As the campaign in Delhi comes to an end today, we have with us Politicalbaaba (one of India's popular bloggers & our regular contributor) and Subhash Chandra, experienced pollster and independent political consultant to discuss the election scenario. Delhi goes to polls on Saturday this week with results on Feb. 10.
Politicalbaaba and Subhash have joined together to set up www.charchaclub.com, India's first exclusive debating portal.
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Sara: 1. What are the main issues in these elections?
PB: There are many issues in these elections ranging from demand of full statehood to women's safety / law & order to improvement in quality of live of 50% people living in slums devoid of basic civic necessities. However, the biggest issue is of stability. People want a stable govt. which lasts its full term. The state has suffered under President's Rule for a year and people deserve an elected govt. State issues cannot be solved if a stable govt. with clear majority does not come to power. Although, this issue seems to have been lost in the din of freebies and negative campaign run by all parties.
SC: In my view Delhi being one of the most affluent states in India, the issues are a little different from the Lok Sabha elections. While the city mostly constitutes of middle class people, nearly 2 in 5 are less affluent than the average Indian. It is this gap that has gradually developed into a schism over the last many years, particularly during the period of economic slowdown. This also means that there are two differing sets of needs amongst the people of Delhi. The Middle Class – Given the economic slowdown the middle class wishes for a faster economic growth, access to security, world class infrastructure, education etc to improve upon their lives.
The Have nots – Given their current state of wealth would like reduced cost of living, access to education and healthcare and an opportunity for dignified living
Therefore the top issues are – Inflation (MC HN), Corruption (HN), Education (MC HN), Security (MC HN), Infrastructure (MC), Water and Electricity (HN)
Sara: 2. Who are the main players and what are their main themes?
PB: BJP and AAP are the main players with Congress no where in picture. Congress got 15% vote share in Lok Sabha polls in Delhi and this might reduce to less than 10% this time or even less than 5%. BJP's theme is same govt. in the state and center will provide greater development of Delhi. AAP's theme is up-lifment of the poor / downtrodden and creation of a class less and corruption free society. Through Jan Lok Pal it wants to give power of governance in the hands of public. Congress is still figuring out what it's theme is. Whatever it says, ultimately it wants that BJP should lose these elections at any cost. Important for its survival.
SC: BJP is continuing to focus on offering good governance as an umbrella offer (via Modi and kiran bedi) and tactical solutions on each of the major issues that impact Delhi right from Infrastructure to education to water and electricity
AAP is offering a clean government with solutions to many of the problems faced by voters in Delhi. It’s policies are oriented towards the Have Nots more than they are to the average Middle Class Voters.
Sara: 3. Which are the main voting segments, what are their issues and how are they voting?
PB: Upper castes account for 40% of total voting population. Muslims account for 12%, Dalits 17% and other OBCs 12%. Though caste is not the only criteria for voting in Delhi it does play a major role. Testimony is the fact that even Kejriwal was forced to use his baniya card in the election campaigns. Kiran Bedi is a punjabi and the caste accounts for 7% of voter base. Upper caste expected to stay with BJP. Dalits likely to favour AAP while more and more Muslims would shift from Congress (39% vote share in Lok Sabha) to AAP. In terms of communities – peasants hold key to 11 seats and surprisingly though AAP is perceived as natural choice for them, BJP won 8 of these seats in 2013. Women accounting for 47% of the vote base will play a crucial role. Women increasingly because of their eduction and financial independence making their own choice and this is what BJP / Kiran Bedi is eyeing.
SC: Apart from the caste and community segments articulated above, in my view there is also an ideological difference.Using analysis of qualitative data we identified the value drivers (Schwarz) of AAP and BJP middle class voters as follows
AAP Voters – Value Drivers – Universalism (Tolerance and appreciation of other people), Benevolence (Welfare of other people)
BJP Voters – Value Drivers – Power (Social status and Prestige), Tradition (Respect and acceptance of customs), Security (Safety, Harmony and Stability of Society
This does not mean that AAP voters donot care for Power or BJP voters donot care for Benevolence, it is just that they have other priorities. The Value analysis explains why some people are attracted towards one party or the other.
Sara: 4. Why did BJP induct Kiran Bedi? Has this succeeded of backfired?
SC: In my view it was the right decision as it helped in consolidating BJP votes, particularly amongst women. I believe BJP would have lost more votes if she would not have been the candidate. That said, I believe they should have gotten her better prepared before announcing her as the candidate, her public performance so far as not been very good and some voters may have been turned off as a consequence.
PB: BJP fought all the previous 4 state elections against incumbent chief ministers. In Delhi there was no incumbent CM. Kejriwal is popular and was able to convince people that Modi couldn't become CM of Delhi. This way he prevented a Modi vs Kejriwal fight. BJP tried to pit an Aam Aadmi against Kejriwal. By anointing Kiran, they wanted to create a rift among IAC supporters and challenged Keljriwal's inheritance of Anna Hazare's political legacy. They wanted to project an administrator versus an anarchist. Media says the decision has backfired based on polls. I wouldn't say so and wait for final results. Women voters may and silently vote for her as there is no other issue bigger than law and order / security for them.
Sara: 5. Is Kejriwal more popular than Kiran Bedi?
SC: All the Polls, including the ones showing BJP ahead show Kejriwal to be ahead of Kiran Bedi. I believe that both leaders enjoy complete support from their voters but given all the recent experiences with Kiran Bedi, Kejriwal does better than her amongst neutral or swing voters.
PB: Of course Kejriwal is more popular than Kiran Bedi. Even polls which show BJP would form govt. show Kejriwal getting more votes for the best CM. Kejriwal has been in politics for more time then Kiran Bedi, was the main face of IAC campaign after Anna. He defeated 3 time chief minister Shiela Dixit in last polls. He is seen as an anti corruption crusader and champion of cause of lower / lower middle class (which consists of 60% of voting population).
Sara: 6. Can Congress improve its performance? Is it a dark horse?
SC: In a two pronged race with extraordinary media coverage, it would be impossible for a 3rd party to do well in this election. In my view, the result will be like Bengal or even worse like Andhra, they will do well in 3-4 constituencies or get wiped out completely.
PB: Congress got 8 seats last time in 2013. JDU MLA joined them. So this makes it 9. 5/9 are members from the minority community. The support base of Muslims, Dalits and poor feel AAP is better positioned to take on BJP / better champion of their cause and its 15% vote share in Lok Sabha is seriously under threat. It lost all its seats in Lok Sabha and was trailing in all the seats it won in assembly polls. It could end up in a UP like situation with less than 5% vote share. Will be lucky to win a single seat.
Sara: 7. Is it a do or die battle for Kejriwal?
SC: In my view, it will depend on the final result. If they come close to victory or actually win the elections, it will be seen as a huge plus and could spur the party in other elections and become a potent national force in 10 years time. A big defeat will lead to questions on the leadership of Kejriwal and perhaps ensure that more members leave the party. In a way, it is a do or die battle for Kejriwal.
PB: It is a very important battle for Kejriwal especially after AAP's disastrous performance in Lok Sabha. If AAP loses elections or its seats reduce then there can be a revolt in the party led by Bhushans or Y. Yadav. If AAP wins Kejriwal reinforces his supremacy in the party and AAP could occupy the vacuum created by decline of Congress at the national level.
Sara/ 8. If BJP loses will it be a failure for Modi?
SC: In my view, it is not at all a failure of Modi though i suppose some in the media will portray it that way. All that the results will confirm is that the BJP can be beaten by a motivated opposition. The bigger negative for the BJP if they lose is that it will put more pressure on the opposition to compromise and come together nationally. However, I donot see this election has a litmus test for Mr Modi.
PB: It will be a failure of Modi, a scar on his report card. He will be unlucky for the second time. Kejriwal stopped Modi juggernaut in 2013 and if he manages to do again at a time when Modi's popularity nationally is at its peak, Modi and Shah will be deeply hurt and wounded. BJP has a difficult election in Bihar later this year. Plus the honeymoon period is over and there will be pressure to deliver. All this coinciding at same time could lead to start of BJP feeling the heat.
Sara: 9. What are the opinion polls saying and can one rely on them?
SC: Opinion polls are less reliable than exit polls. That said, there are two common trends that signify something bigger. A. AAP has consistently gained vote share over the last 4 months including in polls done at the fag end of the campaign, in the past, this has usually led to a landslide. B. Kejriwal is consistently outperforming Kiran Bedi, even in Polls that shows BJP ahead. Usually, when the leadership candidate does well, it leads to a victory for the party. I am still betting on an AAP Govt in Delhi
PB: Opinion polls have not had a great track record in India though improving over the years. In 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha polls they were completely wrong and exactly opposite of what they predicted happened. In 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls they did indicate the correct trend but actual results in terms of seats were very different. Similar case for Delhi polls in Dec. 2013. 5/7 polls indicate an AAP victory / lead. 2 polls show BJP would form the govt. Its a tight call and a lot of seats could see very thin margins like last time. I categorise seats won by margins of less than 3% as poachable. In 2013 both BJP & AAP won 9 seats each where margins were less than 3% of total votes polled. Additionally, all 8 seats won by Congress plus 2 seats won by others are up for grabs. Whoever wins majority of these 28 seats will win in my opinion.
Sara: 10. What is the secret of AAP success?
PB: AAP ran an innovative campaign which caught the imagination of people disgruntled with politicians. This coincided with an era when Congress govt. at the center was embroiled in many scams. The campaign included:
1. Door to door campaigning
2. Involvement of public in selection of candidates
3. Transparent funding
4. Involvement of public in drafting manifesto
5. Carrying out pre poll survey and making its results public – This build momentum in its favour and influenced undecided voters.
In a political culture where you see politicians only during elections, a party seeking views of the public made people believe that they are important, that there is somebody to listen to their viewpoint. People also in many candidates saw themselves – the common man. Many people also voted for AAP to show the power of Aam Aadmi to political class.
SC: In my view, AAP ran a modern campaign aligning well with the issues of the AAM AADMI as well as appealing to the conscience of the middle class voter. 3 things stand out for me – They were in better touch with the average voter while perhaps the BJP was too focussed on the needs of the middle class voter, Kejriwal's leadership and articulation was a clear contrast versus Kiran Bedi and lastly, AAP campaign on the ground was extremely well focused and in tune with a much larger set of votes. One other factor that helped AAP was that some of the 'progressive' voters who voted BJP during the Lok Sabha elections may have defected en masse to the AAP given the performance of the MCD as well as the performance of the Modi Sarkar on some key issues – Secularism in particular.
Sara: 11. What is the impact of the BJP print campaign and the AVAM disclosure in the election?
SC: Apparently a Zee Survey showed that only 31% believe it will have an impact though a couple of surveys have shown a marginal drop for AAP. Past experience shows that negative campaigns have only limited impact and I suspect that will be the case here as well. That said, the exit polls will tell us of the true nature.
PB: I don't think AVAM disclosure will have any impact on AAP vote share. Parties who don't disclose their source of funding like BJP / Congress have no moral right to question AAP in this case. AAP is not responsible if I steal money from somewhere and give it to them as donation. This would have had an impact if it was proven that the payments were made in some sort of quid pro quo deal to get something done by AAP govt. Poor / downtrodden have found a voice in Kejriwal to take on the upper middle / rich class. They are not going to be impacted and would consider this as a conspiracy by the powerful Congress / BJP to defame their leader and derail their movement.
Sara: 12. Why are supporters of both parties so angry with each other? What is the big theme?
PB: BJP supporters see AAP & Kejriwal as a roadblock to the Modi juggernaut. AAP is the only party in India which is a match for BJP's online / social media campaign. It has a lot if youth support base which BJP enjoys nationally. It is capable of making a dent in vote bank of BJP nationally. The year long wait and aggressive door to door campaign has made the cadre of both parties restless. BJP sees in AAP a possible threat nationally more so with Congress declining. This also denotes the brewing under current in our societies between the upper middle / rich class (seen as supporters of BJP) and the lower middle / lower class (seen as supporters of AAP).
Sara: 13. What did we like about the campaign and what are the learnings for future campaigns?
SC: As a Pollster, I can see extensive used of insights in decision making. Whether it is in identifying the right voting segments, right issue, right candidates or the right campaign staff, one could see very intelligent decision making amongst both parties. Unlike, the last few elections, where the BJP was clearly ahead in the game it was great to see both parties being extremely clever in their election strategies. Given the size of the city, aggressive door to door campaigning was very different compared to other elections. The aggressive negative campaign and personalized attacks were a new feature as well.
PB: The campaign didn't focus on main issues and instead focused on ideologies and personalities. There was a lot of mud slinging. Modi attacking Kejriwal and vice versa, Kejriwal accusing Satish Upadhaya of hobnobbing with state discoms, while BJP accused AAP of hawala. What I like was two new approaches of BJP – the concept if panna pramukhs (where 1 party member is made accountable for the voters on 2 page of voter list allotted to him) and the personalized BJP letter which is being sent to all the 1.2 crore voters. AAP as usual is doing very well wrt door to door campaigning, which big parties like BJP find it hard to replicate.
Sara: 14. Most difficult question of the day, who will win this election?
SC: Estimating on the basis of opinion polls is not precise. That said, given the current opinion poll data, I believe that AAP has the edge primarily because of momentum for the last 3 months and Kejriwal rating better than Kiran Bedi. My take is that there will be an AAP Government after the 10th of February. The Exit polls will give us a more accurate picture on the 7th of Feb.
PB: BJP was the favorite to win the polls from June of last year till mid January this year after their landslide victory in Lok Sabha. Confusion over leadership in BJP, Kiran Bedi's anointment, infighting within BJP and a host of other stuff (which is difficult to ascertain currently) led to AAP taking over a lead from BJP. The polls will be keenly contested. Modi's rallies in last few days, swing in women voters, Modi's development plank could just tilt the scale in favour of BJP and BJP may just scrape through.
Politicalbaaba runs a popular blog on Indian politics and elections www.politicalbaaba.wordpress.com. It has been nominated by The Guardian as one of the online voices providing an alternative view of India and the general elections. author runs a blog author runs a blog www.politicalbaaba.wordpress.com. You can tweet @politicalbaaba.