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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The trends and the imponderables

Judging from many of the comments to earlier blogs on the four phases of polling and from observations in other blogs, it would seem that there is an impression that I have been foolish enough to predict the results of the general elections.

This is not the case.

I have merely collated the views and assessments of pollsters, officials and strategists in the political parties. The tally of 196 for the NDA and 147 for the UPA (till the end of the 4th phase) was an estimate by a pollster who has actually conducted exit polls for the BJP. His estimates may turn out to be right or wrong but they are his estimates. I am merely reporting his findings.

There are other estimates too. Senior functionaries of the Congress believe that the party will win anything between 155 to 160 seats against 125 to 130 for the BJP. Ironically, this is the exact reverse of BJP's estimates (155 to 160 for itself and 125 to 130 for the Congress).

Obviously both can't be right.

There are too many imponderables involved. I want to list some:

  • The BJP feels it can retain one of the two Arunachal Pradesh seats it won in 2004. The two MPs may well be popular but has the party got the ability to take on the official machinery in a state where voting stations are far flung?
  • The BJP seems a bit too cocksure about its Karnataka performance. I know for a fact that at least two of its candidates in potentially winnable seats didn't even campaign and more or less conceded the seats to the Congress. Again, no one knows how the heavy polling in Mangalore and the low turnout in Bangalore will affect the outcome.
  • There was large-scale internal sabotage by the BJP itself in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. Will this impact on the outcome?
  • The Congress and NCP tacitly supported Independents against each other. Will this count? Raj Thackeray drew very large crowds in his election meetings. Will this translate into votes?
  • Orissa reports great support for Naveen Patnaik at the Assembly level and goodwill for the BJP at the Lok Sabha level. Will the voters be so discerning?
  • Delhi reported an above average middle class turnout in the middle class areas and a below average polling in slum and minority clusters. Conventional wisdom suggests that this could benefit the BJP but in the Assembly polls the middle class colonies were equally divided between Congress and BJP.
  • Candidates from smaller Muslim parties polled well in pockets in the first two phases in Uttar Pradesh. By the third phase, Muslims were leaning towards the Congress. Has the Congress got the ability to convert additional votes into seats.
  • Journalistic asessments from Bihar speak of mass antipathy for Lalu and Paswan. Yet, pollsters feel the RJD and LJP will hold on to 10 seats at least. Are they being too conservative?
  • The mood in the tea shops and addas seems very anti-CPI(M) in West Bengal. Will this be enough to overcome the formidable Left machinery? Will the Congress undermine the Trinamool in some seats, and vice-versa?
  • Pollsters tend to seriously underestimate the BSP outside (and even within) Uttar Pradesh. Remember, this is also a prestige fight for Mayawati. She wants an all-India role.

We are at present only talking of the results, particularly the Congress-BJP fight for number one position. Government formation will be influenced by who is perceived to have done well on May 16. If Congress stalwarts, say Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram, lose their seats, the Congress will find it difficult to grab the moral space for the next stage. This is as true for the BJP. A bad CPI(M) performance in West Bengal will puncture Karat; a good showing will increase the prospects of a Third Front-led government.

But government formation is still a different ball game. There will be shadowy figures who will emerge in Delhi on May 16.

The NDA has a realistic chance of forming a government if one of the two conditions are met:

  • The NDA wins at least 200 seats on May 16. Even then it will be a daunting task because the BJP is an innocent in the game of striking deals. But at least numbers will give it a momentum.
  • A dejected Congress announces by the evening of May 16 that it has decided to sit in the Opposition.

We can keep doing our sums but parties will act in their own political self-interest only after they know their numbers. The TRS presence in Ludhiana was a morale booster for the NDA. But don't see it as a trend as yet.

Finally, there is the one imponderable the NDA dreads: the possible role of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

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Anonymous said...

i think the last line says it all. and thanks for the reality check

horizon said...

Newsx channel is reporting that from their reporters perspective NDA could get 193 seats close to the 200 figure u r mentioning. But I felt all these news channels are underreporting the BJP tally and overreporting COngress tally.

Also though Nitis is with NDA as of now I felt a distict uneasiness in the way he spoke with Modi and shook hands with him. Mybe NDA needs to be careful with him.

Anonymous said...

Is it for nothing the Congress put Pratibha Patil in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan and Navin Chawla at the Election Commission?

The final blow to the BJP could well come from the President. The question on whether to invite the single largest party of the single largest alliance is not well defined in the Constitution, or by convention. Moreover, is it single largest alliance pre or post election is another bone of contention. I have no doubt that the President will find a way to invite the Congress party to form the government, if it is a close race.

Like you said, if the NDA reaches 200, the Congress is probably out of the picture. A 3rd front govt supported by Congress would be the President's preference in that case.

BTW, am hoping for a post from your side on the media's blatant attempts to imply a ridge between the BJP and the JDU. The picture of Nitish and Modi holding hands at Ludhiana was the sweetest sight I've seen in a long time. I can just imagine Barkha, Sagarika, Karat and Sonia crying their eyes out over that picture. That picture just decreased the chances of a UPA/3rd front govt by 10%.

ayush said...

appreciate your efforts in bringing out the inside news from across the political spectrum and more particularly the Right.

Role on Sonia appointee at Rashtrapati Bhavan as you have rightly mentioned will be THE most important. From whatever political discussions one has been hearing in the last couple of days , its going to be an all out effort by the congress, the left and the Main Stream English Media to keep the BJP out whatever it takes ! The left has recently softened its position against the congress so whtever the resilts be atleast Kerala and WB either way have voted for a UPA govt, its a shame these states were never given an option .



I want you to read my latest blog - The rise of the Indian Taliban. Since this may look like an invitation from my blog for your readers - I would like you not to publish this though.


reason said...

"Orissa reports great support for Naveen Patnaik at the Assembly level and goodwill for the BJP at the Lok Sabha level. Will the voters be so discerning?"

I do not know about Orissa, but there is a good precedence for this in Karnataka from 2004. There was a clear preference for BJP in LS. Please look at the Mysore LS seat in 2004 for example - the BJP LS candidate polled 1 lakhs votes more than all of the BJP's assembly candidates from the Mysore LS segment. Doable, if candidate selection was good (to capture all the anti-congress votes) and there was a shift of independent voters to BJP for LS.

ofcourse, you should know better.

BTW, i would not look much at numbers from media now - some one quoted newsx. I doubt if that channel has any ground presence at all -they may be reading this blog or BRF and posting numbers :-)



Everytime I looked at that lady - Pratibha Patil, I could not bring myself to look upto the lady or feel proud that she is our President. I mean, who is she?

She was brought by Congress, for precisely this reason - that in case of a hung assembly she will give back to Sonia the "favours" that were bestowed on her while becoming President + interest.

However, I sincerely hope that the highest constitutional body has already seen one ZAIL SINGH !!

Anonymous said...

HariOM, everybody says we have to wait till 16th May. After that few days of euphoria and then everybody will be busy in daily rozy-roti. Whichever party comes in power does not matter for common man. What do you think Mr Dasgupta. Sometime I think I am wasting my time and moment later I realize that I can not be away from election news for long. Such a crap.....

Anonymous said...

Suppose talks between the left and congress dont work out on May 16th, is it at all possible that Third front leads a coalition with outside support from BJP, since both perceive Congress to be the greater evil ? If you notice Karat's interviews, he is highly critical of Congress, but sort of dismissive and/or reticent about the BJP.


Manjunath said...

I was intrigued by your comments that BJP in Karnataka did not even campaign in 2 seats. Which seats you are talking about.
As far as I read in local news papers BJP had Obama stragety in Karnataka. Fight for all 28 seats eventhough they knew it would be difficult to win a few seats like Hassan or Mandya. But atleast they made effort and last few days Devegowda was sweating like hell due to serious traingular fight and crying in front of everybody that is his last election. Advani campaigned in Hassan as well as in Ramnagar. Rajnath campaigned in Mandya.
If I read palm leaves correctly
all time congress seats like Chamrajnagar, Chitradurga, and possibly Gulbarga and Bidar have landed in BJP's lap. BJP has given a very good fight to Kumaraswamy in Bangalore rural and generally if tendency of Karnataka electorate to vote for BJP in parlaiment election holds good,kumaraswamy will remain in Karnataka. Same case with Kharge in Gulbarga and Dharam Singh will retire. Same case with Moily and Janardhana Poojary. Even media not so friendly to BJP like were talking of saffron upsurge and talking of popularity of BJP PM candidates with Modi being most popular and Advani and Jaitley being also most popular with contempt for Rahul Gandhi and Sonia and desire for change in Centre. I would bet that Karnataka will remain a saffron stronghold for long time to come. When villagers in Karnataka talk of Mumbai terrorist attacks and weak leadership as important issues it is beyond my imagination educated Delhi would pump for congress.

parasuram81 said...

Whats up with BJP now-a-days,a party known for its discipline.Its a shame if what ur saying regd M.P is true.They had a great opportunity to convert Mr.Chouhan's good will and the initial bounce after the spectacular return 5 mths ago into an unassailable lead.I mean they atleast could have held to 25,if not improve on it.So if the Malwa reports turn out to be true,I think BJP doesn't deserve to win this election.Shame on those moles who tried to sabotage what could have been a resounding win.

Ajay said...

Swapan da;
I knew you will write this blog and was waiting for it.

In Dhanbad; Jharkhand; an ex congree MLA was found inside the EVM strongroom with his 30-40 workers after election. For this the Strong room incharge has been suspended now.

I am surprised why this event didnt got coverage in media. But this is certainly alarming. In Bihar also an EC team is now sent after 3 weeks to check for irregularities even when there has been most peaceful election in Bihar.

What do you think about Navin Chawla factor in this election.

Know the verity said...

I think BJP will face surprising upsets in its citadels e.g.: M.P b'coz of silent but heavy cross-voting for MMS by ill informed floating voters. I used the word cross-voting b'coz the ppl who had voted BJP in assembly election have voted for MMS b'coz of his so called non-corrupt, gold medalist economist image.

This is the impression I've got by talking to these sort of floating voters and my sources.

I hate MMS but have to admit that there is some unseen undercurrent for him which we all r missing. This is why I still feel Congress could be the single largest party on May 16th.

I'm hardcore Hindutvavadi and I want BJP to win this election but that doesn't mean I'll throw away my pragmatic approach...

I've written one strong comment but I'll post it only if BJP loses this election. In that post I've criticizes party top leadership and its policies badly. I wish BJP win this election and the situation of posting that comment doesn't arrive!

My USMLE battle said...

Swapanda, is the BJP losing now, after the initial euphoria?

Anonymous said...


Here is one question for you.
Can the Election Commission rig the EVM's?

The District Election Officer on Sunday said that all the EVMs to be used in the Lok Sabha poll would be checked by ECIL engineers to ensure that they are working properly.

Even those machines that were held in reserve would also been subjected to stringent testing. This is to enable that all defective machines are replaced within an hour of the defect being reported.

These directives were given by Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla to police and administrative officials in Kumaon at a meeting in Nainital recently.

Anonymous said...

There are some thumb rules.
Never rely on English media. They tend to play a partison role.
Rely on local media,internal analysis and of course local blogger.You will get a clear picture who is leading and who is losing.

robin said...

BJP will become secular if it crosses 170 seats.It will become communal if it is less than 150 seats. If it is between 150-170 seats it will be between communal and secular says CHO Ramaswamy. I indeed had a hearty laugh.

What kind of post-poll scenario do you see?

It looks like post-poll alliances are going to matter. I think in every alliance, everyone is free to travel wherever they want! That is the idea now. Every party is aiming to have a chunk of MPs with them so that they have the bargaining power.

Take, for instance, the Third Front. The Communists will not be averse, whatever they say, to supporting a Congress government to keep the BJP out. The Congress may not be averse to supporting someone from the third, fourth or the fifth front in order to keep the BJP out.

People like J Jayalalithaa [Images], Chandrababu Naidu [Images] may be willing to support the BJP. Even Naveen Patnaik, if he needs the support of the BJP in the state assembly, he may support the party at the Centre.

That possibility will arise only if the BJP is the single largest party...

Yes, it will depend on the numbers. If the BJP gets around 170 seats, they will be secular. If they get less than 150, they will be communal as far as the other parties are concerned. 150 will be a communal number and 150 and above will be a secular number!

Mahesh Prabhu said...

Comments and comments..make me vervous and thrilled.

India Democracy is at its worst.People like Mani shankar aiyar relating Priyanka vadra to Jesus is the most shameful statements and communal statements ever made.

Media is totally tensed that BJP will emerge as Single Largest Party.

The first Lady, after visiting all holy places in Karnataka is now tensed ,She cant leave Congress loyalty as all these people are very loyal to Gandhi family and families.
She will definately consult Sonia madam thru closed doors and if congress makes a statement in the evening ,then she will have a big sigh of relief.
Hopefully the next president elected by NDA will be respectful.

Come 16th may, BJP will form the next govt.

this is confidence not over confidence.

Rahul might have commmented someting and created confusion in enemy camp,but remember India people are not fools.
Media like cnn,ndtv might be fools.not People.

parasuram81 said...

Know the verity,

Could u plz elaborate on M.P,any idea on how many seats have been,cross-voting took place.I suppose thats why Swapanda had,in his Phase-3 anaysis factored in and hence only 20/29 instead of more..What do u think?

theprudentindian said...

Hi Swapan Da,
>>>> "There will be shadowy figures who will emerge in Delhi on May 16."

Dada has not shadowy characters already been in place? Isn't it payback time for 'selected Constitutional' heads to prove their worthiness?

Dada one likely scenario could emerge if Cong and BJP tie.

My gut feel is this time around it is the turn of ManMohan Singh to offer Balidaan - just as Sonia 'maino' was made to in 2004. Let us not discount this possibility in case Left agrees to support Congress minus Manmohan Singh.

You take on it?


neelakantan said...

Messrs Chawla and Patil will try their best to repay their masters...

Exactly the same way the papers have been...

Anonymous said...

Hello Swapanji,

I hail from a village in the Mangalore-Udupi belt. The high polling in Mangalore (Dakshin Kannada) is nothing new. Even in 2004 it recorded 70% turnout and the BJP won as they have been doing since 1991! Muslims and Christians constitute around 30% of Mangalore and they are as determined as in 2004 to defeat the BJP. However my friends who were polling agents have told me that the Hindus too have voted for the BJP in large numbers. Infact, some even told me that a section of the BJP itself added fuel to the rumours that the Congress might scrape through so that its voter base wont take things lightly. Caste is not a factor here and hence no advantage to Cong candidate B.Janardhan Poojary (as he belongs to the largest caste group there).
My assessment is that Nalin Kumar Kattel of the BJP will win by 20,000 votes. Margins here are always smaller like in neighbouring Kerala.
In Udupi, Sadanand Gowda of the BJP will win hands down.
Margaret Alva will bite the dust in Uttar Kannada (erstwhile Karwar constituency).

Blitz said...

Swapan Da,

I guess we need not worry about the President at all.
Why ?

Because , if the congress is about 20-30 seats behind the BJP, the congress would have lost all moral authority to form the next government (mind you, last time the difference between congress-BJP was barely 10 seats)
If the congress makes the himalayan blunder of forming the government even after it has lost, it will be = subverting the people's mandate.
The next time elections are held, the congress will be reduced to double figures and the BJP by itself will secure 200+ seats.


BharGo said...

I stay in Mumbai and can say that the last minute swing in favour of Raj Thackeray has been bolstered by Lalu's speech in Jogeshwari and Sonia's "Mumbai for everyone" statement... of course "Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy" (Marathi Film)had created ground for this swing!

MNS MPs coming to Delhi will be a photo op which channels will die to cover...