Talking about ‘North Zone’ of JK & Punjab and AAP ki Baat

YoYa: The North is not much of a separate region. It is just that the politics of Punjab and J&K does not fit into the pattern of the Hindi-speaking states. If one goes by the record of the local bodies elections and the implosion within the AAP, the Congress appears set to make small gains in Punjab. But that or a splintered verdict in the J&K hardly affects the national equation. It might add up to a loss of 3-4 seats for the BJP.

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YRD: Disagree with both observations. It is hardly a ‘small gain’ gain for Congress, contrarily it is a huge gain for Congress in Punjab, as AAP is heading for a complete meltdown.  This month’s tracker shows a gain of 9 seats for the Congress in North region. Adding a gain of 2 seats for Congress ally NC and this figure goes up to 11 extra seats for the UPA.

It is interesting to observe the vote share patterns in this region. Latest tracker shows a dip of about 1% votes in the NDA tally but a huge upswing of almost 8% for Congress/UPA. This is clearly coming from “Others” which means AAP in Punjab and PDP in JK.

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Most dramatic has been the meltdown of AAP in Punjab where the Party polled almost 25% in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Such was the aura around AAP Punjab that CVoter erred in its broad trend analysis and projected AAP as the winner in the 2017 Punjab assembly elections pre-poll survey, and hold your breath, even in the exit poll of assembly election. It was after a really long gap that we picked the wrong winner (last time was 1998 MP Assembly elections when Diggy Raja outsmarted our projection by winning the second term).

How and why it happened is still a matter of speculation. One hypothesis suggests that the alleged Khalistani support for AAP backfired and a panic set among the urban Hindu voters of BJP. This resulted in a clear-cut tactical voting pattern, they shifted lock stock and barrel to Capt. Amarinder Singh. Thus, ensuring that Punjab doesn’t gets a government powered in some measure by separatist sentiments. We failed to read this tactical shift.

After the Punjab results the things have gone bad to worse for the AAP and their vote share is nosediving by the day, only to make the contest bi-polar in the state. The party has just 4 Lok Sabha MPs and all 4 of them come from Punjab. The tracker as on today is projecting a big Zero for AAP. They are unlikely to win any seat in Delhi and definitely nothing from Punjab at the moment.

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On the other hand, the JK experiment has completely backfired for PDP and BJP alike. BJP’s pulling off the plug at the right time has ensured that its support base in Jammu remains intact. The NC is likely to gain at the expense of PDP in the Valley, but for the Congress, the revival in Jammu region is still not visible. The overall narrative that the GoP is against the Hindu population of Jammu region is still holding on, even though there is distinct anger setting in against non-performance of the sitting MLAs and MPs from BJP in Jammu region.

The BJP’s hold on Ladakh seat has gone for a toss, and it is their loss. The only Buddhist dominated seat from JK should have become a BJP stronghold by now, but it seems that they just took it for granted and nothing really moved in this sensitive seat. All in all, the PDP seems to have been a bigger loser in the power game as they are facing almost 5% negative swing, entirely from the Valley region.

Its’ total loss is no less than 3 seats from this region for itself compounded with a further loss of 6 seats for its allies. The SAD (Shiromani Akali Dal) is in a sad state of affairs, and the PDP is in an even sorrier state. Total loss of 9 seats for NDA seems to be imminent. But yes, for the sake of argument, our tracker shows a loss of 3 seats for BJP which is in line with YoYa observation that “It might add up to a loss of 3-4 seats for the BJP.”

This pretty much sums up the two states in the “North Zone’ of Prof. Yadav. Since we initiated discussion on his pet subject of AAP fortunes (apart from what happens after Mr. Modi is defeated in 2019), may I take liberty to induce debate on two states from his “Hindi Speaking Zone”. I am talking about Delhi and Haryana. It will help us use this space better and focus on other important things while discussing the “Cow Belt”.

YoYa: Polls suggest that the BJP state governments in Jharkhand, Haryana and Uttarakhand are very unpopular and would cost the party at least 10 seats in these three states.

YRD: I am picking up the discussion on Haryana at the moment from the above statement. I fully agree that BJP government under ML Khattar is extremely unpopular and if the Assembly elections are held as on today, he would be in trouble. But at the same time, there is something called IoU (Index of Opposition Unity) which sometime overrides all other sentiments and results in weird seats spectrum.

Prof. Yadav would know this way better than me because he has witnessed and analyzed scores of elections across India in last so many decades, where Congress won election after election just because there was no unity among the opposition parties. The fundamentals remain the same, just that the name of the parties have changed. In Haryana, whenever INLD and BJP went for a properly synced alliance, they uprooted Congress. Else, it was Congress all the way. Now the opposition vote split is between INLD and Congress, and this is ensuring a BJP lead even after an unpopular state Government.

Let me also introduce in this debate the development of “Split-Vote” phenomenon that I have been flagging for the last 10 years. Slowly and surely the Indian electorate is giving clear verdicts at different levels of elections, without getting confused regarding specific layers of governance that their anger is aimed at. The slogan that is reverberating across every nook and corner of Rajasthan right now goes like this:

‘Modi tukhse bair nahin, par Rani teri khair nahin’

This is exactly what is echoing across many states where BJP is in power. In a hypothetical scenario of ONOE (One Nation One Election) I can confidently say that if that happens as on today, BJP might lose half of its State Governments, mostly to Congress, but in the same polling booth BJP voter would still strongly support Modi while voting for the Lok Sabha ballot. I am glad that this observation of CVoter tracker is pretty much supported by Prof. Yadav when he says : “This is where the BJP would try and turn the elections into a presidential-style contest between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Mr Modi’s popularity rating is way ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s. The level of satisfaction with the Central government is much higher than satisfaction with BJP’s state governments.”  

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Now look at the Haryana vote share and tell me from which equation one can think that BJP is going to get its tally down. It is polling almost 10% more than what Congress is polling, and only a hypothetical alliance of INLD and Congress can actually get into MGB kind of Arithmetic. Besides, if AAP is facing a meltdown in Punjab due to severe infighting, same is applicable for INLD in Haryana.

The warring factions of two brothers Ajay Chautala and Abhay Chautala have just expelled each other, and in the long run this party is heading for the terminal decline in vacuum of the unparalleled leadership of its founder Tau Devi Lal. It would be very interesting to map and compare the sentiment analysis of INLD support base in Haryana and Shiv Sena support base in Maharashtra after the death of their founders. 

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However, please note the distinct upswing of the Congress in Haryana at the cost of INLD and Others. Those who wish to understand the nitty-gritty of Haryana Caste divide should understand the INLD core support has been Jaat voters, so has been the case for Congress under leadership of Bhupinder Singh Hooda for last two decades.

The BJP catapulted to power by counter polarizing the Non-Jaat voters of Haryana. Now the more meltdown the INLD faces, it is very much likely that Jaat voters would further swing from them to Congress. That should give an indirect advantage to Congress in coming months. But at the moment, you can understand the ballpark numbers as 50% opposition votes are split approx. 30% to Congress and 20% to INLD; and this is helping BJP to win with Haryana with just about 40% votes. They are likely to win 6 out of 10 lok Sabha seats in Haryana compared to the 7 that they won in 2014 elections.

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And that brings us to Delhi. Here is what Prof. Yadav said about the political fortunes in National Capital.

YoYa:  Nor is the party in a position to repeat its sweep in Delhi.

Of all the assessments, I am just intrigued with his assessment in Delhi. Not just because he has been a founder member of AAP but has first hand witnessed what Delhi voter is all about. My only humble submission is that whatever I have argued about Haryana, applies to Delhi with a twist that Congress is gaining in National Capital at the cost of AAP. One doesn’t need to be a Rocket Scientist to tell that. The approx. 35% to 40% votes of BJP have remained intact all these years, regardless of which layer of elections the Delhi voters have been voting at. For the ready reference of the readers, I have compiled the Delhi vote share for all elections in last 20 years:

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The AAP polled about 30% in 2013 Vidhan Sabha and shot to about 54% in Assembly elections, a staggering upswing of almost 24% within a year. Most of it coming from the Congress which crashed down from 25% in December 2013 to just about 9% votes in February 2015 Assembly elections. From that rock bottom, the Congress under Ajay Makan has steadily made a comeback and that was evident in the Municipal Election Results.

In fact, the October 2018 tracker number shows for the first time after 2013, the Congress vote share has surpassed AAP vote share in the National Capital. This is no mean feat. Now from here it can gain further at the cost of AAP, but that is unlikely to have any impact on the probable 7-0 sweep for BJP because of the division in opposition votes. While talking about the West Bengal trends, we discussed how a 30% vote share is unlikely to yield big jump in BJP seat share simply because TMC still remains 10% ahead of the BJP support base. Same is happening to Congress or AAP in Delhi. One of them might increase 10% votes at the expense of another, but the BJP would still be about 10% votes ahead of them.

The only way the game can change is the probability of Congress-AAP alliance before Lok Sabha elections. That will put the alliance numerically higher than the BJP. It is interesting to observe that the possibility of MGB in Delhi could mirror the 2004 Lok Sabha vote share when the Congress polled 55% against 41% polled by the BJP. If that happens, it could result in 7-0 sweep against the BJP. But at the moment, as the things stand on the ground, the BJP is very much in position to repeat it’s sweep in Delhi.

But the same is incorrect when we talk about Vidhan Sabha voting trends for Delhi voters. This year in February we did a detailed round of Survey across all 70 Assembly segments to create a report card on the AAP Government in Delhi. We found that an overwhelming majority of Voters said they are happy with the performance of AAP Govt in Delhi and also with the performance of CM Arvind Kejriwal.  

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In all likeliness, they would vote back the AAP to power if the Assembly elections were held as on today. 

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It is just that they don’t see a role for AAP against BJP at the Central level and swing to Congress when asked about their Lok Sabha voting intention. The “Split-Vote” phenomenon can not be starker than this one.

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But, make no mistake, Delhi does miss its popular CM Shiela Dixit a lot. The AAP Government is considered only the second best after the 15 years long rule under Mrs. Dixit; who unfortunately had to pay the price of extreme negative sentiment against the UPA-2 Government.

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The fact that BJP State leadership makes no presence felt in these tracker numbers, underlines the fact that all gains of BJP at Lok Sabah voting intention are purely by virtue of Modi’s popularity alone. Nothing more, nothing less.  We will talk about these numbers when we discuss the “Hindi Belt” in our final part of the series.