Deep Down South (no we are not even touching TamilNadu yet)

YoYa: The South is likely to witness a series of critical elections that can shape the future of state politics. But precisely for this reason, the Lok Sabha election is likely to be focused on regional issues and personalities. Modi vs Rahul presidential-style contest makes no sense here. The BJP has low stakes in the region, as it won only 22 seats here in the last election, of which 17 came from Karnataka. All indicators suggest that the BJP will remain a marginal player in this region. The BJP’s attempt to acquire the AIADMK seems to have failed. The DMK appears to have taken an early lead in this critical first election after the departure of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, leaving the BJP in the cold. The BJP’s brazen stoking of communal passions in Sabarimala may help it make a breakthrough in Kerala. If so, it would be critical, but may not mean much in terms of numbers. Both Andhra and Telangana are likely to witness regional battles with little space for the BJP or the NDA, since Chandrababu Naidu has broken off from the BJP. The results of recent by-elections in Karnataka suggest that popular disgust with the Kumaraswamy coalition government may be overcome by the combined strength of the forced marriage between the JD(S) and the Congress. We do not know yet if the BJP would strike a rewarding alliance in Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh, but as of now, the BJP looks like it’s shedding 5-10 seats in this region.

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A Zero is a Zero and will remain a Zero in Kerala unless…

YRD: Agree with political observations; but not with the numbers. There is a big gain for Congress, but not coming from Karnataka. It’s coming from Kerala and Telangana. In Kerala, the upswing of BJP is taking down the Left front big time, which is by default helping Congress to sweep the state. Yes, BJP vote share is up, but it’s unlikely to open its account in Kerala at the moment. It is not a ‘small gain’ gain for Congress, its big gain of 8 seats for the party and 4 for the UPA allies, taking the net gain to 12 seats at the moment.

No matter how ironical it may sound, but the fact is that even with almost 17% votes, the BJP will continue to be counted as a big Zero party in Kerala. There is a threshold of next 5% swing that it has to breach in order to be counted as Party worth any weight in Kerala. Is it impossible? You can say that at your own risk if you must but looking at what happened in Tripura and also what is now happening in West Bengal, I would rather not advise you to. I was rather amused at the extent of coverage the Tripura elections got in Malayalam Media. Sometime Editors sitting in Lutyens are unable to comprehend what impact could counting in Agartala have on streets of Trivendrum.

Be my guest.

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Even if by going along with YoYa argument that BJP outside Karnataka is biz zero, there is hardly any loss of seats for BJP in this zone. The NDA is losing 18 seats at the moment, but that is largely due to TDP walking away. TDP is giving huge upswing to Congress in Telangana, which as per the latest CVoter poll can surprise everyone in upcoming Assembly elections. In the same tracker, our numbers have been clearly stating that YSRCP is sweeping Andhra Pradesh at the moment, but if TDP and Congress carry their successful bonhomie to Andhra, then Jagan’s party would be in trouble.  Our tracker also confirms the DMK sweep in TamilNadu.

BJP auctioned off Banjara Hills for the sake of Raisina Hills

But let me first burst a “Myth” of BJP being a big Zero in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana. Many senior analysts, including YoYa, have always tried to analyze as if TDP has resurrected BJP in Andhra. The fact is just opposite. It is the BJP that resurrected the TDP all the time. For the starters, let me take you back to 1998 Lok Sabha elections, when BJP had no alliance with Chandrababu Naidu. Any idea how many votes did BJP poll all alone in Andhra Pradesh? Almost 20%. Yes, you read it right. That vote share of BJP in 1998 virtually forced Chandrababu Naidu to get into a tie-up with BJP in 1999, and the BJP Central Leadership, way too eager to get into power, just surrendered its entire political capital to TDP on a platter.

Telangana is a perfect example when BJP has given away its regional growth at the cost of Central aspirations. On the record, BJP was the first major party to raise the demand of separate state of Telangana, only to give it away on a platter to new comer TRS under the pressure of TDP. In fact, the TDP experiment has only resulted in a loss of political asset for BJP on both the occasions. The growth of BJP in Telangana was purely on the demand of a new state, and once the party dumped it, there was a smart politician named KCR to pick it up and gain form all the momentum that was built for the state of Telangana. The Congress, BJP and TDP all either chose to be silent or speak against the split, only to benefit of TRS. Look at the vote share of different parties over last 30 years and you will understand this phenomenon.

The little-known fact is the BJP actually polled MORE than TDP in 1998 Lok Sabha elections in the 17 seats of Telangana. Contesting all alone, it polled 23.8% votes compared to 23.6% of TDP. The Congress polled 33.3% votes in 1998 and that raised the alarm for Chandra Babu Naidu who had captured the power by a political coup against NTR, who happened to be his father in law and founder of TDP. He asked for an alliance with BJP Central Leadership, which much against the wish and will of it’s local Telangana unit went ahead to seal the deal with TDP.

Remember, for all practical purpose, the 1998 elections had firmly placed BJP as the bigger party in Telangana over TDP in terms of Vote share and Seat share both. But somehow the BJP Central Leadership in order to get it’s Government at Raisina Hills, decided to auction off its Political assets at Banjara Hills. Such pathetic and suicidal was the negotiation from BJP in Telangana that even after polling more votes than TDP, it decided to contest only on, hold your breath, just 15 out of 119 Assembly segments and just 5 out of 17 Lok Sabha segments. 

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Nowhere in the election history of India we have witnessed such a blatant surrender of fortunes by the National leadership of a National party. The result was euphoric for the TDP as it won 61 out of 113 Assembly seats and a whopping 10 out of 12 Lok Sabha seats it contested. The 24% votes of BJP were simply transferred to TDP on a platter which polled 39% and BJP was reduced to a meagre 5% votes under the pathetic arrangement of BJP-TDP alliance.

And 5 years later, under the huge anti-incumbency the TDP managed to drown not just it’s own Government, but also the Vajpayee led NDA government. Look at the 2004 vote share and one can see the approx. 45% join vote share crashing down to approx. 37% votes altogether. The main gainer? Congress and newcomer TRS. The TRS picked up issue of Telangana precisely where the BJP dropped it.

To make the things worse, the TDP dumped BJP in 2009 Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha, only to find that TRS under KCR and Congress under YSR managed to sweep not just Telangana but the entire Andhra Pradesh. Completely thrown into oblivion, the TDP supremo wisely gauged the growing popularity of BJP under Modi in 2014 and again struck an alliance. This time BJP managed to get a respectable 45 assembly share to contest, but it was no more the old Telangana. The BJP political capital had switched lock stock and barrel to TRS by that time and the excitement of New State created a wave that put KCR as the first CM of the new state of Telangana.

But while the alliance came as a cropper for the BJP, it gave rich dividends for TDP in remaining Andhra Pradesh. In nut shell, the TDP leadership wisely made full retreat from Telangana to concentrate only on ‘remaining’ Andhra, where the twist in the tale came after unfortunate death of popular Congress CM YSR. We all know what happened with Jagan and his new party, but just the way the Telangana vote shares have never been discussed in proper context, the Andhra vote share in 2014 also were not discussed in the right context. The TDP+BJP lead over YRS was hardly 2% votes in “remaining” Andhra Pradesh in 2014. This small gap actually translated in disproportional number of seats for the TDP and grossly underrated performance of Jagan Mohan Reddy.

The tracker data shows that while YSR Congress has retained his vote share at 41%, but the virtual split of NDA by TDP has caused CBN’s vote share come crashing down to mere 31% votes. With Congress getting a traction of about 9% votes, it was a matter of utmost urgency for TDP to get this loss compensated by patching up with Congress.

It’s a win-win situation for both the parties as Congress gets a shot at Assembly elections in Telangana by virtue of this alliance and TDP gets the oxygen tank in Andhra. However, this tank is useful only to the extent that TDP-Congress contest together and YSR goes all alone. The moment we look into the probability of BJP and Jagan coming together, that very moment it opens up the same arithmetic equation that BJP-TRS combination throws up in Telangana. So, the best possible scenario for TDP-Congress combine in Andhra and Telangana are only in a scenario where BJP contests all alone, without any alliance partner in these two states.

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In a way, BJP has done the same blunder time and again in many states including Assam, Haryana and Maharashtra, till the duo of Modi-Shah decided to call this bluff. As a result, these States have BJP governments in place, something that could have happened 20 years back if the then BJP central leadership would have shown some spine. Ironically, Modi-Shah duo are somehow repeating that mistake in Odisha today. They are going soft on BJD at the moment due to realpolitik reasons but might lose the momentum of doing another ‘Tripura’ in the state of Odisha.

There is Old Mysore, and then there is “Rest of Karnataka”

Unlike the assertion of many, the BJP is not losing much in Karnataka even after the alliance of JDS and Congress. Here is the proof from the recently concluded bye-polls in three Lok Sabha seats of Karnataka where for the first the Congress-JDS alliance was pitted against the BJP candidates. Even in the much-hyped victory of Bellary, please see how BJP votes are more or less intact, and while in Shimoga, the BJP vote share actually went up further at the cost of Congress-JDS alliance. From a lead of 7% votes for the alliance in this Lok Sabha area during Assembly elections, it ended up trailing behind BJP by 5% votes. Almost a swing of 12% votes as far as the difference in Assembly and Parliamentary trends are concerned.

And last but not the least, the perfect example of Mandya Lok Sabha seat, where the BJP has been non-existent all these years. Look at the vote share jump of almost 22% for BJP within a short span of few months. That the JDS stronghold was always going to be won by them was a forgone conclusion, but this 22% swing away from the Alliance clearly underlines the fault-lines in the alliance arithmetic. First, the alliance has limited impact in terms of JDS vote share, as their support base is limited to Old Mysore region only. Look at the recently concluded Assembly Election Results and you will understand why the potential lead of 20% votes for Congress+JDS alliance arithmetic in Karnataka is so misleading. 

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Their lead in Old Mysore region is a staggering 57% over BJP. These are the 7 Lok Sabha seats in this region where BJP stands no chance whatsoever even without Congress and JDS alliance in place.  Second point is in that region the contest was always between Congress and JDS, so it doesn’t impact the overall seat share won by them. Third, which is the most important point of all, the alliance votes are not perfectly transferable to each other, not even in their strongest of strongholds. This will give a positive swing only to the BJP when Lok Sabha elections are happening.
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We just added up the Assembly election vote share at the Lok Sabha Seats level and then sorted them on the lead of JDS+Congress combined vote share over BJP. The Mandya Lok Sabha area tops the list with massive 86% vote share for INC+JDS alliance compared to paltry 5% polled by BJP. So there in no way that BJP is likely to win these kinds of seats on its own. Exactly what happened in the bye-poll to Mandya Lok Sabha elections few weeks back.

That the alliance won the seat is no news. But what should be making news is that the alliance lost almost 22% votes to BJP in the bye-poll and BJP votes went up from just about 5% in Vidhan Sabha to 27% in Lok Sabha bye-poll. They obviously lost to alliance candidate who polled 64% votes, but the news is in the details. The alliance vote share came down from 86% to 64% in couple of months, which only underlines the fact that their votes are not exactly 100% transferable. If this can happen in Mandya, the strongest of the stronghold for the alliance in Karnataka, you can imagine the probabilities in rest of Karnataka. Yes, purely from arithmetic calculation, the Alliance could win 21 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats hypothetically, but practically speaking, it’s far from the reality.

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In the TV9 Kannada / CVoter Assembly Elections Exit Poll (which arguably remains the only one which got Karnataka bang on) we also asked the respondents whom would they vote for if Lok Sabha Elections would have happened today. The results only confirmed the “Split Vote” phenomenon that is now an all India trend to observe. Almost every 10th Congress voter, every 4th JDS voter and every 2nd ‘Others’ voter across Karnataka said they would vote for BJP as when the Lok Sabha Elections Happen.

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Within the same Exit Poll raw data, the vote share of BJP shot from about 36% at Assembly Level to 44% at the Lok Sabha level, while the alliance vote share from a total of 54% at Assembly level came crashing down to 46%. I know many friends would say, even in this data the alliance vote share is 2% more than the BJP, but just to remind that this is not a pan-Karnataka vote share.

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The Alliance lead in Old Mysore region gives it the 2% lead but look at the regional variation from the same Exit Poll and you will understand why barring that one single region, in “Rest Of Karnataka” the Alliance is unlikely to trouble BJP in the much fancied way that most of the analysts are suggesting. I rest my case as far as Karnataka is concerned.

But for Congress and BJP in South, it is always about the alliances. While YoYa asserts that Congress has placed all its alliances in place, I believe BJP has not even started on that track. For example, the Congress-TDP alliance could trump KCR in Telangana Assembly Elections, which could only force TRS to join NDA before the Lok Sabha elections by default. And TRS-BJP combined vote share in Telangana is staggering 15% more than Cong-TDP alliance. The CVoter tracker is showing huge gains for Congress at the moment, but all that would make complete U-turn if TRS & BJP come together. It’s not a question of “If”. It is just a question of “When”. Same goes in Andhra Pradesh. The TDP is right now looking at staggering loss in Andhra and they will have to go with Congress to save themselves. That arithmetic would certainly work, but at the same time could eventually force YSR towards BJP for that same equation of Arithmetic.

 Not a right time to crack Rajnikanth Jokes on Tamilnadu right now

That leaves us to the great State of TamilNadu. With 40 odd seats (including 1 from Puducherry) this state has always been the Kingmaker from 1996 onward, till 2014 happened. So important is this state, that for 20 long years, the most important state of Uttar Pradesh went out of the Radar in Delhi equations. Mulayam and Mayawati both became useless in NDA and UPA years as the 39 Seats from Tamilnadu numbers along with 42 of West Bengal totaled 81 seats and they more than compensated for the 80 odd seats that Uttar Pradesh had to offer. It made things better only for UPA that West Bengal numbers (along with Kerala) were taken for granted as Left Front would eventually support UPA at the center, come what may.

It was only in 2014, when Modi’s tally of 73 from UP made Tamilnadu numbers useless. So much so that the 37 off MPs of Jayalalitha, even though in perfect harmonious relationship with Modi, was not made part of NDA. Now the TamilNadu equation in Lutyens would be back in spotlight, just in case the probable MGB in Uttar Pradesh gives a shocker to BJP numbers. But there is lot yet to happen in Tamilnadu, which after the death of Amma, and entry of Rajanikanth is arguably the most transitional state in India as on today. There are no less than 6 fronts open at the moment in Tamilnadu. But before we start even to understand the complicated state, we must redo our numbers from TamilNadu that set in from 2014 elections, when for the first time we had witnessed a 3 cornered contest.

Anything and everything can happen in Tamilnadu. With or without BJP. And with or without Congress as well. And to cap it, whomsoever win TN can go with any of these two National Parties to form a Government in Center. It needs a stand-alone analysis. Lets leave it at that.