Friday, November 28, 2014 | Latest E-book

Delhi assembly polls: Here are the possible outcomes

The results of the post-poll survey by Lokniti (CSDS) for CNN-IBN and The Week confirm the broad trends indicated in the other exit poll/post-poll surveys disclosed on 4 December on various channels: the BJP is clearly ahead of the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The Lokniti poll, based on a sample survey of 2,263 voters across 28 Delhi constituencies (out of a total of 70) should be fairly indicative since it was conducted the next day, after the heat and dust of polling day had settled down.

The vote shares indicated by this post-poll survey give the BJP 33 percent (down 3 percent from 2008, but comfortably ahead of the No 2), AAP 27 percent (a spectacular debut), and just 23 percent for the Congress (down 17 percent from 2008, when it was a two-horse race).

AFP

AFP

Given the usual three percent margin of error, these numbers could lead to several possible outcomes in terms of seat count, given below in a declining order of probability.

1: The likeliest possibility is a clear win, or even a sweep, for the BJP. In a three-way vote split, the party with the largest chunk of the vote often gets a disproportionate number of seats – especially if its votes are concentrated in the right areas. This is what happened in Uttar Pradesh in 2012, when the Samajwadi Party got a clear majority with a vote share of less than 30 percent, and with the BSP just three percentage points behind.

By raising its vote share by just 3.7 percent to 29.15 percent, Akhilesh Yadav saw his seat count rise from 97 in 2007 to a record 224 in 2012. The BSP’s 4.5 percent loss slashed its seats from 206 to just 80.

Is this what is in store in Delhi? We will know on Sunday.

2: The second possibility is that of the BJP emerging as the single largest party. In this case, it will have AAP breathing down its neck – resulting in a hung house. This could happen is the BJP’s vote-share is evenly distributed while AAP’s votes are concentrated in critical pockets. In this eventuality, it is not inconceivable that AAP could form a government with some of the smaller parties like the BSP or independents, who have a 17 percent vote share between them. It is, however, not clear if this will get them a proportionate number of seats. Some of the vote share may just be wasted among also-rans.

3: The third possibility is of the AAP actually emerging as the biggest party. Despite a lower vote share, it may end up with a higher seat share because it may have concentrated its vote-gathering efforts in the right pockets. If this happens – but it is not likely – it will be a tribute to AAP’s ability to micro-manage its voter messaging in the areas most hospitable to its debut.

4: The only outcome that seems unlikely is that of Congress springing a surprise. Not only is the Congress not likely to win, it is even less likely to emerge as the single largest party in the Delhi assembly given the huge disenchantment of the voter with both Sheila Dikshit’s government and the UPA government at the centre. Voter dissatisfaction was high, with 56 percent of those polled saying they were unhappy with the Delhi government and an even larger 63 percent saying they loathed the Congress-led UPA government. If the vagaries of the first-past-the-post system gives the Congress more seats, it will be a travesty.

So what are the broader messages coming from the CNN-IBN post-poll survey, assuming the outcome on Sunday pans out almost like this?

First, it is obvious that both the BJP and AAP are gaining from the Congress party’s double anti-incumbency – both in Delhi and at the centre. The middle class vote is clearly divided in Delhi for the assembly elections, with younger voters clearly opting for Arvind Kejriwal, and the older (and more upper caste) voters preferring the BJP. The split is evident from the top two issues mentioned by voters – price-rise and corruption. The former is the BJP’s top advantage against a faltering Congress, and the latter Kejriwal’s calling card.

Second, the Narendra Modi factor is clearly at work – and has helped the BJP. The survey clearly shows that Modi’s choice, Harsh Vardhan, as CM candidate improved the BJP’s prospects. Thus, even though Arvind Kejriwal was the first choice of CM for 27 percent of those sampled, Harsh Vardhan was close behind at 22 percent – up from just 2 percent in October. Harsh Vardhan was clearly an inspired choice for the BJP. Dikshit was a distant third with 15 percent.

Third, there’s more good news for the BJP from the Delhi vote. A significant percentage of AAP voters also like the idea of having Narendra Modi as PM. While 49 percent of those polled wanted him as PM, 49 percent of AAP voters also liked Modi, not to speak of 20 percent of Congress voters. What this suggests is that if the current mood holds till April-May 2014, the Modi-led BJP should be able to overcome the AAP challenge. The Congress faces a rout, unless Kejriwal pulls off something to dent the BJP vote and make the voting patterns messy.

However, this looks unlikely since voters tend to move towards a winner and not the loser. Modi’s preferential vote is 49 percent, more than Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Manmohan Singh put together. Delhi’s voters are in no doubt about whom they want as PM.

Fourth, the electorate clearly is not swayed by freebies and government favours. Sheila Dikshit’s government has already begun implementing the cheap food scheme, and she courted the middle class by regularising many unauthorised colonies before the elections. The Congress is not going to win 2014 by mere pre-election bribery at the taxpayers’ expense. It is too far gone for that.

However, none of the gainers – BJP and AAP – can afford to rest on their laurels. While the Congress has the looks of a loser, both BJP and AAP are attracting the same segments. This is apparent when we see the narrow gap between the two parties in the fight for the middle class vote. While the BJP leads 39 percent to 30 percent among the upper classes, and 30-24 even among the poor, the gap is narrowest in the middle and lower classes – at 33-29 and 32-27 respectively.

AAP and BJP will have to figure out whether their voters this year will stay with them for the general elections, or whether they have to work harder to undercut the other.

The double-incumbency has merely enlarged the non-Congress vote, but both AAP and the BJP have to work hard again to grab the lion’s share. The vote in 2014 is about the national government where the issues are different; the BJP has to play a smarter game than it has done so far in Delhi, where AAP has nearly managed to upstage it.