Among the supporters of all political parties, it’s the BJP supporters on social media who take opinion polls most seriously, perhaps even more seriously than those conducting such polls. One of the reasons could be that most of such supporters tend to trust data more than ‘mahaul’ – which is why they kept asking for data whenever a narrative on lynching, hate-crime, Jai Shri Ram, etc. was built by the opposition. Opinion polls deal with data, and thus BJP supporters find it a bit difficult to dismiss it, as it goes against their innate beliefs.
The wider held opinion among this support base, to whom my article is targeted at, was that BJP was nowhere in competition as the 2020 assembly elections drew closer, but with Amit Shah himself leading from the front and BJP going aggressive on cultural and ideological issues in the last couple of weeks, the game had changed and it was now an equal fight between BJP and AAP in Delhi.
However, the latest opinion poll by Times Now, which is being claimed as having been conducted between January 27 and February 1 i.e. during a duration when BJP is supposed to have surged ahead, has somewhat spoiled this enthusiasm among a section of BJP’s online support base. The poll gives an unbeatable 52% vote share to the ruling Aam Aadmi Party that could help AAP win as many as 60 out of the total 70 seats in the Delhi assembly.
Interestingly, the same opinion poll says that 52% of the voters were against the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh, which has been made a central issue by the BJP in the Vidhan Sabha elections. It also says that the BJP will win all the seats in Delhi again if a Lok Sabha election was to be conducted at the same time. While it may appear contradictory, it indeed is a reality that people vote on different issues in state and general elections.
So does that mean that BJP is not likely to win the Delhi assembly elections? I don’t think that is something that should be taken as a foregone conclusion. Here are 5 reasons:
The usual reason: Opinion polls are not an exact science
In the last assembly elections i.e. in 2015, virtually no opinion poll could predict the unprecedented victory AAP finally went on to register, winning 67 out of 70 seats. Half of the polls were predicting BJP getting majority while others gave AAP an edge. Opinion polls similarly have missed many other wave elections in other parts of the country, which should actually make their life easier, as against predicting a closely fought elections.
The reason is that opinion polls are not an exact science. It is very difficult to get the true sample that represents the actual electorates. Furthermore, factors like voter turnout that in turn depends upon a party’s booth management abilities, and decisions by ‘undecided voters’ can change the voting patterns. BJP is far better in booth management and having a network of workers on the ground. AAP is lacking the army of self-driven volunteers, mostly young men and women, that it was able to attract last time.
‘Modi for PM, Kejriwal for CM’ might not be as strong as before
The Times Now poll virtually retains the vote shares that were obtained by BJP and AAP respectively in 2015. AAP is losing marginally and BJP is gaining marginally (less than 2% votes). This coupled with the fact that their own survey says that bulk of the voters still prefer Modi in the centre, suggests that nothing has changed in people’s outlook since 2015. ‘Modi for PM, Kejriwal for CM’ was a popular phrase, so much so that AAP itself had used it in a banner on their official website as part of the poll promotion. It was perhaps the first-ever case when a political party had used the face and name of their opponent to seek votes. Embarrassed, they had to soon remove the banner from their website.
If the Times Now opinion poll is to be believed, nothing has changed since then, and this sentiment remains strong. This assumption I believe is fallacious because after winning 2015, Kejriwal has never lost an opportunity to attack Modi in the most virulent terms. It was a totally different Kejriwal that people had seen before 2015, who, even though having fought directly against Modi in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, didn’t indulge in polemics like calling Modi a “coward and psychopath”. This name-calling became worse after demonetisation and continued even in wake of India-Pakistan tensions, which ended up Pakistanis trending a hashtag in support of him.
It’s true that Kejriwal is trying to undo the damage and change that image. Recently he rejected support from a Pakistani minister for Delhi polls and has not made any ‘mental’ statement against Modi after the 2019 Lok Sabha results. But I don’t think people will forget his past antics so easily. The ‘Modi for PM, Kejriwal for CM’ voter block from the last elections would be in much smaller number this time, and that will hurt AAP.
Kejriwal is not Modi
One of the reasons why media and pollster believe that AAP will repeat its 2015 elections is why Modi could repeat, rather better, his 2014 performance. Almost all of the journalists and pollsters had got the intensity of Modi’s 2019 victory wrong, and I think they are overcompensating it when it comes to Kejriwal. Even if their own data may not show Kejriwal winning this big, perhaps they are adding that “x-factor” that they had missed for Modi’s 2019 victory. Basically, once bitten twice shy.
But it’s not just ‘once bitten twice shy’, but it’s also because many of them actually believe that Kejriwal is like Modi and thus they are prone to believe that Kejriwal will repeat in 2020 what Modi could do in 2019, and thus adding that x-factor.
It’s no secret that a huge section of media loves Kejriwal. During last elections, NDTV’s Ravish Kumar had written a blog that virtually argued that Kejriwal must win to keep the hope in democracy alive. Kejriwal did win and democracy thrived, which somehow gets suffocated when Modi wins elections. That aside, Kejriwal has been the original pyaar of the leftist ecosystem, which saw in him a nemesis of Modi. However, once Kejriwal failed to win Goa and Punjab, the ecosystem got disillusioned and some decided to go back to the patron Congress and joined the chorus of Rafale scam, while others kept looking for Modi’s nemesis in random JNU students and likes of Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani or in leaders like Mamata Banerjee.
After 2019 Lok Sabha verdict, the ecosystem has been repeating everything that they did after the 2014 results. Having belief in Kejriwal is part of being in that repeat mode. And they have reasons to believe that Kejriwal in Delhi is like Modi at the national stage. Both have delivered to the lower classes what matter to them. If Modi gave them gas cylinders, electricity, houses, etc., Kejriwal has at least given water and electricity “free”. While journalists kept on dreaming bad press due to imaginary Rafale scam, Modi was winning support on the ground. Kejriwal could similarly have support on the ground due to his free bijli and paani.
But the truth is Kejriwal is not Modi. Rafale scam was imaginary, but Kejriwal’s failure to deliver on his myriad of promises are real. BJP has been trying to highlight those failures and Amit Shah himself has led from the front. Modi doesn’t allow his detractors to trap him and force him to follow their narrative, while Kejriwal was trapped by Shah and he has been forced to talk about his unfulfilled promises. The dynamics that worked for Modi in 2019 are not directly applicable for Kejriwal in 2010, because they are very different personalities.
Delhi is not India
Apart from Kejriwal not being Modi, other difference is that Delhi is not India. It is a region that appears to get influenced by ‘mahaul’ more easily than other places in India, perhaps due to the disproportionate focus of the mainstream media on the region. Rise of AAP, which the party couldn’t replicate anywhere else in the country, is in a way testament to that theory. That is another reason why direct parallels between Modi’s 2019 performance can’t be made with an assumed repeat performance of Kejriwal in 2020.
And this is where BJP might not be erring in treating the elections as some sort of national elections, and creating a ‘mahaul’ around nationalism and civilizational issues. Obviously, the big difference is that while others get support from the ‘liberal media’ in creating such mahaul, BJP will not have that luxury. However, there is pretty good chances that this ‘mahaul’ could affect the Delhi electorates beyond those residing in areas near Shaheen Bagh.
What the party need to do is to have a healthy mix of creating this mahaul while nailing Kejriwal on his unfulfilled promises. There are reports that BJP volunteers have been asked to spend time in jhuggis ahead of the elections. They shouldn’t be talking only Shaheen Bagh there but explain to them how “free” is not really free and other such issues.
Last over batting by Modi
Narendra Modi’s rallies are coming. That’s a reason in itself.