Within 6 months of voting differently, rural Rajasthan has totally shifted in the summer of 2019. Past electoral cycles generally showed the party forming a government in the state would go on to sweep in the subsequent Lok Sabha elections held within 6 months in Rajasthan. This has been true in 2004, 2009 and 2014. But then, electoral cycles do get disrupted when powerful forces are at work. Rahul Gandhi had promised to implement “loan-waiver within 10 days of coming to power… if it doesn’t happen, I will remove the CM on the 11th day!” during his campaign in the state just few months ago.
Almost 5 months later no loan waiver has been given which has made the rural voters extremely angry. In any case, last year’s defeat of the Vasundhara Raje government was a freak of political nature. It is a unique problem that the BJP and the Sangh Pariwar face in many states like Rajasthan, Punjab and Karnataka where the RSS volunteers and a large number of party workers work against their own state governments because they believe that the state leadership is not in tune with the core agenda and ideology. As long as BJP will derive at least some electoral machinery from the ‘ideologically puritanical’ RSS and its affiliated organizations, this problem will continue to manifest in elections.
Thus, just 5 months later, Rajasthan today afternoon has been bathed in a saffron sea. Even the much touted “Ajmer experiment” where Congress had won a by-poll a year ago and had put the Vasundhara Raje government on notice period seems to have failed today. BJP is leading almost everywhere. It looks like a repeat of 2014 in this desert state which in turn would mean that Congress party’s options are all falling asunder as this would be the second state after Karnataka where it is not performing despite having a state government in place.
Another part of India that is seeing a saffron sea has to be the Mumbai Metropolitan Region which consists of 8 Lok Sabha seats. There has been a lot of talk about Urmila Matondkar giving Congress the edge and Priya Dutt rediscovering the Sunil Dutt touch and Milind Deora getting the support of top industrialists like Mukesh Ambani. There was also this high pitched campaign by Raj Thackeray which was supposed to have put the NDA on the back-foot in the financial capital of India. Many Marathi analysts were even telling me during my visits to the state that Shiv Sena will pull the NDA down due to the Raj factor.
All those doubters should come and see how Shiv Sena is doing today. Especially the party strongholds like Thane and Kalyan where Raj Thackeray has had near zero impact on the Shiv Sena’s core voters. Indeed, all over Mumbai, there is hardly any Raj impact – and this is supposed to be the MNS (Raj’s now half-defunct state party) stronghold. This is why I had written the other day that most Maharashtrian voters tend to look at Raj as a nice entertaining sideshow rather than derive any serious political current from him.
In the north, Uttar Pradesh is once again back to giving BJP the important leads among other OBCs and upper caste segments along with non-Jatav SC voters. The strong counter-polarization among these sections of society is the unique feature of this election because of the coming together of the Yadavs, Muslims and Jatavs with the sole purpose of defeating Modi. BJP had also taken insurance against localized anti-incumbency by changing 6 sitting MPs out of the 13 seats that are voting today in UP which seems to have helped the party on the ground – although it must be stressed here that for a vast majority of voters, the local candidate doesn’t matter and the vote is generally for Modi.
Data clearly shows that BJP’s biggest trump card is Modi whereas the MGB (Mahagathbandhan) has just caste arithmetic as its trump card. The variation though crops up only when we scratch the surface. Almost 3 times more voters who are voting for the opposition alliance are voting on the basis of local candidates which is the reason why there is transmission glitch concerning smooth vote transfer between the SP and the BSP. On the other hand, local candidate is virtually irrelevant for the BJP voters.
Two examples of this electoral dichotomy were seen today in Uttar Pradesh. In the high profile battle for Unnao, where SP has put up Arun Shankar Shukla against BJP’s Sakshi Maharaj and Congress party’s Annu Tandon, the Samajwadis are facing stiff resistance from local BSP workers and voters because of long battles with between the two parties. On the other hand, in Misrikh, Yadav voters are refusing to go with the BSP’s Neelu Satyarthi because of history of local political disputes.
For BJP voters, the choice is clearly just Modi which is why even unpopular leaders are getting good traction. One small creeping worry for the BJP is that some of its Karyakartas are beginning to sense an easy victory and therefore may not be putting as much effort as is needed in these next rounds of electioneering.
In Bengal and Odisha too, BJP’s eastern march continued today. As we had elucidated in the morning, a lot of fence-sitters and swing voters in both these states are beginning to shift to BJP because they sense that change is in the air. This has been the problem for the BJP in the past in the eastern political peninsula, the party never got to a point from where it could be considered as a serious contender by the swing voters to make a difference to the party’s tally.
BJP has put up some serious local candidates along with expending considerable amounts of resources during election time which has given the party that crucial fighting chance in both Odisha and Bengal for a large enough pie of swing voters. As per many ground estimates, BJP is spending as much money, if not more than that as of TMC and BJD in Bengal and Odisha respectively. This is a crucial factor in this day and age for a party to perform well in the electoral arena.
For instance, in Krishnanagar, there is a massive polarization along Hindu-Muslim lines, but that would not have been enough for the saffron party to win the seat. By giving ticket to Kalyan Cahubey, the former Indian football captain, BJP has got the plus votes too today. Similarly in Ranaghat where Modi held a massive rally just days ago, the Matuas seem to be backing the BJP in a big way as per our data so far. Matua community votes are crucial for BJP’s success in Bengal and data till now suggests that BJP seems to have successfully wooed them.
All in all, these are happy tidings for the BJP on the 4th day afternoon of 2019 elections. The saffron party is standing tall, even as the opposition is losing ground with each passing hour. Unless there is some kind of a miracle that saves the Congress party and the opposition in the next few hours, by today evening the election may be over for all practical purposes and intents!
[There will be more updates from other battleground states by late evening]