Union Budget is over and with the five-state Assembly election looming large over us, the focus has now shifted from economy to politics. The voters in the five states of Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur including the most populated Uttar Pradesh will lock the fortune of the competing political parties through innumerable beeps in EVMs. While the parties with most beeps or the ones with most effective permutation and combination will get to rule, the rest will either lick their wounds from a defeat or live through the next five years as opposition.
At Firstpost, we attempted to take a look at what interests the voters — what they search for on the Internet; who is the more popular leader; what are the issues that the population care for and whether that is in tandem with the strategies that political parties are coming up with — who are going to cast their votes in these five states. And here are the results:
PUNJAB: The state goes to polls on 4 February. Punjab elections are being closely watched since the Shiromani Akali Dal's Badals have reigned over the state for ten years. All eyes are pinned on the Congress, though, because the party's chief ministerial candidate and their unit chief Captain Amarinder Singh's leg work for the years will finally pay off, probably. The other interesting factor in Punjab is the emergence and the growing popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the state. Amid all the new entrant and the old guards, the trends showed that online searches for Amarinder have gone up compared to the other competing leaders in the state — Chief Minister of Punjab Parkash Singh Badal and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
As we see from the interest level of people in Punjab (from 2012 till now), between employment, drugs(drug addiction, say no to drugs and drugs in Punjab being key related interests) and the Sutlej Yamuna Link, employment was of higher interest in 2012. But interest in employment has gradually fallen during the SAD-BJP regime over the last five years. As this graph shows, search for the terms drug and employment are at almost the same level. The Sutlej Yamuna Link canal was not much of interest in 2012, and it still isn't. However, search data shows that there is an increase in interest in Sutlej Yamuna Link if compared to the last election.
GOA: The state goes to polls on 4 February. We compared three terms — Parrikar, casinos and BJP. When Manohar Parrikar was in the news for his impending promotion to the Union cabinet, interest in him peaked. Meanwhile, the interest in BJP peaked in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls in 2014. Interest in casinos has been fluctuating, rising when there is a news regarding action or inaction of the Goa government on banning or allowing casinos.
Goa is one of India's major tourist hubs, naturally queries on Goa tourism made in the last four years will be high. The fact that tourism is a major poll plank was evident when Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the government is laying special emphasis on inbound tourism in India. During a campaign rally in Goa, Modi also said, “The Centre is making efforts to bring in more foreign tourists and it is up to the state governments to ensure they stay longer. The Goa government has taken correct initiatives and we are working together to make Goa more attractive for tourists.” Irrespective of the poll promises, in the last five years search queries on development and BJP have also been high.
UTTAR PRADESH: The largest and probably the most crucial state to go to polls is Uttar Pradesh and the state will cast its vote in seven phases. As far as poll issues are concerned, there are many in this state. When the Firstpost team tried to ascertain whether the parties and the populace are on one page as far as issues were concerned, Google Trends showed that in the last four years, searches for the term Ayodhya or Ram Janmabhoomi did not peak as much as the terms Akhilesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Samajwadi Party. It is interesting to note here that Ayodhya and the Ram temple are one of the leading agendas for parties like BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
When Akhilesh Yadav claimed power in Uttar Pradesh in 2012, the young politician did so on the plank of development and jobs for the UP youth. When compared, the search terms 'employment' and 'Akhilesh' threw up interesting trends. The term employment peaked in May of 2012, almost the same time Akhilesh was appointed as the chief minister for UP. The search for the term Akhilesh was also high during the same period. However, ahead of the 2017 Assembly Election, search for term Akhilesh is still peaking, whereas search for the term employment has drastically dropped.
Manipur: The state will go to polls in two phases — 4 March and 8 March. Territorial integrity has always remained a contentious point in Manipur creating a huge divide between the hills and valley districts of the state. With the hills mostly inhabited by the Naga tribes who largely seek to be a part of Greater Nagaland, or Nagalim, as it is commonly known, the state's largest community the Meiteis are steadfastly against it. Owing to geographical advantages they enjoy, the Naga groups have often imposed economic blockades causing immense hardships to the dominant Meitei population in the plains with shooting prices of essential commodities. From the economic to the political, this difference between the two communities has navigated the narrative of this northeastern state for many years now, placing 'Meiteis' and 'Nagas' in the pinnacle among the hotly searched topics on Manipur.