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“Nobody really knows what is the Congress game plan in Uttar Pradesh” rued a local journalist from Prayagraj, “Priyanka Gandhi has campaigned with great vigor and has woken up a dead organization, only to end up hurting the Mahagatbandhan and strengthening the hands of Modi”. This is something that we have been hearing a lot since the last phase of election when Amethi and Rae Bareli voted on Monday last. There is a sense one gets from various cross sections of people that Priyanka Gandhi has managed to revive a moribund Congress organization in the central and eastern Uttar Pradesh. 

It is getting some traction in our tracker poll too. For instance, we saw last time how Congress had emerged as a strong third pole in various Lok Sabha Constituencies like Banda, Barabanki, Bahraich, Mohanlalganj and others. When we do a deeper dissection of data, it is quite clear that Congress is attracting the highest votes among Scheduled Castes and Muslims, both segments of population generally expected to back the MGB alliance against the BJP. Why is Priyanka adding strength to her party using opposition votes only to help Modi will remain a mystery for many of the liberal-secular intellectuals of Uttar Pradesh. One farfetched explanation that is offered suggests that the Gandhis first want to finish the regional players and then take on BJP ‘one on one’ in 2024. “After all they do have time on their side, they are both still young and Modi is already nearing 70” an ex Congress legislator theorized last week in Lucknow.

Whatever the future beholds, in the current election scenario, Congress is definitely aiding BJP at the margins in many places. In many of these seats, despite Priyanka’s efforts, Congress may just get about 50k or 1 lakh votes, but even this attrition from the opposition helps the BJP in a tight contest. Let us look at 3 examples in today’s polling.

In Sultanpur, Maneka Gandhi was facing a tough contest after having switched seats with her son Varun Gandhi, because of the arithmetic of SP-BSP alliance. Under normal circumstances, she may have struggled to retain this seat, but not only did Congress put up Sanjay Singh of the Amethi royal family as its candidate but also Priyanka Gandhi held a well attended roadshow in his favor last week – there are even murmurs of conspiracy theory that Priyanka is actually trying to help her aunt win by dividing the opposition votes. In today’s MAPi – Micro Analytics Projections (INTELLIGENCE) trackers, Maneka enjoyed a small edge over the opposition alliance.

Similarly, in Sant Kabir Nagar, Congress has given ticket to powerful two-time Samajwadi MP, Balchandra Yadav who has his own following among Yadavs and Muslims in at least three assembly segments of the constituency. In today’s poll, once again our trackers showed that Praveen Nishad (who had famously defeated the BJP in Gorakhpur bypolls last year) of the BJP has got a massive consolidation of NJ-SCs, upper caste Hindus and NY-OBCs, including the 3-lakh strong Nishad voters, while the opposition vote stood divided into two halves.

Another strange example of this was seen in Pratapgarh today. Here the Congress has given ticket to an upper caste, local Maharani Ratna Singh Thakur, ostensibly to hurt the BJP, but she may have ended up hurting the opposition alliance in turn. There were four strong candidates in fray here, along with Raja Bhaiya’s party also being in some competition. The problem was all three opposition candidates were upper castes, while BJP had bet smartly on Apna Dal’s OBC MLA, Sangamlal Gupta. Despite 4 upper castes being in fray, majority of that vote seems to have gone to BJP in a four-way split, while the OBC vote has consolidated for the Lotus. The Congress meanwhile has taken away a chunk of the so called “secular” vote and hurt the alliance prospects.

Overall, BJP seems to have done reasonably well today in Uttar Pradesh, considering the arithmetic of the opposition alliance. Of course, the saffron party is unlikely to repeat the 2014 performance of winning 13 out of 14 seats in this phase, but it may not lag much far behind. We will do a detailed analysis of Uttar Pradesh some time this week, once we have the full data available on our servers.

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In the neighboring Madhya Pradesh where BJP had faced strong headwinds in the last two phases of election, our expectation for today was something similar. Surprisingly though, Madhya Pradesh seems to have turned the tables in this phase. The saffron party has put up an unusually strong show today which will ensure a solid finish to the innings on the last day in the Malwa belt.

To be sure, three of the seats that went to polls today have been BJP strongholds for over three decades now. Ever since the BJP’s rise on the back of the Ram Janam Bhoomi andolan in the 1989 elections, BJP has never lost in Bhopal, Bhind and Vidisha, so unless there was major churning, our statistical models would have been reluctant to shift these seats to Congress. Today’s performance by the BJP has been pretty strong in these 3 seats and the party should retain all of them with consummate ease. Yes, even the high profile Digvijay Singh versus Sadhvi Pragya contest may have ended in favor of the BJP. About 25% data is yet to flow in from Madhya Pradesh, and also we still need to map the turnout differential, but it would be safe to assign Bhopal to the Hindu Sadhvi in this contest. The voters of Madhya Pradesh seem to have avenged the “Hindu Terror” (sic) tag by defeating the Congress party and Digvijay Singh

Overall, of the 8 seats that went to polls today, BJP seems to have an edge in 6 of them, while Congress is definitely winning the Guna seat. One seat has been classified as tossup. These are based on trends till about 5 PM and should hold through barring some unexpected reversals in the last two hours which is very unlikely. This is a powerful performance by the BJP and will certainly give the party a booster dose before the final phase next Sunday.

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The trends in the national capital of Delhi remained unchanged from the afternoon report with BJP enjoying clear edge in all the seven seats. In Haryana though, there was a slight change, as BJP is now ahead in 8 seats, while MAPi – Micro Analytics Projections (INTELLIGENCE) – trackers have classified two in the tossup category. We will need to fully analyze the data as we go along. This is one state perfectly made up for a sweep like situation in favor of the BJP because of divided opposition and very high levels of Modi popularity.

West Bengal has continued to surprise us with the saffron momentum. BJP seems to have made unexpected gains in the Jangalmahal region as already reported in the noon report. Bihar and Jharkhand data is a bit delayed, but these two states have remained remarkably stable and there is no reason to believe otherwise even in today’s polling. Bihar, especially has shown total sweep like tendencies from the very first day on April 11th.

At the end of the sixth phase, BJP has remained solidly anchored at around 36% vote-share and 283 MP seats (with 31 being smaller leads and 252 being stronger leads). It is increasingly becoming apparent though that the party can possibly touch the 300-seat mark with about two dozen seats still being in the tossup category. The so called “black swan event” of 2014 is not only likely to repeat, but with even greater force this time around. This will surely send the Pundits running for cover, to search new terminologies to describe this new India and her leader Narendra Bhai Damodardas Modi.