There is a strange myth among psephologists, electoral experts and even political analysts about the 2004 phenomenon which essentially involves a theory that BJP and Vajpayee were way ahead of Congress in the beginning of the election and then lost their way through the election campaign. Often the India Shining campaign is sighted as an example of how the momentum in an election shifts from one party to the other. The 2004 NDA defeat is used as an albatross around BJP’s neck to always suggest that the party is vulnerable to losing electoral momentum in long drawn election campaign.

This electoral myth is so strong that even eminent Right leaning political commentators like Swapan Das Gupta subscribe to this theory unabashedly. For instance during the course of the previous CNN-IBN election tracker debate, Swapan da pointed out on more than one occasion about how Vajpayee led NDA had won more seats in the first phases of election but lost momentum in the latter half. In fact, this myth is so powerful in the political analysis culture of India that even we have been guilty of invoking it many a times to explain why the Modi campaign could potentially lose the initial advantage it enjoys.

In 2004 Vajpayee didn’t lose momentum. That is the absolute truth. Fact is that BJP-NDA never had the electoral momentum in their favour so there was no question of losing the momentum! Vajpayee and BJP were not just fighting against the opposition but were also fighting against one of the worst droughts in independent India’s history, so they had absolutely no chance in hell to win 2004! We are possibly one of the only political analysts who have explained the 2004 defeat in reality

In fact, hard data of 2004 tells a story absolutely contrary to what the popular political myth has been propagating. Let us try and clinically destroy this myth once and for all;

  • Contrary to popular belief, BJP lost almost all states in the first two phases of the 2004 election in April (20thand 26th). In the first phases BJP lost huge number of seats in Andhra Pradesh (combined NDA tally only 5 out of 42), Assam (NDA tally 3 out of 14) and Jharkhand (BJP won just a solitary seat out of 14). The party gave one of its worst performances in recent memory in Gujarat winning just 14 out of 26 seats and underperformed in Maharashtra where it could just win 13 seats. The only exceptions in the first phases were Karnataka and Chhattisgarh
  • In the second phases of elections during May 5th and 10th, BJP actually won some of its biggest victories; for instance, the two huge victories of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan happened in May.
  • To further destroy the myth of BJP losing momentum in 2004, we must take a look at the heartland and the two crucial states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In UP, BJP won just 3 out its total tally of 10 seats in the 1st phase of polling in April with a strike rate of just 10%, whereas in the second phase of May, BJP won 7 seats with a better strike rate of 15%. Similarly, in Bihar, NDA’s strike rate in the second phase was a huge 40% when they won 5 out of 12 seats in May but could only win 6 out of 28 seats in April!

One thing is absolutely clear from the above examples – BJP doesn’t suffer from any particular disease of “losing electoral momentum”. Thus, if the secular socialists were hanging on to a last straw of Modi losing momentum, they would possibly be unpleasantly surprised on May 16th 2014. If the first phase of elections are anything to go by, then it is quite clear that Modi and BJP have the momentum with them.

So, what exactly is happening in the 2014 elections? Broadly, three trends are emerging. We have classified these trends into different political subcategories;

1)     The demographic dividend – Youth voting patterns

2)     Social engineering – the caste based voting patterns

3)     The Islamic electoral franchise

The demographic dividend

One of the most important voting subsections of Indian society today are the youth, who neither have any socialist baggage nor are held prisoner by the political brand of uber-secularism of pandering to the minorities. The youth voters from under the age group of 35 seem to have found their expression in this election in the form of NaMo. From Maharashtra to UP to Assam, BJP is scoring big on the young voters. The support for BJP among first time voters (below the age group of 22) is as high 49% whereas the overall youth vote is at about 42% after the first phase of polling. In fact the gap is so wide that the second placed Congress is almost less than half of the BJP score as of now!

If this youth vote revolution continues in other parts of India (as was also visible in Assam) then BJP may actually end up crossing the 30% vote-share mark nationally which is the threshold mark from where political parties can launch themselves into single party rule! It looks unlikely as of now that the other parties would be able to make any change in the choice of the young voters in future phases of electioneering.

Social engineering

Every decade throws up a new format of social engineering which creates its own electoral philosophy. If the 90’s was the decade of OBC mobilization, the 2000s was the era of stability for economic growth (which gave Congress two wasted mandates). 2014 will probably be remembered as the harbinger of a new electoral cycle in which the manadalization process was reversed and caste-lines got blurred to create what we have always been advocating – the united spectrum of Hindu vote.

When was the last time we came across a political leader who could totally obliterate caste-line of voting? When was the last time a non-Yadav leader got more Yadav votes than Yadav based parties in the heartland? When was the last time a non-Jat revered by Jats in such overwhelming numbers? When was the last time that such levels of amalgamation of the Hindu vote seen across the geographies? The only example that comes to mind is probably 1984, but then, 84 was an abnormal election held under extraordinary circumstances.

Let me give you a raw number from our Uttar Pradesh sample – out of the 244 random Jat voters sampled across western UP, a whopping 172 voted for the BJP! Any serious statistician or psephologist will tell you that such numbers have never been polled by any political party; no, not even Chaudhary Charan Singh at the peak of his prowess could have hoped for such one-sided voting.

Maybe that is not sufficient enough to dazzle you, so let me throw another set of numbers at you; in our western UP sample, BJP got 81 Yadav votes while SP got 67, similarly in Bihar, while BJP got 145 Yadav votes, RJD-Congress combine managed 101. These raw numbers tell you an almost incredible story, a story in which exclusively Yadav based parties led by powerful Yadav chieftains like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav are trailing behind a supposedly Hindutvawadi party which was perceived in popular culture to be an upper caste dominated ideological expression of the Sangh. Truly, one Teli leader from western India seems to have totally transformed not just the BJP but also the entire ideology of the Sangh!

What is truly amazing is that despite incorporating the backward castes in such a big way, Modi seems to be the number one choice of both Brahmins as well as Thakurs by a huge distance. It would take us months and months of analysis after the elections to just explain this unprecedented Hindu unity. But there is also a danger that Modi and the BJP face after the dust of 2014 settles down, that danger will pose itself in the form of a very important question – how will the diverse interests of these disparate castes and social groups be addressed in the coming years by the BJP? The answer to that question will probably tell us if this new social engineering is long lasting.

Interestingly, BJP is still not the number one choice among the Dalit voters almost everywhere, which tells us that other parties still stand a chance if they can aggressively get their minority-Dalit consolidation right (the reason why Mayawati seems to be suddenly back in action). There is one caveat though, our Dalit vote sample size is much lower than all other castes and social subgroups (in phase 1), which we hope to rectify in the next phases by creating even better methodologies.

The Islamic electoral franchise

First of all let me give you a stunning statistic. On the first day of polling in Bihar, more Muslims seem to have voted for BJP than JDU! Yes, this is astounding but true, the very reason why Nitish Kumar divorced the BJP seems to have been turned upside-down. We believe that our findings about Muslim voters from Bihar are statistically consistent and have been reported from multiple nodes spread across 3 different districts. How does one explain this historic change in Muslim vote?

  • The M.J. Akbar reasoning of Modi’s Bihar moment when he chose to ignore the bombs and urged Hindus and Muslims to fight poverty rather than each other seems to have gone down well with at least a section of Muslim voters of Bihar
  • LJP joining the NDA may have altered the dynamics of convenient secularism political construct which changes any political party from being secular to communal almost overnight at the drop of a hat
  • Maybe this is just limited to pockets of phase one and in the next phases Muslim vote may not accrue to BJP at all. This is definitely an electoral phenomenon limited to Bihar as nowhere else is BJP getting any substantial numbers of Muslim votes

Another aspect of the Muslim vote is its historic consolidation against the BJP with only the sole intention of defeating the saffron party. This has been a secular tool that has been used time and again by a vast number of political parties to scare BJP’s potential allies into meek submission and its potential voters into a strategic rethink. 2014 will probably go down in history as the election that turned the tide against minority vote consolidation.

Not only has the Muslim vote not consolidated, but even the turnouts have been less impressive in Muslim dominated areas which only goes on to suggest the disinterest of the Muslim voter towards 2014 who seems to be almost resigned to a NaMo prime ministership.

Thus the phase one trend seems to be very clear in overall terms at least as there is an unprecedented Congress meltdown and an almost a historic consolidation behind BJP. We will of course do a far more robust analysis of different states that went to polls on April 10th over the next 3 days which will give us a clearer picture with actual vote-share and seat share-projections.

[Note: This is the first of our three part series on the first day of polling (April 10th), in the next two parts we will be dealing with each state individually and also doing our projections]