Hazaron Saal Nargis Apni Benoori Pe Roti Hai
Bari Mushkil Se Hota Hai Chaman Mein Didahwar Paida

– Iqbal
[For a thousand years the narcissus has been lamenting its blindness;
With great difficulty the one with true vision is born in the garden.]

“Main tho chaandi ki jooti maar kar vote loonga” (I will win by the sheer force of money power) was one of the favourite brags of Bawa Bachittar Singh a future mayor of Delhi in the run-up to the very first 1951 assembly elections to the city-state. Bawa Bachittar Singh was the official Congress candidate from Pahargunj area which was classified as Jhandewalan assembly seat in the 1952 assembly elections and was well-known to be a part of the Nehru-Coterie in the then recently independent Delhi. In fact, Bawa Bachittar Singh’s wealth and power was so overwhelming that he was often described in the local press as the “uncrowned king of Delhi” and, consequently, he was among the frontrunners to be the next Chief Minister of the city-state.

A carpenter by profession and a man who had made his own destiny in the city of Peshawar where he had revived a dying school and established the Salwan Sanatan Dharam High School in 1942, but who was later forced to flee Pakistan as a Hindu refugee, Girdhari Lal Salwan was the refugee who had taken on Bawa Bachittar Singh as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh candidate in that 1951 assembly election for Delhi. The whole of Delhi was expecting Bawa Bachittar Singh to simply crush Salwan in what was then dubbed as a non-contest.

In fact, it is recorded by one of Girdharilal’s biographers that Bawa Bachittar Singh had grown so arrogant that he had once, during the election campaign, openly advised Mr. Salwan, “You are a Brahmin, you just look after your school and daily prayers. Don’t get into the murky and expensive business of politics and elections”. But Delhi had the gumption to surprise even in that era of no television or social media. Girdhari Lal Salwan emerged victorious by less than 300 votes and Bawa Bachittar Singh had to suffer the shock of his life as a newly independent Delhi chose a refugee over Congress’s “chaandi ki jooti”.

For the next 40-odd years, the Delhi assembly was abolished and it was converted into a metropolitan council, but when Delhi regained its assembly status in 1993, the first Chief Minister to assume office was once again a refugee from Pakistan, Madan Lal Khurana. To that extent Delhi has always been a city of refugees and migrants. At first, it was all those Pakistani Hindus who were driven out of the country – just after 1947, Delhi with a population of 9 lakhs then, received 470000 refugees from western Punjab and Sindh. Then, in the post-partition years, many other migrants started moving into Delhi from other parts of India mainly from UP and other North Indian states in search of livelihood. Since 80’s and 90’s, after Calcutta lost its lustre, Biharis have been migrating in large numbers into Delhi – Biharis who constituted merely 19% of the migrant population in the 70’s had increased up to 33% by 1991.

In the last two odd decades, the demographic composition of Delhi has undergone a sea change. A city that was once dominated by Punjabis (especially after the migration due to partition) is today a mix of various other hues like Poorvanchalis, Paharis, Jats and Gujjars. In this sense, unlike other big cities of India that have a core ethnic identity – Marathi soul of Mumbai or the agitational Bengali heart of Kolkata – Delhi is a truly cosmopolitan city-state with no particular group dominating her.

Any electoral analysis of Delhi wouldn’t be complete without understanding the sub-regional variations. In the 2013 elections, urban Delhi was at the heart of AAP’s meteoric rise where the party had won 50% of its seats. Yet, by the time we witnessed the 2014 LS polls, the same AAP was wiped out of urban Delhi where the party secured leads in only 1 out of 20 assembly segments in New Delhi and Chandni Chowk. The middle classes and urban voters had been disillusioned by Kejriwal’s 49-day non-governance. Thus, AAP had moved more to the poorer parts of Delhi and also to the periphery.

Another aspect of AAP’s phenomenal rise last time was the party’s tremendous traction in the reserved category seats where it won 9 out of 12 contests and BJP was restricted only to 2 SC MLAs. This time there are two factors to watch out for. First, BJP under Amit Shah has made very strong efforts in wooing Dalits and backward castes of Delhi by even inducting a long time Congresswoman like Krishna Tirath. Second, AAP’s freshness quotient is much lower this time and the party is facing quite a bit of localized anti-incumbency in at least 6 of the SC reserved constituencies. For instance, Patel Nagar, where AAP has replaced its very unpopular super-rich sitting MLA, Veena Anand, a Jatav, with a Khatig, Hazari lal Chauhan who is himself facing regular local barbs in an anti-dowry case is a typical example of a party that is trying too hard to play the sub-caste game and instead finding itself in a soup. There are roughly 20 lakh Dalit voters in Delhi who are being wooed by both BJP and AAP meticulously this time. In fact, our own poll survey surprised us where it seemed BJP had found favour from almost as many Dalit respondents as AAP.

This changing dynamic of AAP-type agitational politics is a very clear example of how the Delhi electoral landscape is now reflecting the reality of January 2015. AAP is now as much a regular political party as others in the fray and voters cannot really make any distinction as they did last time. Take the case of a high profile constituency like Patparganj where Manish Sisodhia is facing his own former party colleague, Vinod Kumar Binny as the challenger. It is no longer a walk over for Sisodhia as BJP is putting all-out efforts in giving him a tough fight, especially in wooing Poorvanchalis and Paharis who had voted for the saffron party in large numbers in the summer of 2014.

BJP’s consistent growth among the Poorvanchalis, Paharis and Punjabis over the last couple of years was then complimented by its tremendous traction in urban Delhi in the LS polls. Congress on the other hand has been in consistent decline throughout all demographics which may have now extended to even Muslims. Yet, Congress may still make an impact in these elections by playing a spoilsport third player in the fold which may affect the swing factor.

One of the least analysed aspects in Indian elections is the swing factor which becomes even more important now in Delhi because of back-to-back contests over the last year or so. The rise of AAP in Delhi in 2013 was powered by the urban population of Central Delhi, viz. New Delhi and Chandni Chowk areas, from where AAP had won maximum seats in 2013. The swing factor here is interesting to note in comparison to the LS polls. In the 10 seats of Chandni Chowk, AAP had secured a total vote-share of 32% in December 2013, which remained consistent even in the LS polls of April 2014 when the party retained 31% vote-share. BJP which was on equal footing with AAP in December 2013 at 31% vote-share had taken a quantum leap towards 45% in the LS polls. This is where we see the limitation of AAP’s growth in contrast to BJP’s tremendous rise which is also reflected in our poll survey.

A 12.5% swing in favour of the BJP from 2013 December to 2014 April had resulted in the saffron party winning 28 more seats which meant more than 2 seats for every percentile increase in vote-share. AAP which had actually gained 4.5% vote share had managed to lose 19 seats within those same 4 months. Our vote-share projections for the upcoming assembly elections based on our survey findings until now suggest that BJP is gaining 7% as compared to the last assembly elections but losing some 5% as compared to its overwhelming performance in the LS polls. On the other hand, AAP has remained more-or-less static in that 30 to 33% range.

Converting these vote-swings into actual seat-shares has been one of the shortcomings that we at 5Forty3 datalabs have been grappling with. As there are no fool-proof mathematical constructs to derive seat-shares from vote-share data in a complex electoral geography like India, we have been constantly trying to improve our statistical modelling techniques. After a long struggle, we have made some progress in this direction as we are finally very close to a tentative model for solving this tricky problem.

Although a detailed research paper on a statistical model for converting vote-shares to seats will be presented later in accordance with our consultant statistician Prof L. Shrikant, here we present some basic tenets pertaining to our present survey of Delhi. In the past, most of our seat-share derivatives were based on percentage data, but now as more and more robust raw data becomes available, we are essentially using direct vote-patterns to arrive at seat projections. Here we are presenting a simpler version for interpreting data in the present context.

For instance in Delhi, assuming that 82 lakh people exercise their franchise on February 7th, the average median turnout in the 70 constituencies would be roughly 1 lakh 18 thousand. Considering BJP for the current example, we can project that the party could secure around 33 lakh votes in Delhi. Now extrapolating the 2013 data, we can assign a median figure of 48000 votes for those seats that BJP has to win (i.e. BJP should get at least an average of 48k votes to win a seat), 35000 median votes for those seats where the party will be in runner-up position, 24000 median votes for those seats where BJP would be in the third position and so on and so forth. We can thus distribute projected raw votes of all the parties to arrive at different seat matrices to get maximum and minimum possible seat-shares for each individual party.

The different seat matrices are then parsed through sub-regional (in the case of Delhi, the three subdivisions) vote-strengths of different parties to arrive at a more robust final number. Based on the vote-share projections of our survey findings reported yesterday, here is what the next Delhi assembly should resemble.

One of the aspects that we analysed yesterday was regarding Congress party’s transformation as a sub-regional micro-electoral player. This is what we may see in Delhi too. In fact, this is the only way that opposition can challenge the almost hegemonic rise of the BJP, by having secret sub-regional, seat by seat understanding among the opposition parties in the last days leading up to the campaign. This strategy did succeed in Maharashtra where reportedly all the three parties (Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP) had reached some understanding among themselves for a few seats which prevented BJP from winning an outright majority.

In an urban milieu like Delhi transferring votes at the last moment may not be easy, but Congress can leverage its position as a micro-sub-regional player and have some sort of an understanding with AAP where it may try and withdraw its candidates from the fight in order to defeat BJP. In today’s India, fighting an election in coalition with Congress can be detrimentally counterproductive, so the only logical way forward is to try and leverage opposition vote-bases in a covert way.

[The second 5Forty3-Swarajya survey would be conducted from February 1st to February 5th when we shall see how the vote-shift patterns have been affected in the immediate vicinity of polling day.]

Note: Our poll survey was conducted in 381 locations of carefully chosen 121 swing polling stations spread across 42 representative assembly segments. We had a target sample-size of 3260, but were able to achieve 2945 pre-determined respondents derived from Delhi voter-rolls using our path-breaking filtering mechanisms. Of these, 1360 respondents were female and 1585 respondents were male. Adequate representation was given to all castes/religions and different economic classes of the Delhi society. While deriving the final numbers from our survey findings, proper statistical modelling techniques were followed giving requisite weightage to modified census data based on our own methodologies. All our interviewees went to the homes/places of dwelling of the respondents to conduct the interview in a clear language that all Delhi citizens could understand. We incurred a cost-per-response rate of 90 rupees including all the overheads. Part of the capital was raised through crowd-sourcing, but mostly was met through self-funding by Swarajya-5Forty3.