laughs referring to Raj Thackeray’s audio-visual campaign that has caught so many eye balls in the media circles.

This is indeed true as we have come across this sentiment everywhere in the state. Congress and NCP have been virtually absent for the last five years, no major agitations or public movements have been led by these two parties since 2014 despite many issues plaguing the state. Whether it was the Maratha reservation agitation or Bhima-Koregaon violent outbursts or even many farmer agitations of Vidharbha, none of them had the NCP-Congress stamp on them. It is because the whole Congress, Pawar culture in the state is that of ruling and administering the state as they have almost always been in power barring that small five-year period in the 90’s when Shiv-Sena BJP alliance ruled the state. “We simply do not have that agitation gene in our politics” admitted a NCP leader in Sangli, “we have only known power and how to distribute it among our leaders and workers, this is a new experience for us” he said regretfully.

It is in this backdrop that we must understand Raj Thackeray and his newfound heroism in the eyes of the secular media. Marathi sub-nationalism has always found takers among a section of Maharashtrian society and many of them cannot come to terms with the fact that two Gujaratis are ruling India – there is a historic context to it because of that Marathi-Gujarati undercurrent of conflict since the days of independence. For this section of Marathi society it is quite difficult to swallow the fact that one of their own leaders like Sharad Pawar could never reach the highest office of the land.

Therefore, after Shiv-Sena and BJP came together to fight the election, the vacuum left in the opposition has been partially occupied by Raj Thackeray’s theatrics. Will any of this convert into votes for the opposition? Highly unlikely. Most ordinary voters in Maharashtra like elsewhere in India want to give Modi another chance because many in the state believe he has done a lot of good work which has made a qualitative difference to the life of the poor. Also, for a large number of Maharashtrians, Raj Thackeray is just a side show which attracts crowds for entertainment but hardly anybody takes him seriously.

As a result, on Tuesday, when Kolhapur and Sangli voted, there were a few surprises in store for us. It must be remembered here that Kolhapur had voted for NCP even at the height of the 2014 Modi wave which should have made this a safe bet this time around, but our models suggest a close race with slight advantage to Shiv Sena after Tuesday’s voting which again highlights how the support for Modi is translating into votes for the NDA even as the absence of opposition at the state level is hurting the UPA. In Sangli which was a complete Congress bastion that had never gone to opposition since independence until the 2014 Modi wave swept it away, this time Congress has surrendered the seat even before the election began as the party unit president Ashok Chavan openly admitted that it is “not in a position to defeat the BJP” and therefore surrendered the seat to the Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha (SSP).

In the nearby Hatkanangale too, the contest doesn’t seem to be as straightforward as we expected. Our election day tracker showed that nearly 38% of the voters who claimed to have voted for Raju Shetti in the last two elections have this time shifted their votes to Shiv Sena. Although past voting claims of voters need to be taken with a pinch of salt as most voters tend to misrepresent it, in this case the sheer volumes surprised us. We have therefore put this seat too in the NDA column. Pune of course is a no brainer as the only question that remains is the margin of victory for the BJP. Satara on the other hand is the one seat that is once again giving NCP the lead due to the popular Robin hood status of Udayan Raje Bhosale. 

Moving on from Western Maharashtra to Khandesh, our trackers once again showed solid support for Modi and the NDA here too. In both Jalgaon and Raver seats BJP has the edge, although the former seems to be a closer race while the latter has given decent leads to the saffron party. Ahmednagar too should retain the 2014 trends. Same is the story in the Marathwada belt. Aurangabad which saw a four-cornered fight is giving an edge to NDA while Jalna should be easy pickings for the Saffron alliance.

In the end analysis, Maharashtra has shown strong preference for NDA owing to Modi and it looks like the 2014 saffron hegemony will be maintained. If anything, the lack of a clear opposition may even increase the strength of the saffron alliance. Of course, the whole Mumbai region is yet to vote, but it looks unlikely that the Congress-NCP alliance will make any dent there as the urban support to Modi is almost hitting the stratosphere beyond the 2014 trends.

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Odisha – the winds of change

From one fascinating state in the west, let us now move to another fascinating state in the east. If the western state was all about saffron alliance maintaining its popularity and grip over political momentum, the eastern state is all about revolutionary changes with the BJP on the ascendancy. The common theme from west to east? Modi. The theme everywhere is all about the Prime Minister and giving him another chance.

Odisha has been a surprise element of this election. I have personally travelled with the teams in both Odisha and West Bengal and I can vouch for the sheer difference between the two states, especially if someone has previously visited both these states, say in the 90’s or even early 2000’s. While Bengal has remained virtually in a time warp, Odisha has taken giant strides of development.

One simple metric to compare both the states is their road networks. Ask any of our team leaders and they will tell you unequivocally that Bengal is by far the state with worst road networks, especially in the interiors. On the other hand, Odisha has decent roads with high cleanliness that can compete with any of the more developed states of the west and the south – like say, Gujarat or Tamil Nadu or Karnataka.

I have personally interacted with many middle-class families in the towns and cities of Odisha and can see how much their lives have changed in the last 2 decades. One of the biggest grouses of the middle-class in late 90’s and early 2000’s used to be basic BSP (Bijli, Sadak, Pani) issues, whereas today a lot of them complain about non-availability of maids/servants in their locality. This is a simple but great measure of social mobility in India when the lower strata of the society moves into the “neo-middle-class” segment and aspires for better jobs and better working conditions.

Yet, everywhere we go in Odisha today, people are asking for ‘change’. This is a strange phenomenon in Indian politics which has surfaced only recently. Last year we saw something similar happening to the popular Shivraj Singh government in Madhya Pradesh. Almost everybody was basically satisfied with the local BJP government but some still wanted to change the government for the heck of it. Of course, that undercurrent in Madhya Pradesh was more subtle, whereas here in Odisha it is more in your face. Consequently, BJP missed winning Madhya Pradesh just by a whisker – with even a 1.5-2% swing it could have won the state comprehensively – whereas in Odisha it is turning into a tidal wave.

This is why MAPi – Micro Analytics Projections (INTELLIGENCE) – trackers were showing on Tuesday about how BJP has made inroads in Odisha. For instance, our trackers in the seat of Cuttak which is an out and out BJD stronghold where the party has continuously won with huge margins, were showing that BJP was leading in Cuttack Sadar, Chowdwar, Barabatti and Athagarh assembly segments whereas BJD was ahead only in Banki and Khandapada segments. Cuttack this time was an interesting contest where former DGP of state police, Prakash Mishra was the BJP candidate taking on the powerful Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD. Being a former police chief, Mishra has a good network across the city and this is what helped him in the election. In the neighbouring capital of Bhubaneswar too BJP had a similar strategy wherein the high profile former IAS office Aparijita Sarangi has been put up. She is very popular in the city because of her cleanliness drive when she was the Municipal Commissioner here. It seems to have paid big dividends for BJP as this is a seat where BJP has lost its deposits so many times in the past but is poised to win this time around.

In the mining-rich Keonjhar seat where BJD had nominated the 25 year old daughter of former Congress MP, the contest looked more even. Although BJP was ahead in Keonjhar, Karanjia and Patna assembly segments, it is Ghasipura segment that will decide the winner as it is a BJD stronghold. On the other hand, Sambalpur saw a triangular contest where BJP has fielded Nitesh Ganga Deb. This is also one of the seats that has been classified as “tossup”. Of all the 6 seats that voted on Tuesday in Odisha, BJP is ahead in 3 and three others are tossups.

Uttar Pradesh – Vote for Modi in a tough phase for BJP

BJP has traversed through the Yadav heartland and emerged literally scot-free. This was the tough phase in UP when 10 seats where the Samajwadis had won 3 in 2014 went to polls on Tuesday. The Muslim-Yadav combo which has been at the heart of Mulayam Singh’s politics in Uttar Pradesh has its highest impact in this region making it virtually lethal for the SP. In at least 5 Lok Sabha constituencies here, the M-Y combo represents 40% or more voters which is why BJP found it so difficult even in the 2014 Modi wave to breach this fortress.

This time we have deployed MAPi – Micro Analytics Projections (INTELLIGENCE) – tracker extensively across Uttar Pradesh in order to understand voter behavior at the polling booth level. MAPi showed some interesting trends in the 5 Muslim-Yadav dominated seats on Tuesday which clearly indicates a counter-polarization among non-Yadav voters.

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What we observed in each of these seats is that although the M-Y combo is still working for the SP, BJP is managing to get a lion’s share of all other voters. Even the SC voters are tilted towards BJP which goes on to show that Mayawati’s voters are not fully backing the MGB. In fact, our live demographic tracker too was showing on Tuesday that only about 7 out of 10 Jatavs were voting for the MGB in this phase while other SCs were voting for BJP in equally large numbers – it must be noted here that in past elections, BSP-BJP vote-share split whenever they were in direct contest would be roughly 85-10 (5 going to others) among Jatav voters.

Take the case of Badaun for instance where sitting MP Dharmendra Yadav of SP is facing a stiff contest in the form of Dr. Sanghamitra Maurya daughter of Swami Prasad Maurya because she has managed to get a lot of “others” votes even as SP consolidated the core Muslim-Yadav vote bank. This was seen to a lesser extent in Sambhal where the M-Y combo has a decisive 50% vote. In Firozabad our tracker shows that the M-Y combo has stood by the SP despite of powerful rebel Shivpal Yadav being in the fray 

In the end analysis of these 5 seats, SP is definitely ahead in 2 while BJP is ahead in 1 seat of Etah where Rajveer Singh still enjoys the legacy of Kalyan Singh. Two seats, Firozabad and Badaun have been classified as “Tossups” by our tracker because of tough fight that BJP has put up here. MAPi tracker suggests that BJP has the capacity to upset the SP in Badaun, but Firozabad may be a lot more tougher as Shivpal Yadav doesn’t seem to have dented the SP as much as expected.

Among the other 5 seats that went to polls on Tuesday, 2 have been classified as tossups. Rampur is surprisingly in “tossup” category because our general expectation was that Azam Khan should easily sail through here with more than 40% Muslim population, but somehow Jaya Prada seems to have put up a fight which is why it is still in the undecided column. The other shift was Moradabad where our pre-poll tracker screen was showing a BJP lead (which was inadvertently published after phase 2 leading to many people trolling us endlessly), but after actual voting on Tuesday, it has now been classified as “tossup” 

BJP is easily ahead in Aonla, Bareilly and Philibit, thus making this phase an even contest unlike the first two where BJP had decent leads. After three phases and 26 seats having already voted, our MAPi tracker has given a clear edge to BJP with 16 seats going in its favor while the MGB is clearly ahead only in 2 seats and the remaining 8 seats are actually in tossup category. Since the next phases of Uttar Pradesh will be in more saffron territory, BJP still stands a chance of nearly repeating its 2014 performance defying all the expert opinions.

Why is BJP performing so well despite of a strong opposition coalition? There are four main reasons for this.

  1. Most average voters in UP vote to elect a Prime Minister in the Lok Sabha elections and the fact that the opposition is in no position to give a PM by winning just a dozen odd seats each in the state makes little logical sense to a vast majority of them.
  2. Counter polarization of castes is a working factor in 2019 election. In the first two phases it was basically Muslim-Jatav combo which was backing the MGB while all other castes had come together to support the BJP. Similarly, in phase 3 the M-Y combo was backing MGB while all other castes including section of Jatavs were seen to be voting for BJP.
  3. Vote transfer among allies is getting lost in translation. When one looks at the micro picture of say the Jatav vote being split along 70:30 lines (nearly 30% going to BJP) in phase 3, it may look as a smaller number, but when this is seen in the larger context, a much different picture gets painted. BJP getting even 3 out of 10 Jatavs in this phase or nearly 25% Yadav votes in the first 2 phases reduces the MGB vote-share by a factor of almost 2 out of 10 and also adds more to the BJP’s already substantial vote-base making this contest very uneven.
  4. The government schemes are enhancing the Modi charm among voters. In UP, you will come across at least one BJP worker or leader in every block, village or polling station area with a list of households in that region who have benefited from various Modi schemes like free LPG, toilets or even Jan Dhan. This timely reminder is making a huge difference to voting on the ground and it is something that no media is able to capture.

 

We have come across similar factorial indices in the neighboring state of Bihar too. In Bihar though the BJP has another numerical advantage of strong NDA coalition. We must understand that this is probably the first time that Modi, Nitish and Paswan are standing together on an electoral platform which essentially means the coming together of core BJP Hindu voters, the Mahadalit and EBC (Extremely Backward Castes) voters along with SC voters. One can also add a small section of Muslim voters to this amalgamation as many Muslims do vote for Nitish and Paswan in Bihar.

With such a strong coalition, NDA’s performance also is stellar. Our trackers are showing a virtual clean sweep in phase 3 as NDA is clearly ahead in 4 out of 5 seats that went to polls on Tuesday. It was only in a heavily Muslim dominated Araria that RJD could put up a fight and consequently that seat has been classified as “tossup”. We must remember that all these 3 phases where in areas with mostly NDA partners as contestants and BJP’s fight will only begin from the next phase.

(Karnataka and Gujarat have already been analyzed on Tuesday after polling, you can read it here. We have don’t have any trackers in the state of Chhattisgarh as our local teams have been disbanded there after last year’s assembly election fiasco.)

Based on all these factors here are projections for phase 3.

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