One of the most common errors in political analysis is to conflate one’s hopes with one’s expectations. So we normally find critics of the BJP’s politics saying that it will lose this election and vice versa. That is why many friends believed a WhatsApp message that was circulating on Saturday. This was a fake forecast of the 2019 Lok Sabha election results in my name with a precise, state-by-state break-up. (In case you are curious, the fake forecast gave 146 seats to the BJP and 137 to the Congress). So, I thought I must make my assessment public before the exit polls arrive this evening.
I am not involved with election forecasting any more. But I did write a detailed analysis of election prospects six months ago saying the BJP could lose up to 100 seats. After Balakot, I mentioned a possible shift, and then noted that the NDA enjoyed a definite edge just before the first phase of polling.
The first table here states the overall conclusion: all the ‘likely’ scenarios point to a second term for Narendra Modi. It could happen one of the three ways: the most likely scenario is that the NDA (but not the BJP) crosses 272 mark; but we cannot rule out the BJP securing majority on its own, or the NDA falling a little short and adding new partners like the TRS, the YSRC or even the BJD. The other two scenarios (Nitin Gadkari-led BJP government or a mahagathbandhan govt) look unlikely now.
The second graphic offers a simple way to assess the BJP’s tally. Six months ago, I suggested that the BJP’s small gains in the East (northeast, West Bengal, Odisha) could be wiped out in the South and the West. But now, we need to rethink the equation: Can the BJP’s gains in the East compensate for its losses in the rest of the country, except for Uttar Pradesh? If that happens then the BJP’s losses in UP would be its net national loss (Scenario 1). If the losses in the rest of the country are much more, then the NDA may fall short of majority (Scenario 3). We cannot rule out the third possibility that the BJP’s gains in the East can more or less make up for all its losses, including in UP, thus leaving the BJP with a majority (Scenario 2).
Statutory warning: all these are just my estimates and are not based on any exit poll or post-poll survey. Let us wait for exit polls to refine this picture.
Exit poll reading
- So far all the polls have confirmed the general impression that Modi is coming back to power. A majority of polls indicate a majority for NDA, not for the BJP (scenario 1 in my analysis). But don’t jump to any conclusion yet. Also, remember that exit polls tend to under estimate the winner. So, we cannot rule out a clear majority for the BJP (scenario 2 in my analysis). Other scenarios can be ruled out.
- India Today-Axis My India has conducted the survey in each parliamentary seat, perhaps a first in Indian elections. Their state-wise picture is worth a close look as it suggests near sweeps in each state. The DMK+ in Tamil Nadu, the UDF in Kerala, the TRS in Telangana and the YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh. The most significant trend is from Karnataka where the BJP appears to have overcome the challenge from the Congress-JDS alliance. It suggests an overall positive swing for the BJP.
- On Bengal: Most polls confirm the conventional wisdom that the BJP would win 10-14 seats, but I would not take the Axis My India forecast of 19-23 seats lightly. When a party experiences a surge in a new state, as the BJP has in West Bengal, it is very difficult for polls to estimate its extent. So, I would still wait for 23 May and be ready for a surprise.
- Odisha: A similar story as in West Bengal. We can confirm that the BJP has had a breakthrough, but difficult to say by how much. Most exit polls keep the BJP around half the seats. But India Today Axis My India is again an outlier, with a projection of 15-19 seats for the BJP out of 21 seats. Polls in this state face the additional difficulty of measuring Lok Sabha and assembly vote at the same time. So, I would not discount the outlier and still wait for 23 May to get the exact picture.
- Uttar Pradesh: UP is still a bit confusing. We have the entire range of exit polls giving the BJP from 22 to 68 seats out of 80 seats in the state. On balance, the polls are leaning in favour of the BJP. This would surprise all political observers and field reporters in the state. At least this much is clear: the SP-BSP coalition has failed to smash the BJP as it should have done, based on the parties’ past strength. What remains to be seen on 23 May is whether the BJP equals the SP-BSP or overwhelms the alliance. This is another state that will be keenly watched.
The author is the National President of Swaraj India. Views are personal.
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