BJP Struggles in South India

This writer (a pollster or psephologist) traveled around in India to poll voters on their intentions in the general elections held between April 11 and May 19, 2019. Based on the findings of the survey, it was/is clear that the ruling BJP would win a majority of seats and would obtain the bulk of its support in the Hindi/Bhojpuri speaking belt in North India and a few other states.

 BJP Struggles in South India
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram
This writer (a pollster or psephologist) traveled around in India to poll voters on their intentions in the general elections held between April 11 and May 19, 2019. Based on the findings of the survey, it was/is clear that the ruling BJP would win a majority of seats and would obtain the bulk of its support in the Hindi/Bhojpuri speaking belt in North India and a few other states. Although the BJP would lose some seats in Uttar Pradesh because of the ghatbhandan (coalition or merger), the BJP was making gains everywhere else except in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Chattisgarh. In the latter two states, the BJP would minimize its losses but hold on to its support in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. On the other hand, the BJP’s main challenger, Congress party, the dominant party for decades since independence in 1947, has seen its support whittled away in every state over the last six years.  Even in states that the Congress won last December, it struggles to retain or transfer legislative assembly support into Lok Sabha support for seats. The Congress, however, would make modest gains in seats, and though not in a position to form a coalition government. The Congress won 44 seats in 2014 and could come close to doubling its tally this time around.
 
The Vishnu Bisram poll shows the BJP showed that in addition to very strong support in the Hindi heartland, the party has significant support in Gujarat, in the Northeast and in Karnataka and Maharashtra in the South. The BJP was on course to making gains in Karnataka and holding, if not making gains, in Maharashtra. But the party struggles in other Southern states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. Even the BJP’s ally, AIADMK (and other partners) in Tamil Nadu, was struggling for support and would lose half its seats – an indication that Modi is not very favored in TN. The BJP does have pockets of support in Kerala but not enough to make big gains in Lok Sabha seats. The BJP was also on course to make big gains in West Bengal and Odisha (Orissa).
In terms of class, the BJP did extremely well among Upper class and middle class voters but not so well among lower class (just about 20%). In terms of rural/urban divide, urban voters favored BJP while rural voters were split between the BJP and the opposition. Slum dwellers were also divided with a significant 20% breaking for BJP (Modi). In terms of caste politics, BJP got the bulk of the upper castes votes and a significant 15% of the lower caste voters. That combination would have been enough to give BJP victories in several seats in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Madya Pradesh.
In Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, voters prefer regional parties. At any rate, BJP did not contest. In Telangana, this writer expects TRS to win almost all of the 17 seat giving just a couple to other parties. In Andhra Pradesh, YSR was sweeping aside Chandra Babu Naidoo who was losing his majority in the state assembly. Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in AP, YSR would win a least two-thirds. The YSR was also projected to win a majority of seats in the assembly. The BJP does not have a strong base in Kerala though it could do well in percentage of votes not enough to win several seats. The BJP did not lose much support from what it obtained in 2014; it has held on to almost all of its base and has built on it countrywide including in the South though the gains have not been significant enough to win seats in states traditionally won by regional parties. But in Karnataka, the BJP would trump the regional party of the Gowda’s. The loss in support for the Karnataka coalition could result in the collapse of the government. The coalition could also see a loss of support in Madhya Pradesh that could result in the collapse of the govt