yotsyamanan avekse ‘ham
ya ete ‘tra samagatah
dhartarastrasya durbuddher
yuddhe priya-cikirsavah

 – Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1, verse 23

[Let me see those who have come here to fight, wishing to please the evil-minded son of Dhrtarastra]

“As you wouldn’t allocate a great chef the job of a chauffeur, those who have mastered the art of dharnas and protests mustn’t be given the job of governance” Narendra Modi averred on Saturday to wide applause from the crowd in Ram Leela Maidan and genuine laughter from his ministerial colleagues on the stage. The master communicator that he is, one of Modi’s great abilities is to attack the opposition on its weakest spot without really getting personal lest it backfires in the electoral milieu.

After Modi hit on the weakest nerve of AAP – their 49-day non-governance – the immediate consequences for Arvind Kejriwal’s party were quite pernicious. As we have seen time and again, Modi’s public rallies showcase the unique ability of creating a political double whammy of sorts, wherein his speeches not onlyenthuse BJP cadre and support base but also manage to utterly demoralize the opposition. We witnessed something similar in the last 2 days;

  1. Social Media, especially Twitter, is often considered as AAP’s best tool of political propagation and is therefore also a barometer of its preponderance. So, AAP supporters were trending the hashtag #DelhiAsksPMModi for many hours before the PM addressed his rally, but the moment Modi ridiculed Kejriwal’s anarchist philosophy, demoralization of AAP supporters became clearly apparent as the hashtag vanished almost without a trace and was replaced by #DelhiWithModi.
  2. Arvind Kejriwal and his party had organized a fundraising dinner in Bangalore (priced at about 20,000 rupees per invite) and had got a pledge of about 3 Cr rupees in advance, but the Modi speech changed the whole dynamics of that event as many of the targeted funders either failed to turn up or only donated a fraction of their promised capital. Eventually, the Kejriwal show in Bangalore only managed to raise about 1 Cr rupees, less than half of what was expected. (Some reports later suggested that AAP was able to mop-up 1.5 Cr rupees in Bangalore which was still substantially lower than what was pledged)
  3. In Bangalore, wherever Kejriwal travelled, he was constantly asked about his party’s chances in the wake of PM’s successful rally in Ram Leela Maidan. The situation went so haywire that finally Arvind had to pacify his audience by informing them that AAP’s internal surveys show 45% vote-share to their own party as against 41% to BJP, but not many were convinced with these alleged findings.

Apart from the political masterstroke of an attack on AAP’s anarchy, the Modi speech in Delhi was quite a reinvention of the man who is now not just a mere election campaigner but also India’s ruler. So, for the first time, we heard his specific vision for the national capital. The familiar ’24/7 bijlee’ refrain received a new twist in Ram Leela Maidan where he brilliantly explained to the audience his government’s proposals to create multiple electricity providers for Delhi by using the mobile service providers’ analogy. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana also found special mention at considerable length in his speech as Modi understands that it is possibly the biggest achievement of his government so far as these 11 Cr new account holders (including some 19 lakh in Delhi itself) who never dreamt of visiting a bank earlier are concerned.

This unique message of governance that Modi manages to get across to his audience is a political ability of absolute rarity in India, where mere symbolism (of the secular-social kind mostly) has ruled the roost for many decades. Consequently, the opposition remains clueless on how to counter this Modi message of governance. Take Arvind Kejriwal himself, for instance, his big retort to Modi’s speech was that it was an insult to August Kranti of Anna Hazare in Ram Leela Maidan. It was exactly this kind of symbolism harping that hurt AAP and Kejriwal in the summer of 2014 and unless he reinvents himself with a clear message of governance, the anarchist stigma can potentially sink his ship once again.

Of course, one public rally cannot win you an election, especially not in Delhi – a state with a strong opposition leader and a hostile media editorial class biding its time to strike back on the unfriendly Modi government. As we witnessed over the last 2 days, many planted speculations about Modi-Shah being unhappy with the crowd in Delhi or about empty seats in Ram Leela Maidan or even suggestions of unenthusiastic clapping (Seriously? Has some enterprising journalist finally invented a clap-o-meter?), indicated how it is going to be a dirty, no-holds-barred battle in the national capital.

There are 13085251 voters in Delhi as per Election Commission’s final electoral rolls published just a week ago on the 5th of January. The two previous elections in the last 1-odd year indicate a turnout of around 65%, which means roughly 85 lakh voters could potentially exercise their franchise on February 7th. The logical progression of voter turnout as shown in the chart below should mean a ‘normal’ election as per the template of the last year of emerging political dynamics of Delhi – December 2013 was the season that saw the meteoric rise of the AAP and April 2014 witnessed a clean sweep by BJP with a clear 14% lead. At the outset, two broad possibilities of variation can occur in Delhi, both potentially producing a different result. AAP’s best chances of a victory or near-victory can come if there is an unusually high turnout, whereas a status quo or lower turnout is beneficial to the BJP. We must remember that even the unprecedented rise of AAP in December 2013 had come on the backdrop of a huge 8% rise in vote-share (about 17 lakh extra voters) as compared to 2008. Thus, the Delhi arithmetic tells us that any increase or decrease of more than 4% turnout could lead to dramatically different results.

  • A turnout in the logical-progression range of 80-90 lakhs could mean a close contest, but with clear advantage to BJP as it would indicate continuity from the LS poll results
  • Any turnout below 80 lakh voters could mean that AAP’s volunteer system has failed and the party may end up with very few seats, whereas BJP could emerge as a big winner
  • Any turnout above 90 lakh voters could potentially produce another stunner for AAP

At the macro-level, turnout could be a crucial factor unlike most other elections in India in the last few years, but the final tally of Delhi will be dependent mostly on the internal dynamics at the micro-level of specific constituencies. It is widely argued that a macro-contest with a national agenda in the national capital would help BJP, whereas a more localized contest benefits AAP, but there is some apparent fallacy in this argument.

Fact is that AAP was able to produce a stunning performance in 2013 and also 2014 because of the unprecedented mobilization of its volunteer base. But it is also a fact that AAP failed to convert mobilization of its volunteer base into tangible results in 2014 when BJP swept all the 7 seats in Delhi. For a new political party without organized cadre, maintaining such a high state of alertness through volunteers for more than a year could be a very difficult ask – even political adrenaline rush cannot last forever as most of the volunteers have their day jobs and lives beyond elections and protest dharnas.

In the December 2013 assembly elections, although AAP had won a whopping 28 seats out of 70, eleven of those victories or almost 40% of the seats that AAP won were with a margin of less than 5000 votes or roughly under 5% victory margin. What is more, BJP was the runner-up in 10 out of the 11 close victories of AAP. In fact, AAP had managed to scrape through in 8 out of the 13 very close contests with a less than 2000 vote margin (roughly below 2%), where once again BJP was the runner-up in 7 seats. Even with minor hara-kiri in the AAP volunteer ecosystem, Kejriwal’s party would be extremely vulnerable in these 8 very low margin seats.

Finally, although the contest in Delhi is mainly between BJP and AAP, the presence of Congress makes it a triangular contest in most seats. Congress is actually the big X factor this February as the party can easily make a difference between victory and defeat to the two main players. While BJP and AAP increased their vote counts by 12 lakhs and 4 lakhs, respectively, Congress party lost some 7 lakh votes from 2013 assembly elections to the 2014 LS polls. In normal electoral course, Congress party should get a vote count in the range of 12 lakhs and 19 lakhs, but if the party makes a secret pact with AAP, then how much of that vote will it be able to transfer is an important question that Delhi voters must answer.

In order to understand what Delhi thinks about the upcoming elections, we are conducting our first pre-poll survey in the next 10 days. Continuing with our best practices of keeping our surveys open to public scrutiny, we are publishing the proposed questionnaire below.

Questionnaire for Delhi Polls

Q1] Will you vote on February 7th?

Ans: A – Yes, B – No

Q2] (if the answer to Q1 is B) What is the reason for not voting?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q3] (if there is no response to Q2) Pick any of the following options for not voting;

Ans: A – Tired of too many elections, B – Bored with politics, C – Voting doesn’t make any difference and D – Other

Survey to be continued only with those respondents with answer A for Q1, else jump to Q21

Q4] Which Party are you planning to vote for?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q5] (if there is no response to Q4) Which Party are you planning to vote for?

Ans: A – Congress, B – BJP, C – AAP, D – Others (specify) and E – Not decided/can’t say

Q 6] Among the following two options what matters to you more for your voting preference?

Ans: A – Local candidate or B – Party/leadership

Q 7] Who is your favourite political leader in India today?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 8] (if there is no response to Q 7) Who is your favourite political leader in India today?

Ans: A – Rahul Gandhi, B – Arvind Kejriwal, C – Narendra Modi, D – Others (specify) and E – Don’t know/can’t say

Q 9] Who is best suited to be CM of Delhi?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 10] (if there is no response to Q 9) Who is best suited to be CM of Delhi?

Ans: A – Arvind Kejriwal, B – Harshvardhan, C – Sheila Dixit, D – Others (specify) and E – Don’t know/can’t say

Q 11] Which according to you was the winner among the following three?

Ans: A – 49-day Kejriwal government, B – 7-month Modi government or C – 15-year long Sheila Dixit Government

Q12] Reasons for Q 11 if one of the options is picked;

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 13] What according to you is the biggest issue for Delhi?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 14] Did Arvind Kejriwal make a mistake by not running the government for more than 49 days?

Ans: A – Yes, B – No, C – No opinion

Q 15] What is the one big disappointment with Modi government?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 16] What is the one big achievement of Modi government?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 17] Which political leader or party do you trust the most?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 18] Are you likely to change your voting decision in the next 4 weeks?

Ans: A – Yes, B – No, C – Can’t say

Q 19] (if the response to Q 18 is A) Which party are you most likely to change your vote to?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 20] (if there is no response to Q 19) Which party are you most likely to change your vote to?

Ans: A – Congress, B – BJP, C – AAP, D – Others and E – Don’t know/can’t say

Q 21] Did you vote in 2013?

Ans: A – Yes, B – No

Q 22] (if the answer to Q 21 is A) Which party did you vote for in 2013?

Ans: A – Congress, B – BJP, C – AAP and D – Others (specify)

Q 23] Did you vote in 2014?

Ans: A – Yes, B – No

Q 24] (if the answer to Q 23 is A) Which party did you vote for in 2014?

Ans: A – Congress, B – BJP, C – AAP and D – Others (specify)

Q 25] How long have you been a citizen of Delhi?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 26] What is your age (and Sex)?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 27] What is your state of origin?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 28] What is your religion?

Ans: A – Hindu, B – Muslim, C – Christian, D – Sikh and E – Others

Q 29] (if the response to Q 28 is A) What is your caste?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 30] (if there is no response to Q 29) What is your caste?

Ans: Refer to caste booklet and enter appropriate response in the box

Q 31] What is your family size?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 32] What is your family’s annual income?

Ans: Response to be collected from respondents

Q 33] (if no response to Q 32) What is your family’s annual income?

Ans: A – Below 1 lakh, B – 1 lakh-3 lakh, C – 3 lakh-6 lakh, D – Above 6 lakh and E – Can’t say

The Questionnaire above has been prepared keeping our past experience of surveys in mind. Generally, such a 30+ question survey takes about 12-20 minutes to complete and has therefore been kept as simple as possible to not bore the respondents. Accurate random sampling and high response rates will be wasted if the information gathered is built on a shaky foundation of ambiguous or biased questions. Hence, we take utmost care to present the most neutral questionnaire without too many complexities for an average respondent to understand. Creating good measures involves both writing good questions and organizing them to form the questionnaire. Since our teams have conducted such political surveys in the past, no pilot tests will be performed among focus groups and direct polling will be carried out forthwith.

Generally, we have three types of Questions as part of our survey – 1] Voluntary response questions, 2] Suggestive response questions and 3] Phased response questions. By posing these three types of questions, we are gathering two types of responses – A] Factual Response and B] Speculative Response. We usually give higher weightage to voluntary responses than the suggestive responses but have different weightage points for different category of questions.

The structure and architecture of this questionnaire is designed after years of experience. For instance, most surveys collect factual data at the beginning and then move on to collect opinions (speculative responses), but our experience has taught us that respondents are more comfortable in answering queries about their caste/religion after a few minutes of interaction and once the trust factor has been established between the interviewer and the respondent, so we have placed those questions at the last. We ask voting preference at the very outset because today’s voters, especially in urban areas like Delhi, are more frank and open about their political preferences and it also gives us an opportunity to record any change by the end of the survey. Some opinion questions have been deliberately kept as “voluntary only” responses because we have learnt from our experience that voters tend to simply pick an option (if provided) without thinking – an important example of this is in the opinion about the ‘big issue’ that matters to voters where most voters blindly pick “corruption” as an option without really thinking through.

If you have any suggestions to improve the above questionnaire, please share them with us in the comments section below and we promise to make necessary changes – provided the suggestions are feasible enough.