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Mainstream, VOL LV No 13 New Delhi March 18, 2017

Pollsters’ Calculations Go Haywire

Sunday 19 March 2017

by Shahira Naim

The following report appeared in The Tribune (Chandigarh) on March 12, 2017. It is being reproduced with due acknowledgement.

Lucknow, March 11: Ending a 14 year ‘vanvaas’ in Uttar Pradesh the BJP juggernaut has stormed the heartland on the ‘parivartan’ plank winning 325 seats with alliance partners virtually fulfilling the prophesy of a Samajwadi-BSP-Congress-mukt Uttar Pradesh—as together these parties mustered barely 74 seats.

The BJP on its own won 312 seats and alliance partner Apna Dal won nine and Suhel Dev Bharatiya Samaj Party another four taking the BJP tally to 325—way beyond the prediction of all exit polls. None saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi hitting a triple century and more and cornering 39.7 per cent of the vote-share.

In UP it is virtually a repeat of the 2014 tsunami when the BJP, along with ally Apna Dal, had won 72 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats.

The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah team has not only worked once again but their aggressive style of campaigning had put the entire Opposition on the back foot.

Be it Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav or Mayawati—all were virtually reacting to counter the volleys of the Modi-Shah team—be it their repackaging of the demonetisation issue as a rich-versus poor discourse, or the soft Hindutva subtext of qabristan-shamshaan.

 “Samjhane se nahi, behkaney se vote mile (votes were won not by convincing people but by misrepresenting facts),” said Samajwadi Party National President Akhilesh Yadav in his first interaction with the media after conceding defeat.

The Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance wrapping up at 55 (48+7) gives a message that UP perhaps was not so enthusiastic about by their ‘saath’.

While Yadav defended the alliance as the coming together of two young leaders and assured that it will continue in the future, whispers within the party about the Congress puncturing the cycle are already doing the rounds.

The BSP, believed to be the X factor in this election with supposedly silent voters, appears to have been hugely overrated even by the exit polls. The BSP has reached the end of the road by winning merely 19 seats. However, its vote-share of 22.2 per cent remains slightly better than the SP’s vote-share of 21.8 per cent which is on account of it having contested all the 403 seats.

Another calculation of pollsters going haywire was the ostensible return of the Jats to Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal’s fold. The RLD won only one seat of Chhaprauli in Baghpat where Sahender Singh Ramala defeated the BJP candidate Satinder Singh by 3842 votes.

It is still too early to identify the ingredients that went into conjuring up the BJP’s pot of success. Assuming that Shah’s meticulous social engineering of giving representation to non-Jatav Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs alone was responsible would appear to be simplistic.

It was a combination of factors like the expectation of money collected after demoneti-sation being deposited in the Jan Dhan accounts, the Ujjwala yojya of free LPG connections and successfully holding the BSP-SP rule responsible for all the ills of UP apparently paid off.

On the other hand, the SP remained too embroiled in the family feud to get sufficient time to get a hold of the party’s organisational structure crucial to convert goodwill into votes. The Congress obviously had none of its own.

The carry home for Mayawati’s BSP is surely her disconnect with the young aspirational generation of Dalits. Her cast-in-stone style of campaigning through rallies where she reads out a text doesn’t stand a chance before Modi’s engaging interactive style.

Meanwhile, the landslide BJP victory saw celebrations of the promised ‘kesariya’ Holi beginning a day earlier at the BJP headquarters as well as on the streets across the State.

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