Uttarakhand HuffPo-CVoter Poll: Congress Surging, BJP Losing Steam

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The latest HuffPo-CVoter opinion poll published last night suggests a neck-to-neck contest between Congress and BJP in Uttarakhand. The election accordingly would be too close to call if voting takes place today as the numbers fall within the poll’s Margin of Error (MoE) of + 3%. 

Coincidentally, a Congress internal survey early January this year projected themselves a minimum of 33 seats, with 11 more seats where they stood a good chance of winning. Our critique of this internal poll could be found HERE. This HuffoPo-CVoter poll seems to validate their claims.

However if a time series comparative analysis is undertaken between a clutch of polls carried out between December 2016-January 2017 and the latest HuffPo-CVoter opinion poll, it paints an entirely different scenario. It clearly reveal that Congress is currently riding a strong surge, eating into the vote shares of both the BJP and ‘Others’ while the BJP is virtually behaving like a punctured balloon. 

From an all time high of 55.9% vote share registered during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is currently down to 38.7%. This amounts to a whopping 17.2% negative swing, a clear indication that the momentum is now clearly against the BJP. 

The Congress on the other hand had registered a 34% vote share both during the 2012 Assembly as well as 2016 Lok Sabha polls. Accordingly, if CVoter projections are to be believed, the Congress has gained nearly a whopping 5% vote swing, indicating that the momentum is clearly with them. It follows that the Harish Rawat government is actually being buoyed by a significant pro-incumbency wave in their favour though pre-polls by and large had been screaming they are facing massive anti-incumbency though the HuffPo-Cvoter poll preferred to describe it as “anti-incumbency sentiment among voters also appears to be relatively low”!!

Besides, opinion polls generally tend to underestimate the Congress and over estimate the BJP’s vote shares. Even in 2012, pre-polls had by and large projected a BJP win and had to eat crow on result day. So if polls like CVoter are now projecting a neck-to-neck fight, in all probability the Congress may even go to this Saturday voting having a 2-3 % vote lead over the BJP that would be suffice to generate a landslide victory within the context of Uttarakhand electoral realities.

During the Modi Wave in 2014, the BJP had been successful in attracting a chunk of Dalits and Muslims and it is primarily these sections that are now primarily jumping out of the BJP’s sinking ship. The BJP had been hoping that Mayawati’s BSP would be fairly resurgent enough to mop up these deserters from their 2014 support base, preventing Congress from gaining their votes. Unfortunately, ground reports suggest that such calculations are not holding (Read: HERE). The SP-Congress alliance in Uttar Pradesh contagion effect on Uttarakhand apparently is inducing Muslim consolidation around the Congress. This leaves the BSP to only scalp for Dalits as their vote base. It is quite possible that even a section of Dalits, fully aware of BSP’s low winning probability, may be tempted to tactically switch their support to the Congress, which is probably why ‘Others’ are also projected by CVoter as also losing vote share.

The CVoter poll also confirmed that the Congress was sweeping Kumaun Hills while indicating the BJP “is poised to do well in Garhwal” Hill region. The battle for Uttarakhand therefore boils down to the contest for the Terai-Maidan plain region which find have a large concentration of Muslims and Dalits. Here is where Harish Rawat played his master stroke. The Congress is not known in the recent past of having demonstrated a sense of strategic suaveness. Perhaps the induction of Prashant Kishore into the campaign helped to drive some strategic blood transfusion into them. The result is that Rawat strategically contests from two seats - Kichha and Haridwar (Rural), both falling in the plain areas. This, the Congress feels this would improve their strike rate in around 33 seats in the plains region.

A close look at the 2012 assembly polls clearly showed that the Congress party’s performance was below the expectation in these two districts. In Udhamsinghnagar, the Congress could win only two seats — Bajpur and Jaspur — while rest seven seats had gone in favour of BJP in 2012 assembly polls. Similarly, out of the 11 seats which Hardwar district accommodates, Congress could win only win three seats - Piran Kaliyar, Roorakee and Khanpur. Harish Rawat by going to the lion’s den was leading from the front and this act of raw courage in turn raises the confidence and motivation of the Congress cadres. 

Besides, the hill regions, Kumaon or Garhwal have a traditional rivalry between them. And it is something that has been playing out in Uttarakhand since long before it became a state. The divide between the two regions is so stark that it nearly cost the Kumaoni chief minister his chair last year. It was a rebellion by Garhwali leaders that led to defection from the Congress. Since Garhawli can hardly be considered a Congress bastion, the electoral costs in terms damage to the Congress had not been much as compared to what the optics did in the sphere of the larger political battle of public perception. By contesting in the plains, Rawat attempted to send out a strong signal of personal neutrality in the state. The Congress hopes, that through such a signal, some inroads could be made into the Garhwal region, a BJP bastion.

Once again, we are providing in tabular form the strengths and weakness of both the BJP and Congress


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