BJP Ahead in Delhi Elections
I have been in India over the last three weeks surveying voters on how they plan to vote in India’s ongoing general elections. Unlike other countries, India has multiple voting days to accommodate the 970 million voters in this large mountainous hard to reach areas of the country. Five phases of voting have been completed. This Sunday, May 12, voting is in the capital Delhi and in several other areas in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The last phase of voting is on May 19 in Varanasi where the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is contesting. Modi serviced his constituency well and based on my conversations with voters is projected to win by a landslide although all opposition parties have ganged up against him in desperation to bring about his defeat.
I have spent considerable amount of time in India studying its politics and social structure over the last 35 years, including conducting opinion polls and serving in an administrative position in an advisory capacity at the university. I have taken feedback from the public on projected outcomes.
This writer spent some time polling voters in Varanasi, Delhi and in Azamgarh constituency and surrounding constituencies over the last several days. Prior to that, weeks were spent in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Madya Pradesh, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
Based on my surveys, in urban areas, middle class voters prefer Modi, who is leader of the BJP. Modi is preferred by three to one over the Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi as PM. There will be no PM Rahul Gandhi this time around as his party is struggling to win 100 seats. Congreds will run a distant second to BJP. Modi is extremely popular, the most popular politician in the country. He is likely to remain PM for a second term.
However, the ruling BJP’s MPs are facing serious anti-incumbency and a significant number of them (of 283 that won in 2014) will lose their seats because they have failed to service their constituencies. That is why the BJP has moved to replace several MPs.
The BJP’s biggest challenge is regional parties have firmed up alliance against it. The alliance formed between low caste parties in UP and in Bihar is giving the BJP a rough time -- Yadavs for SP and Jatavs for BSP in UP, and Yadavs. Yadavs, other low castes, and Muslims have also teamed up in Bihar. However, in UP, the two parties don’t have good relations with each other and were sworn enemies until last year when they called a truce and decided to cooperate to defeat Modi. Supporters of each were involved in violence against one another in previous elections. This time around, there is a truce between supporters of both parties. Now they are against the BJP. The two parties have agreed to contest 36 seats each and to support each other. It is not clear if there will be vote transfer among supporters of both parties. In by elections last year, there were successful vote transfers with BJP losing two seats to the merger or alliance.
What this writer has found is that Yadavs are voting for Yadav candidates of SP. Where there are no Yadav candidates, some Yadavs will vote for BJP and not for SP dalit or chamar candidates. Similarly, some dalits (chamars in the Caribbean) will vote for BJP instead of casting votes for Yadavs. This could help BJP that won 72 of 80 seats in UP in 2014.
Muslims are against the BJP and have been instructed by leaders of jamaats to vote for the candidate that has the best chance of defeating the BJP. Some Muslim women are voting BJP because the party has committed to giving Muslim women equal status to males, a position angering Muslim males.
In the capital city, polls say there is a toss up in the seven seats. Anti-incumbency has hurt the BJP in 2019 with the party struggling . This pollster gives the BJP the lead in five and a very good chance in the other two seats.
In 1999, this pollster predicted a sweep of Delhi – which was the actual outcome. In 2004, this pollster gave the BJP only 2 seats; it actually won only one. In 2009, this pollster indicated BJP was struggling in all seven seats and in fact lost all seven. In 2014, this pollster gave the BJP a complete sweep – the actual outcome.
The BJP has dropped a couple candidates and included cricket hero Gautham Gambhir, Delhi Captain for IPL and a popular Punjabi singer to boost its chances. The party is popular among the middle class in the urban areas but very unpopular amongst the business class and lower class, especially slum dweller. The business class resent having to pay their fair share of taxes.
The election is hard to predict. Three way contests in Delhi give the BJP a chance to make a sweep but still it is a tough contest. In UP, BJP is projected in the lead in about 50 seats. Voters say they should give Modi one more term since he could not achieve much in one five year term. There is no credible opposition. They are only united in their desire to defeat Modi who has been cracking down on corruption and promised to jail politicians involved in rippling off money from the treasury to their families and friends.
The Main voter issues in Delhi are unemployment and traffic jams. In rural areas in UP and Bihar, the main voter planks are development water, road, electricity, and farmer issues.
The Modi effect is not as strong as it was in 2014 but his resolve on national security has attracted voters. The opposition has not credible alternative.