Elections 2017: Some mistakes I made while making predictions

Results in five states – Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh – were declared yesterday. I got a few things rights and a few things wrong. This post is an endeavor to downplay the rights and overplay the wrongs.

Goa

Prediction

Actual Results

AAP – 9 | BJP – 16 | INC – 13 | Others – 2 [+ – 2]

 

AAP – 0 | BJP – 13 | INC – 17 | Others – 10

Admittedly, I got Goa wrong. Not entirely though. While AAP was not the force I thought it was, I managed to get the bit about the legislative assembly being hung right. I had given BJP a slight edge in Goa compared to the INC on account of Manohar Parrikar. He was and remains a popular leader in Goa and while things are yet to play out, it is quite likely that he may end up heading a coalition government in Goa despite INC being the single largest party in Goa. Is AAP done in Goa? Most likely, yes. Not because parties die out. But because AAP is a relatively smaller movement-based party with a small resource base to tap into. The lack of even a single foot in the door, is a blow to the organizational efforts in Goa. They might get a few seats the next time around. But they won’t lead Goa in the next elections either. A decisive mandate like Delhi is just not on the cards.

Manipur

Prediction

Actual Results

BJP – 20 | INC – 30 | Others – 10 [+ – 3]

 

BJP – 21 | INC – 28 | Others – 11

Manipur seems to be in line with the prediction – another hung legislative assembly with an indecisive mandate. When I made the prediction late January that the BJP will have about 20 seats in the house in Manipur, there was some flak. It was after all a jump up of 21 seats. But there are two factors that I had factored in – (1) Modi is a brand and he is making a nationwide push; and (2) he who has control of the armed forces in Manipur, has an advantage when going to polls and during the polls (not saying the armed forced make people vote in a particular manner but the armed forces’ control of the state allows for decisions like who can hold rallies when etc. etc. to tilt in favour of the party ruling at the national level). The BJP has made massive inroads into Manipur. A BJP-led government is not unlikely in Manipur anymore and 2022 or sooner, we may see it. For now, Okram Ibobi Singh should return as the Chief Minister of Manipur for a fourth time. Two of his three previous times, he has been short of a majority and yet has managed to have a full term. Of course the BJP “kidnapping” independent MLA’s might prolong this saga and may even lead to a court battle.

Punjab

Prediction

Actual Results
AAP – 35 | INC – 65 | SAD+BJP – 17 [+ – 5]

 

AAP – 22 | INC – 77| SAD+BJP – 18

Congress win? Check. SAD+BJP not being annihilated like many exit polls predicted? Check. Estimation of AAP’s influence in Punjab? Not so much. What I thought was AAP’s, was actually the INC’s. Captain Amarinder Singh led a great campaign. An INC win was never in doubt. This was the Captain’s last call with the voters (possibly) and he gave it his all. But what is really interesting is the AAP situation. They may not have reached where they would have liked to be, but they have made a big start and in the next 10 years, I predict an AAP-led Government in Punjab. Unlike Goa, AAP has more than a foot in the door and is the largest party in opposition. We all know AAP can make some noise. The upstart is here and INC and SAD+BJP will have to learn to live with it, maybe even lose to it.

Uttarakhand

Prediction

Actual Results
BJP – 38 | INC – 27 | Others – 6 [+ – 3]

 

BJP – 57 | INC – 11 | Others – 2

One would have thought that Harish Rawat after his constitutional win over the Modi-led Government’s attempts to topple him less than a year ago, would be able to remain atleast in a credible opposition. He has been decimated. A BJP government in Uttarakhand seemed almost certain, but the quantum of the win is significant. Once 3/4ths of a legislative assembly belong to one party, you can forget debate. The fact that Harish Rawat also lost from both the seats he contested from takes away the presence of a dominant leader in the legislative assembly. Dr. Indira Hridayesh will have to hold the fort for the INC in the legislative assembly. Who, however, will command this dominant majority in Uttarakhand is not clear – the lack of a chief ministerial face is astonishing, explained only by the fact that both Satpal Maharaj and Vijay Bahuguna are INC defectors and may not inspire confidence amongst the rank and file of BJP.

Uttar Pradesh

Prediction

Actual Results
BJP – 155 | BSP – 45 | SP + INC – 190 | Others – 14 [+ – 10]

 

BJP – 312 | BSP – 19 | SP + INC – 54| Others – 18 [+ – 10]

Could not have gotten it more wrong! I could have said plus-minus 100 and I still would have missed BJP’s tally by more than 60! Key take aways? Narendra Modi is – like it or not and I do not – the most dominant brand in India right now. The man can sell sim cards and win elections. He is a forceful speaker and can rally the masses. Equal kudos have to go to Amit Shah who it seems is one of the sharpest electoral minds the country has seen – appointment of Keshav Prasad Maurya, the young first time MP from Phulpur, as the state unit chief was a masterstroke. It helped make significant inroad into the vote bank BSP, not to mention the SP+INC. So much so that BSP supreme Mayawati may not have a Rajya Sabha seat come 2018. Ideally he should become the chief minister too.

Conclusions

I have been making predictions about the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections since 2004. I like doing it because it involves reading up on the issues, the personalities, and most importantly parts of India that I have not even visited. At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I have almost always picked the winner of the contest right. The only time I have been as wrong in my calculations as in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh this time was in 2015 when Delhi went to polls and Arvind Kejriwal swept – quite literally – through Delhi with 67 out of the 70 seats in the legislative assembly.

Is there a common lesson between that massive miscalculation and the aforesaid miscalculations? I think, yes. Both were individual driven campaigns and I assigned more weight in my analysis to the candidates/parties and the issues. Most people who voted AAP in 2015 in Delhi did not know a lot about AAP’s economic platform. They did, however, know what Arvind Kejriwal looked like and what he was saying. In 2017, I think the same stands true for Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. People are swept away by Modi’s powerful rhetoric. His message is loud and he unabashedly, in a very presidential manner, asks for votes in his name and not the BJP’s. In future, I need to factor in individuals more than parties and traditional voting patterns. I did not see Indira Gandhi campaign and command a national audience in the 70s and the 80s like my parents did. They tell me she was a forceful campaigner. I am seeing Narendra Modi campaign and command a national audience today.