Elections 2014: What the opinion polls foretell.

Two forecasts for the 2014 general election indicate a denuded mandate for the Congress and an emphatic advantage for the BJP. Still, many would like to believe it has nothing to do with Modi.

 

Going by the spate of opinion polls about election outcomes one would believe that elections are already upon us. Going by the spate of populist bills and decisions being rushed through, one would believe they are indeed upon us. But going by the results of what the polls show, one would believe that either the Congress has some death wish it wants executed quickly or that the media is wishful that the tortuous reign of the UPA end quickly, and is goading it to hara kiri.

Either way, we are not complaining. Except, it really did not need the exertions undertaken by these well-meaning research companies to come up with what they have – the message has been clear for quite some time and you could read it in Braille if you could not otherwise because, clearly, the die has been cast. However, that does not explain some of the rather fanciful summations that have followed. First, that the mandate is definitely anti-Congress but not pro-BJP; and the second, that seeing the prominence of regional parties, a more ‘acceptable’ figure than Narendra Modi would be required to knit a broader, consensual NDA.

The con games of Congress.

It will be a matter of deep interest to sociologists who turn psephologists every five years for some face time on TV that subliminal angst tends to get subsumed in a variety of interlocking issues until the ratiocinative element is all but decipherable. Such is the case today. What began in qualified terms as a specific campaign by the BJP in the end of 2010 to crusade against the Congress’ legendary weakness for corruption each time it is power, almost imperceptibly slipped into a morass of popular antipathy on issues ranging from price rise, to a failing economy, to falling exports, to industrial stagnation, to growing unemployment, to internal security concerns, to external affair disasters, to injured national pride, to crony capitalism, to cost of living concerns, to communal carping and back to corruption in no particular order in one wide sweep of the horizon. Polls seldom account for that rich a template of responses and instead throw up raw numbers that can leave you numb with their coded decimals.

Fortunately there is something called the trend, and which is captured rather broadly in the national mood, as it is in the polls so undertaken. And it tells us that the UPA is lurching towards catastrophic decimation, to the relative advantage of the BJP. The favourite part for naysayers begins now. They contend that estimates exhibited by polls seem to suggest that the BJP will garner enough to fly first past the system but on account of alliances will falter at the line, eventually. The presumption therefore is that it must enter into, or prepare for, a more roundabout way of managing its leadership issue hinting thus that Modi may not be the man to lead under the circumstances.

Take a hint. Look at U.P.

But look at what they are missing – and for that, just look at Uttar Pradesh. UP is churning. Mulayam Singh’s constituency has been compromised by his son and Akhilesh’s leadership is showing up hollow. Communal clashes have made record entries and governance has slipped into coma. The wounds Mayawati inflicted on the people are still too fresh and the Congress’ reign at the Centre has been a compelling demonstration of how you could be caught with your hand in the till and still be unable to withdraw – from habit, greed or guilt.

Considered a cauldron of caste and religious agglomerations and the graveyard of national parties, every survey in U.P. so far predicts an exponential rise in percentages of votes polled in BJP’s favour. No campaign moves yet from Modi, not even a visit, or a rally and the vote pattern is predictive enough for polls to suggest that in even in a middling scenario, the BJP could cream off 30 seats. This is without a single shot fired so far. Whether this is indicative of the smell of Modi’s leadership or some other unfathomable mystery, people are coming around to the view that the BJP is providing a comprehensive reason to constituencies everywhere to be a preferred substitute to the gerrymandering regional, casteist lot, or indeed that paragon of corruption and communal polarization, the Congress.

BJP: Better Job Performance

Thereafter, you could find more evidence in another phenomenon, called the good governance dividend. Every state presently held by the BJP is resoundingly satisfied with the incumbent government. This has to be a startling fact for observers of voting patterns for never before has there been such a level of satisfaction related to incumbency. This does not hold empirically if you look at the BJP’s recent Himachal loss but it holds well enough for M.P., Chattisgarh, Gujarat and Punjab. Karnataka may be excused for the nataka we made it, but for the most part the singular equation of good governance with BJP ruled states is an idea that is taking root.

Congress ruled states have no such silver linings. Delhi and Haryana are hugely anti-incumbent as we go to press and with assembly elections round the corner in Delhi, looks like not moderating in a hurry either. Rajasthan is a losing battle for them, as even hard nosed Congress men will privately admit. Kerala is barely recouping after the Chandy controversies and Andhra has split the traditional Congress bastions in shards. That leaves the Congress with a few states in the north east where trouble is brewing post Telangana; a certified blank in west Bengal; ditto in Orissa; ruination in UP, desperation in Jharkhand and asphyxiation in the rest of the country. To make matters worse, it is turning out to be the kiss of death for its allies too.

 In the mood for Modi.

The argument against Modi as a mascot for this governance inspired lead is as flawed as it is flippant. To imagine that a personality that unifies a party and its message, and captures the imagination of his countrymen will become the impediment to a greater collaboration with other parties is illogical and inverse to any theory of political agglomeration. Regional parties that imagine the fall out of the Congress’ rout coming to their kitty understand the echo of the popular desire. No party can go against the mood of the people. No regional party is pompous enough to think that the mandate for them at the level of the state is a mandate for them at the centre.

Similarly, no party is naiive enough to think that a mandate for them at the state can be used as a mandate to bring back the Congress. A drop of almost 12 percent in the Congress-led UPA’s approval ratings is also a marker to the regional parties that have taken shelter under its roof. The antipathy towards Congress will be shared in equal parts by those that allow it to continue in office – they will be damaged by association, as we see clearly with SP and BSP in UP and DMK in Tamil Nadu.

Unless regional parties would like to see a fantasy parade of third front back benchers walk in and out of the PM office for a quick buck’s worth of a thrill, everyone with common sense figures that this country is thirsting for stability, security and economic progress like never before; and that the BJP led by Modi is the only credible option before the nation. And if there were any doubt on these premises, there is finally also momentum, a favoured word in the study of electoral public opinion.

The momentum that Modi has created for himself, the BJP and the idea of good governance is too compelling for voters to miss, and perhaps, too subtle for psephology to capture.

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This post has appeared as an op-ed piece in The Pioneer of Saturday 3rdAugust, 2013 under a different headline.

 

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