Raghav Bahl: Real voting data shows the race for 2019 is wide open

Media entrepreneur Raghav Bahl analysed a clutch of bypoll results this year and a Lokniti-CSDS-ABP Survey undertaken during the same period finds that the race for 2019 Lok Sabha polls is wide open

By NH Web Desk

The unthinkable is now being predicted. Prime Minister Modi could be on a treacherous wicket in 2019.

The Lokniti-CSDS-ABP Mood of the Nation Survey, published a fortnight ago, threw up a faint prospect of the ruling party’s defeat. A few of its topline findings are astonishingly contrarian:

  • Modi’s government is about as unpopular right now as the UPA was in July 2013, nine months before its electoral debacle in 2014 – “nearly half (47%) of the total 15,859 respondents are of the opinion that the Modi government does not merit another opportunity”.
  • While minorities like Muslims, Christians and Sikhs are overwhelmingly against the government, the majority Hindu community is virtually split down the middle over its support/opposition.
  • Over the last 12 months, “BJP’s popularity is down seven percentage points, if this declining trend continues then the ruling party may well dip below the 30% mark in the next few months.”
  • Congress could “net about one in four votes (25%) nationally”; and the erstwhile UPA would secure 31% of the votes across the country.
  • Remember, this does not include the Congress’s new found allies, viz Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) and HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular), which could add another 11 percentage points to the “new UPA’s” tally
Modi is now only marginally ahead of Rahul in voter support; his 17 percentage points lead has fallen to only 10 percentage points. An equal 43% like both Modi and Rahul; and since fewer people dislike Rahul, his “net likeability” is actually better than Modi’s.

Empirical validation of CSDS survey findings from bypoll results in the same time period

Since January this year, there have been a large number of bye-elections scattered all over the country, the results of which provide an authentic empirical validation of the polled CSDS data. The time period of the CSDS survey is a perfect match; it surveyed 16,000-odd respondents from January through May this year.

We compared the results of the “real world sample” of 10 parliamentary and 21 assembly bye-elections, spread over 15 states, in which over 1.25 crore people have actually cast their votes for nearly 19 political parties, after the Gujarat Assembly Elections in December 2017. We excluded the smaller parties.

The results are dramatic. The perfect overlap between the bye-elections’ real voting data and CSDS’ survey percentage is spooky! It gives a whole new meaning to the adage that truth is stranger than fiction:

  • BJP plus allies got 37% of the votes in the survey; they’ve got 36% of the actual votes cast (normalised) in the bye-elections since Gujarat Assembly Polls
  • Congress plus allies got 31% in the survey, and 32% of the real votes.
  • This “cent-percent validation” gave me much more confidence to go back and read the other CSDS predictions again, since these sounded so incredibly against the current media-created hype.

While the following may still be erroneous or turn out to be exaggerated, they certainly enjoy a stronger ring of truth after the validation by the bye-elections’ polling data:

  • Modi is now only marginally ahead of Rahul in voter support; his 17 percentage points lead has fallen to only 10 percentage points.
  • An equal 43% like both Modi and Rahul; and since fewer people dislike Rahul, his “net likeability” is actually better than Modi’s.
  • Rahul has also managed to convince nearly 30% of his “naysayers” into becoming “supporters”; conversely, Modi has converted 35% of his earlier supporters into opponents.
  • Rahul’s biggest gains have come among middle-aged and elderly voters (those with a higher propensity to go out and vote); Modi’s fall is sharpest among middle and lower class voters.
  • Confirming the above trend, Congress is recovering quicker in towns and small cities; and beginning to show early traction in big cities.
  • Shockingly, over 60% feel that Modi government is corrupt; over 50% have heard about Nirav Modi’s scam, and two-thirds of them are dissatisfied with the actions taken, or not taken.
  • Congress has staged a remarkable recovery amongst Dalits and Adivasis, nosing ahead of the BJP by 1-2 percentage points
  • Farmers are deserting Modi at an alarming rate—a fall of 12 percentage points over one year—and the bulk of these gains are accruing to the non-Congress regional parties.
  • Except for the North, Modi has lost support everywhere, most sharply in South, West and Central India.
  • GST, the goods and services tax, is becoming an albatross around Modi’s neck, its unpopularity getting worse, from 24% to 40% (January to May)
  • And this one is impossible to fathom: there isn’t a single issue on which the Modi government is rated positively now!

While a lot could change once Modi hits the campaign trail and cranks up his legendary skills to spin a narrative of hope for the electorate, a few things are clear. Rahul is a push-over only among Modi bhakts (devotees); for all other voters, he is slowly but surely emerging as an option they could pin their faith on. Modi has to re-invent himself and his pitch; the jury is out on what that could be.

2019 is wide open!

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