Likely losses for BJP in West

I had reckoned that YoYa’s observation on the gains in “Eastern Greenfield States” for BJP would differ significantly from our tracker numbers. To my surprise, it didn’t. So, no need to argue where we agree.

 Not surprisingly however, we differ about the West Zone, where YoYa’s perceived loss of about 15 to 20 for the BJP seats is not being supported by the data. The BJP’s loss in West as per the data is minimal. Albeit, as per the tracker, this perceived loss of seats is largely there because of Shiv Sena’s meltdown. The BJP is holding fort when it comes to its traditional support groups. So, let’s be clear about the name of parties and the perceived losses attributed to them. We are discussing the total gain/loss to BJP as the main theme of this debate. Just a look at the vote shares in West Zone will make this point clear enough.

 In 2014 elections, the BJP led NDA (including Shiv Sena) polled almost 54% votes in West Zone while the Congress led UPA polled 34% (including NCP). As on today as per the tracker, the UPA (which essentially means Congress without NCP) is polling 32% and the NDA (which essentially means BJP without Shiv Sena) is polling about 44%. So, the loss of about 10% votes is directly attributable to Shiv Sena deciding that they will contest all alone. This is resulting in no less than a loss of 17 Lok Sabha seats in NDA tally from Maharshtra alone; but this is not the loss in BJP tally as their share in this loss is only 3 seats, while Shiv Sena is facing a loss of 14 seats going all alone. This is precisely the point which I alluded to earlier.

 YoYa: The West is likely to witness a business-as-usual election with a small dent in the BJP tally. It swept this region in 2014 by winning all but six seats. Since then, anti-incumbency has hit it in all the three states. Rural unrest in Gujarat, farmers’ agitation in Maharashtra, its troubles with the Shiv Sena and the unholy and proxy government in Goa appear to have set the stage against the BJP in the region. Yet, the surveys suggest that the BJP can contain its losses. A Gujarati PM can help the party reverse some of its assembly poll setbacks in Gujarat. In Maharashtra, if the Shiv Sena goes back to the BJP, the NDA can take on the combined strength of the NCP-Congress alliance. In sum: The BJP may keep its losses to about 15-20 seats in this region.

Trends from CVoter Tracker data in October 2018 compared with 2014 results:

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YRD: Agree with “business as usual” observations; but not with the numbers. The BJP is hardly losing anything in West. It won 53 seats last time, and the current tally as per our tracker is 50, a small loss of 3 seats. Yes, there is a huge loss of 14 seats to tally of NDA allies, which is crashing down to 5 seats from 19 seats in 2014, and it’s no rocket science to guess where its coming from. If I have to pick one big loser in Indian Politics over the last 5 odd years, it won’t be INLD or AIADMK or not even the CPM. That has to be Shiv Sena. They have been completely outsmarted by BJP, have been humiliated by the voters of Maharashtra to such an extent that even their basic political existence in Mumbai region is now under pressure.

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Yes, if they decide to stick to their decision of going all alone, then it would help Congress-NCP alliance to sweep Maharashtra, but not without complete meltdown of the Shiv Sena.

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As they say in Hindi “hum to doobenge sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge”, but with a twist that BJP will survive with the life-jacket of its extremely popular State leadership duly supported by equally popular Central leadership in long run. But in that eventuality, Shiv Sena would push itself to the point of no return. So, the YoYa’s assertion that “The BJP may keep its losses to about 15-20 seats in this region” applies only on the ShivSena, not the BJP.

In the recently concluded Annual report card survey for leading Marathi News Channel ABP-Majha, we found that Shiv Sena leadership is completely disconnected with what their supporters think about NDA governments at Center as well as the State.

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Not only the Shiv Sena voters’ net satisfaction with these governments was high, more importantly their feedback on leadership of PM Narendra Modi and CM Devendra Fadnavis are not exactly what Matoshree would like to hear. 

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Similar trends are coming across from the MP report card series that we are running for another leading Marathi News Channel TV9 Marathi. When asked a direct question on ‘Whom would you prefer to elect between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi as the PM of India’ an overwhelming majority of Shiv Sena voters picked up Modi as their preferred choice.

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Same holds true about the Raj Thakrey led MNS supporters, even though NCP is pitching for them to become part of Congress-NCP alliance. In the CVoter-TV9 Maharashtra Tracker, we also asked the voters about this probability.

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Only a majority of Congress and NCP supporters look excited about the prospect, while as many as 80% of MNS supporters opposed the idea of joining Congress led front in Maharashtra.

The CVoter tracker projects a mere 3 seats loss in West Zone, which includes the much-fancied losses in Goa, a state that sends only 2 members to Lok Sabha. However, it must be mentioned for the state of Goa that BJP lead of almost 17% votes has come crashing down to just above 4% in this state. That the BJP State Government has been unpopular is an understatement, regardless of the love that Goans have for the current popular BJP CM Manohar Parrikar, who is ailing with life-threatening cancer.

It was in his absence that BJP actually lost the last Vidhan Sabha elections in Goa, but somehow managed to form the Government due to complete political mismanagement by the Congress. Such comprehensive was the anti-incumbent verdict that BJP came crashing down from high of 53% in 2014 to 33% in 2017 which is an unprecedented negative swing of -20% and resulted in humiliating defeat of sitting BJP CM Laxmikant Parsekar as well.  

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But the BJP’s idea of getting into power ‘at any cost’ even after being decisively kicked out by the voters in the 2017 Assembly elections, has left a bitter taste among the voters, to say the least. However, it is important to note that two major State parties MGP (11.3%) and GFP (3.5%) have joined BJP led Government and their block of 15% votes could very well cover up for this 20% loss in BJP votes. That explains the current 44% voting intention for BJP among Goa voters in the CVoter tracker.

That leaves us to the state of Gujarat. The less I say about Gujarat, the better. As per the Lutyens, Modi is permanently losing in Gujarat for last 20 odd years. While our tracker is showing a loss of a seat or two in Gujarat, you can take it in writing, that eventually it could be 26-0 once again. Lutyens notwithstanding.

During the last Vidhan Sabha elections in Gujarat, much was written about the Urban/Rural split in voting patterns of Gujarat. The fact that BJP polled 49% in comparison to just 41% of Congress was brushed under the counter.  Blindsided by sensational narrative of BJP managing to win ‘only 99’ seats compared to ‘massive 77’ seats won by the Congress. Never mind the fact that it was the first election after a long time when Narendra Modi was not the CM candidate. Also, the fact that the BJP vote share actually went up by 1% when compared to the last elections was ignored. Finally, even after an anti-incumbency “wave” against the 20 years long non-stop BJP rule in the State, the Congress could manage an upswing of just 2.5% votes and still landed full 8% behind the “Modi-less BJP”.

To be fair, Congress came at par with BJP in terms of vote share in North Gujarat and Saurashtra regions. In the end it was just a question of 10 additional assembly seats to be flipped, and even with a huge vote share lead of 8% to 10% at State level, the BJP would have been staring at one of the most bizarre defeats in Election history. This was possible due to loss of Patel votes after the Anamat Andolan stir. Here is the CVoter tracker data for Patel votes comparing their voting behavior of 2014 Lok Sabha with 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections. It clearly shows a huge 20% negative swing away from BJP, almost all of it towards Congress among the Patel voters of Gujarat.

Trends of Patel Voters in Gujarat from 2014/2017 Exit Polls:

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A back of the envelope calculation of summing up the 2017 Assembly elections leads at the Lok Sabha level indicates that BJP is trailing behind the Congress, not just in one or two seats, but a significant 8 Lok Sabha seats, 5 of which are from North Gujarat and 3 from Saurashtra region. Here is the sum up of 2017 Vidhan Sabha results at Lok Sabha seats level for your ready reference:

Results of 2017 Vidhan Sabha Elections summed up at Lok Sabha seats level:

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Yes, I understand that the 8% lead of BJP in Gujarat was largely due to ‘urban’ seats which BJP won with huge margins, as against the ‘rural’ seats which BJP lost to Congress by small margins. But the fact should be troubling Congress more than the BJP. Because, all those small margins in rural part would evaporate when Gujaratis come out to vote for a Gujarati PM.

The tracker data shows current voting intention of 55% to BJP as compared to 38% for Congress in Gujarat. That’s an upswing of 6% for BJP and downswing of 3% for Congress, resulting an increase in gap of 9% votes further. Total vote share gap: a staggering 17% in vote share for the Lok Sabha voting intention.

Now look at the table of 2017 ‘leads’ at Lok Sabha levels once again. Barring one seat of Junagarh where the Congress lead was of 10% votes, rest 7 seats the margin was 1% to 5% votes in 2017 results. Do your calculation with 9% “reverse swing” in current data, and you will get down to just one single lead at Lok Sabha level for Congress, that too with a slender margin of just 1% votes. That’s Gujarat for you.

I kind of agree with some “Political” observations of Prof. Yadav; but certainly not with the numbers. The casual way of wrapping up the numbers in a subjective approach does not help in objective observations. The much-hyped loss of BJP in West Zone is mentioned so casually, that it passes the eyes without a blink. This is what has been casually observed and what actually is happening on the ground:

East observation: the BJP may pick up to 20 additional seats from this region

Fact: Gain of 24 seats for the BJP as on today.

 West observation: The BJP may keep its losses to about 15-20 seats in this region

Fact: Loss of 3 seats for the BJP as on today.

 So, the observation of Dr. Sanjay Kumar of CSDS, that “Losses for BJP in Hindi belt including Gujarat may not be as big as Yogendra Yadav believes, Congress would need a big swing in its favor” seems to be on track in West Zone for sure.