India is now in the last lap of the 2019 election. 2019 has been widely billed as an election that will shape India’s democratic future. Scholars at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) have been closely following the campaign. We bring you our analysis of the electoral journey so far.
TAKING STOCK MID-WAY – ELECTION ADDA BY CPR
In March, CPR scholars launched the Election Adda, a space for debate and analysis on key issues that have dominated this election. From forecasting and evaluating pollster perspectives to dissecting trends and debating the big themes, this series offers important insights into the 2019 campaign.
In the video (above), 'Taking Stock: A Mid Poll Evaluation of the 2019 Elections', Rahul Verma moderates a discussion between Surjit Bhalla, Sunetra Choudhury, Dhananjai Joshi and Philip K Oldenburg as part of CPR’s Election Adda series to analyse possible scenarios post May 23. The question and answer session that followed can be accessed here.
In the run-up to the panel above, Yamini Aiyar and Rahul Verma discussed in another episode of Election Adda whether the 2019 election was going to usher a new party system in India. Watch here – 'Elections 2019 and the Future of the Indian Party System'. In an article in the Firstpost, Rahul Verma again analyses the evolving party system in India drawing on his book Ideology and Identity, which he co-authored with Pradeep K Chhibber.
Other episodes of Election Adda include:
- ‘Dissecting Polls’ featuring Rahul Verma and Roshan Kishore, moderated by Yamini Aiyar, where they discuss who is leading the electoral race and by how much, and why this national election is unpredictable.
- ‘How to Win an Election’ featuring Abeer Kapoor and Oshin Lakahni, moderated by Rahul Verma, where they discuss Kapoor's game, 'The Poll: The Great Election Game' and what goes into an Indian election campaign.
- ‘Modi and Millennials – who will India’s Young Voters Choose?’ featuring Vivan Marwaha and Snigdha Poonam, moderated by Rahul Verma, where they discuss the political outlook of young Indian voters.
FRAMING THE DEBATE
National Security vs Economic Issues
- Rahul Verma and Pranav Gupta analyse the likely fortunes of the Congress in the national elections in this article in ThePrint. They elaborate on how the party has made attempts to ‘shift the narrative from just national security to jobs, farmers and corruption’ in its campaign. Highlighting that ‘the party has chosen a high-risk, high-reward strategy’, they add that ‘it may fall flat, but it can also bring windfall gains’.
- Verma and Gupta also write in another article in ThePrint about how ‘post-Balakot, national security has become the lens through which voters are viewing the performance of the NDA government’. Using data from the pre-poll surveys by Lokniti-CSDS, they argue that given the heightened nationalistic sentiments among Indian voters, it makes sense for Narendra Modi and the BJP to campaign around issues of national security.
- Neelanjan Sircar writes in the Hindustan Times, analysing how the Balakot air strike could help the current government in the national elections, especially in the seats BJP is contesting nationally as opposed to regionally, but that ultimately it won’t be a game changer. To establish his argument, Sircar draws on data from the 1999 national election, post-Kargil war, unpacking the differences and the parallels between then and now.
- Rahul Verma writes in ThePrint about how the BJP was part of the electoral race even in the pre-Pulwama and Balakot scenario, and that the party’s position is likely to be further strengthened in the aftermath of the air strikes due to increased nationalistic sentiments among the voters. However, ‘if the BJP fails to capitalise on the momentum in its favour and the opposition manages to make the contest centre around economic issues, the 2019 elections would become wide-open with possibilities’, he adds.
- On a different note, Ambassador Shyam Saran writes in The Indian Express about the need for political parties to engage in debate on national security issues, rather than making it a subject to score political points during elections. He stresses that ‘citizens have the right to hold their political leaders and governing institutions accountable. It is unacceptable to assert that questioning the armed forces or government is unpatriotic’.
- In an interview with Bloomberg Quint, Neelanjan Sircar analyses the campaign of the Congress party, highlighting that it is important for Congress to leverage structural factors that exist in the economy such as unemployment and rural distress in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where it is in direct contest with the BJP to wean away some of the votes.
Politics of Welfare & the Missing Questions in Election Season
- Analysing the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana (PMSYMY), launched in March, 2019 by the BJP, Yamini Aiyar writes in the Hindustan Times that without a ‘clear vision, strategy and institutional architecture for delivering pensions,’ it was yet another scheme ‘designed to fail’. It was launched days before the election for this reason in a likely bid to woo voters, so that they voted on the ‘merits of the promise' rather than performance.
- In another article in the Hindustan Times, Aiyar analyses Rahul Gandhi’s promise of replacing the NITI Aayog with a ‘lean’ Planning Commission, writing that without addressing the political challenge of New Delhi’s inherent tendency to centralise power (vis-à-vis the States), Gandhi’s vision could remain trapped in the failings of the past. She highlights how instead of reshaping the federal compact, which was its stated mandate, NITI Aayog’s style of functioning led to further over centralisation and coercive federalism.
- Shyam Saran writes in The Tribune about the need for an ecological civilisation to reverse the climate crises. Saran highlights that ‘this is election season in India but no political party even acknowledges the elemental challenges our country confronts, let alone chart out a path towards ecological sanity’. However, given that India is not yet fully ‘locked into a resource-intensive pattern of growth,’ the opportunity to exercise the right choices is still available to us before it is too late, he adds.
- Navroz K Dubash writes in the Hindustan Times about how ‘formulating a serious approach to air quality plan remains a missed political opportunity’ in the midst of election season. Dubash highlights that the clean air plan ‘sets a target without a realistic roadmap, proposes a city-based approach that downplays regional effects, and adopts a something-for-everyone laundry list approach rather than prioritising action’.
- Navroz K Dubash along with Shibani Ghosh wrote a book chapter in the book Re-forming India: The Nation Today edited by Niraja Gopal Jayal titled The Ecological Costs of Doing Business: Environment, Energy and Climate Change. In their chapter, Dubash and Ghosh assess the BJP government’s actions in the areas of environment, energy and climate change through i) examining if the government’s focus on reducing the cost of business has come at an environmental price; ii) analysing cases in which an environment and energy agenda was driven by political imperatives; and iii) exploring how the government is addressing big picture questions as well as conducting diplomacy in areas of climate change and energy.
- In the same book mentioned above, Yamini Aiyar wrote a chapter titled Maximum Schemes, Minimum Welfare. In this chapter, she analyses the BJP government’s welfare policy and vision and actions taken to realise the promises it made. She writes that despite a powerful mandate to bring about structural transformation, the central government remained caught up in its own contradictions and misdiagnosis of the core challenge, resulting in the loss of a unique opportunity. ThePrint has carried an excerpt of the chapter.
- Yamini Aiyar and Louise Tillin co-edited a special issue of the journal Seminar on India’s changing federalism. In an introductory article titled The Problem, they set the context through an overview of changes in the political, fiscal, institutional landscape of India, including the dismantling of the Planning Commission, creation of the NITI Aayog and the GST Council. The entire issue will be available online next month.
- In an interview with CNBC TV18, Rahul Verma analyses the BJP manifesto, comparing it with that of the Congress, highlighting that 'manifestos aren't written to reach voters directly. These are messages to party cadres on which they're going to mobilise voters'. Verma adds that while the Congress manifesto was a ‘thought-out’ manifesto on development, agriculture and economic issues, the BJP manifesto seems ‘hurriedly prepared’ and was an ‘ideological’ manifesto. In another interview on CNBC TV18, Verma says that despite the details, the Congress manifesto does not succeed in providing a ‘vision for India’ the way BJP did in 2014.
POLLING TRENDS, VOTER TURNOUT & THE ‘MODI WAVE'
- Watch the video of the CPR-Lokniti CSDS Discussion on ‘Opening the Black Box of Election Polling and Forecasting’ as part of the ‘Conversations on Indian Democracy’ Series. The first discussion brought together psephologists and pollsters including Sanjay Kumar, Yashwant Deshmukh and Pradeep Bhandari, who broke down exactly what goes into making an election poll.
- Watch the video of the second discussion of the ‘Conversations on Indian Democracy’ Series that brought together journalists and analysts from print, TV and online media to discuss the intricacies involved behind the consumption of poll numbers on their platforms and their dissemination. The panelists included Rajdeep Sardesai, Surjit S Bhalla and Saurabh Dwivedi. Both these discussions were moderated by Rahul Verma.
- Rahul Verma writes in Firstpost, analysing data from the second wave of the National Trust Survey conducted by Firstpost-IPSOS, highlighting that if Indians choose to vote for their Prime Minister instead of their Members of Parliament, then the electoral wind is in favour of the BJP. Verma stresses that in such a scenario, ‘the Congress must avoid a direct leadership battle vis-à-vis Modi and make efforts to divert the election discourse to economic concerns of Indian voters’.
- Rahul Verma writes in The Times of India about the effects of a change in voter turnout on the re-election chances of an incumbent party in India. Verma points out that those who didn’t turn out to vote may be key to the verdict in 2019, highlighting that if the trend of declining participation rates among the marginalised continues like in 2014, ‘we can bid farewell to the promise of the deepening of democracy’ in the country.
- Neelanjan Sircar writes in the Hindustan Times about the impact of voter turnout on election results. Sircar uses data of turnout changes in three national elections, to analyse the ‘theory of turnout’ and gauge the impact of this on the chances of the BJP’s victory in 2019, calling it ‘a battle between party organisation and voter accountability’.
- Rahul Verma, Pranav Gupta and Pradeep Chhibber write in ThePrint about factors that affect voter turnout on election day, analysing data of voter turnout for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls for all 1.3 lakh polling booths in Uttar Pradesh. Their analysis finds that simple changes such as making ‘smaller polling booths each of which is not co-located with other polling booths within one polling centre’ can increase the voter turnout by 5-7 percentage points.
- Rahul Verma writes in Firstpost about how the results of the 2019 elections will decide the course of Dalit politics. Given the trust deficit created among Dalits for the BJP and the declining popularity of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Verma comments that it is not clear which political party will emerge as the claimant of Dalit votes.
- Neelanjan Sircar writes in the Hindustan Times about the likely fortunes of the BJP in the 2019 national elections post its loss in the 3 Hindi belt states including Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, states that it had controlled for 15 years. Sircar’s analysis finds that the party ‘will have to manufacture another Modi wave if it is to return to power in 2019’.
Uttar Pradesh: The Key to 2019?
- Neelanjan Sircar writes in the Hindustan Times about how the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance in Uttar Pradesh will affect the BJP’s performance in the national election. Sircar uses data to prove that ‘the BJP’s performance is fundamentally a function of coordination/miscoordination effects in the SP-BSP coalition’.
- Neelanjan Sircar writes in India Today about how ‘Uttar Pradesh will be the deciding factor in a second term for PM Modi’. Sircar highlights that ‘the BJP's performance in UP may be the difference between a commanding electoral performance like 2014, scraping up alliance partners to form the government, or losing the election’.
- In an interview with Bloomberg Quint, Neelanjan Sircar analyses who holds the edge in Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha polls. Sircar highlights that ‘the big fight starts after the fourth phase of the elections’.
The Politics in Karnataka
- Pranav Kuttaiah writes in The Wire analysing the crucial elements in the electoral arithmetic of North Karnataka. Kuttaiah highlights how ‘with factors like patronage politics and spoiler effects in play, North Karnataka looks to be headed for a tight electoral contest with potentially low voter turnouts’.
- Pranav Kuttaiah writes in The Wire analysing the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) alliance in South Karnataka. Kuttaiah highlights that while ‘the alliance will make many seats held by the BJP a closer fight, a winning seat could also turn into a close fight by extraneous circumstances’.