Karnataka seems to be headed for yet another fractured mandate. At the end of four years full of political action and drama, the electorate appears to have given a rather undramatic verdict: if we go by the CNN-IBN-Deccan Herald-CSDS poll, all the three major parties appear to be exactly where they were in 2004 in terms of their vote share.
I and II
The Congress is expected to secure around 35 per cent votes, the same as last time. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contesting on its own is likely to secure the same vote share of 30 per cent which it secured in alliance with Janata Dal (United) last time.
Estimate of vote share
Despite many prophecies of doom, the Janata Dal (Secular) appears to have retained its share of 21 per cent votes.
Other players like the JD(U), the BSP and the SP do not appear to have made a dent, even allowing for the fact that surveys tend to under-estimate smaller parties.
This is not to say that nothing has changed in the popular preferences in the state. The reality is far from it. The public mood has undergone many ups and downs
The regional and caste-community equations have undergone a lot of churning. Popular evaluation of issues and personalities has undergone a serious change.
Yet the net effect of all these changes tends to cancel each other and leaves all the key players at the same level in terms of popular support.
The last few weeks have seen some major shifts. On the whole, the Congress appears to have lost the substantial lead that it enjoyed at the starting point of the electoral race.
The CNN-IBN-Deccan Herald-CSDS pre-poll survey, which was done before the candidates were announced and the campaign began, had shown that the Congress enjoyed an 11 point lead over the BJP in its share of popular votes.
Swing from pre-poll
But the post-poll survey for the first two phases and the exit poll for the last phase show that the nomination of candidates and party campaign seems to have changed the picture.
CM popularity rating
In the first two phases the momentum had swung in favour of the BJP, but the party did not manage to keep its surge in the third phase of elections that took place on Thursday.
Compared to where it stood at the beginning of the race, the Congress lost four percentage points, two to the BJP and one each to JD(S) and others.
The CNN-IBN-Deccan Herald-CSDS survey indicates that while the BJP has gained all over the state in the last one month, its gains are differential and could lead to very different scenarios in different parts of the state.
Phase wise gains for the BJP
Swing for BJP
In the Bangalore region, comprising Bangalore urban and rural, the advantage still rests with the Congress despite impressive gains for the BJP.
The JD(S) is likely to finish a distant third in this region, with some influence in the rural periphery around Bangalore. There is good news for the JD(S) from its heartland South Karnataka, which voted in the first phase.
As reported in our pre-poll survey, the JD(S) appears set to defy forecasters of doom to retain its ground in this region.
Like the last Assembly election, the Congress and the JD(S) appear to be locked in a dead-heat in this region. The BJP has registered small gains over the last election, but not enough to bring it close to the top two.
The one region that has witnessed a dramatic turn about is Central Karnataka that voted in the second phase. The BJP has established a decisive lead in this region and could well sweep the polls here.
The only region to defy the statewide trend is coastal Karnataka, where Congress seems to have upstaged the BJP that has dominated this region for well over a decade. The JD(S) continues to be irrelevant here.
Our pre-poll survey had found the BJP clearly ahead in Mumbai Karnataka region and the party was looking forward to a big win in this region.
Its hopes appear to have been belied by the electorate, as the BJP actually shed some votes here in the last few weeks. Both the Congress and the JD(S) made some gains here.
This region is likely to witness some very keen contests. In Hyderabad Karnataka it appears to be a very keen triangular contest as the JD(S) has not withered away from the contest.
Advantage Congress, some gains for BJP
Neck and neck between Congress and JD(S)
BJP overtakes the Congress, is well ahead
Congress enjoys an edge over the BJP
Triangular contest, BJP improves
Congress overtakes BJP by small margin
The Congress may take consolation from the fact that it is first in terms of votes. But the last assembly election had shown that being ahead in vote share is no guarantee of getting more seats than others.
Last time the Congress secured 35.3 per cent of the popular votes, nearly five percentage points ahead of its nearest rival, the BJP-JD(U) combine. But it ended up with just 65 seats, compared to 84 for the BJP-JD(U) combine.
Its tally was only seven more than the JD(S) despite securing 15 percentage points votes more than the BJP.
Such a 'crooked' relationship between votes and seats is because the votes of Congress are spread evenly through the state while the support for its rivals, the BJP and the JD(S), is concentrated in some pockets.
Forecasting the number of seats in such a situation is a psephological nightmare.
Vote share for parties in constituencies with different contest type
BJP vs. Cong
Cong. Vs. JD(S)
The key to understanding the logic of seats and votes is the nature of contest in different constituencies.
The state is witnessing four types of contests. There are about 94 seats that are likely to witness a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP. The BJP has an advantage of about four points in this set of constituencies.
In a direct bi-polar this advantage could give the BJP an exaggerated yield in terms of seats. Then there are seats where it’s a direct contest between the Congress JD(S).
Unlike last time, in these constituencies the Congress enjoys a comfortable lead over the JD(S).
This could mean a fall in the JD(S) tally. When it comes to constituencies, 63 in all, which are witnessing a genuine triangular contest involving all the three players it is going to be a very keen contest with a wafer-thin to the Congress.
The JD(S) is not absent here and could make up some of its losses elsewhere in this set of constituencies.
That leaves 29 number which do not fit into the first three categories. Here again Congress has an advantage over its big rivals, so its difficult to offer a precise estimate here.
Issue that mattered in voting decision
Basic Amenities (Water, Road etc.)
Condition of farmers
This election has witnessed a lot of social churning as well. The BJP tried, and partly succeeded in consolidating its traditional vote base among Lingayats, upper castes, dominant peasant communities like Reddys and Kammas, and managed to make a dent in the Adivasi vote.
BJP consolidates its traditional voters
BJP vote share among…
But in the process of polarisation it may have lost some support among the lower social order.
The Congress targeted this vote bank and did succeed in cornering a lion’s share of votes among the backwards, Dalits, Adivasis and Muslim. But it failed to secure en-bloc votes of these communities.
Lower order still with the Congress
Congress vote share among…
The JD(S) cut into the Muslim votes of the Congress, as the party lost more than 10 percentage point support among the Muslims in the last four weeks.
The JD(S) managed to take the largest share of the biggest community, the Vokalingas, but nowhere close to BJP’s support among the Lingayats. The BSP made a very small dent in the Dalit vote.
The BJP did better among the younger voters and while the Congress performed better among the poor.
The urban-rural divide does not seem to have mattered in this election at all, with all the three parties getting similar vote shares in the cities as well as the villages.
With a badly fractured mandate, the final outcome may turn out to be Deve Gowda’s dream. He might do well to remember that while the voters were not too unhappy with his son’s government, almost everyone, including JD(S) voters resented Deve Gowda’s interference in the governance of the state. All the parties could learn from the popular mandate on issues.
It is not a verdict on stability or Hindutva or inflation for that matter. People want basic amenities and want the new government to have a sympathetic attitude towards the farmers.