24 May 2024 07:19 AM



Five Numbers To Watch Tomorrow (Besides Final Seat Tallies)

NEW DELHI: Assembly election results from five states are due tomorrow (March 11) and television screens will be awash with all sorts of numbers. As yesterday’s exit poll predictions confirmed once again, the number surfeit will confuse more than enlighten. It may then be useful to track a select few (other than final seat tallies) to make better sense of the verdict.

So, here’s a list of five numbers – one per state - to keep an eye on tomorrow:

1. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Vote Share in Uttar Pradesh (UP)

This will be a test of how resilient voter coalitions the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) have crafted around axes of socio-religious empowerment, vulnerability and deprivation can prove against the BJP’s aggressive tactical maneuvers (in particular, cultivating micro and meso level leaders from castes outside its core support base) and omnibus appeals in the name of nation, religion and development.

Unless there’s a sharp drop (about 8-10%) in the BJP’s 2014 vote share of 42%, there would be reason to believe that voter coalitions in India’s largest and politically most important state are being reshaped and the BJP’s systematic gnawing at the BSP’s dalit and SP’s OBC support base is paying dividends.

A major fall in the BJP’s vote share, on the other hand, would suggest that its omnibus appeals have limited connect – and are insufficient to convince the electorate that it is the party best placed to respond to day to day experiences of living with social and economic stress.

2 and 3. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Vote Share in Punjab and Goa

This will indicate whether AAP’s efforts to tap into the disenchantment with established political parties and its promise of a new politics carry resonance beyond Delhi.

An impressive AAP showing in even one of the two states – there are indications that it will more likely be Punjab – will inspire cadres in other states, attract the politically inclined but hitherto entry-wary citizen into the party fold and add to Arvind Kejriwal’s stature. The AAP’s expanded footprint might imply higher initial casualty for the Congress but that, one suspects, won’t comfort the BJP and Narendra Modi, who have been at the party’s crosshairs for a while, much.

Interestingly, an indifferent performance is unlikely to hurt the AAP beyond a point. Yes, it will dampen cadre spirits and, yes, it will give fresh ammunition to Kejriwal’s many baiters in the polity and media but - given the party’s early age enthusiasm and the spunk it has demonstrated so far – there is little chance of it going into a downward spiral.

4. BJP Vote Share in Manipur

Of the five states, Manipur is most likely to confirm or negate the limits of election management.

The BJP, keen to acquire power in yet another north-eastern state, has resorted to an entire bagful of tricks to win over the Manipur electorate. From importing leaders from other parties to drawing an endorsement from an ex-royal to relying on the prime minister for a vikas pitch and leveling corruption allegations against the incumbent chief minister. This has allowed the BJP to emerge a serious contender in a state where it had no member in the outgoing assembly and whose interests may be significantly compromised by an accord the BJP has signed but refuses to reveal the details of.

Should all this achieve expected results for the BJP, it will suggest that sound election management and an uninspiring rival can (at least occasionally) circumvent the painful process of party building and being transparent. Not great news but…

5. BJP-Congress Vote Share Difference in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand assembly elections have been close affairs with a less than two percent vote share difference between the BJP and Congress in 2002, 2007 and 2012. (Parliamentary election voting, in contrast, is volatile.) The Congress, widely believed to be on the back foot this time, will find some solace in defeat if the difference remains in that ball park. A wider margin - especially in the backdrop of Uttarakhand’s unprecedented endorsement of the BJP in 2014 (a 56% vote share, against the Congress’ 34%) and the Congress’ known limitations in picking itself up after nasty falls - may herald the BJP’s long-term entrenchment in power in yet another ‘two-party state.’

(Manish Dubey is a policy analyst and crime fiction writer with interest in politics, cinema and cricket).