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Gujarat pre-poll survey: Modi has an edge

Nov 14, 2007 09:32 PM IST Politics Politics
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New Delhi: Narendra Modi’s position in Gujarat today is similar to that of Atal Behari Vajpayee before the last Lok Sabha elections. His popularity rating is high and so is the satisfaction level with his government. Even if they have not heard about ‘vibrant Gujarat’ the people are receptive to his slogan. As of now, at the starting point of the race, his party is the front-runner. Yet something is amiss. He is more vulnerable than what these numbers show. The CNN-IBN-Indian Express -Divya Bhaskar -- CSDS Gujarat Poll shows that the BJP was 5 percentage points ahead of the Congress in the first week of November, before nominations began. The poll had a sufficiently large sample of 3,893 respondents that was spread across every third constituency in the state, was randomly selected and was thus fairly representative of all the diversities of the state’s electorate (Check out methodology). Such a survey should not be off by more than one or two points. This lead does not appear to be simply due to fear among the respondents leading to over-reporting in favour of the BJP. We took special precautions in this survey to detect and correct for this type of over-reporting for the ruling party. Taking everything into account, we estimate that at the time of this survey, the BJP’s share of popular vote stood at 45 per cent, compared to 40 per cent for the Congress. There was no evidence for noticeable surge for the BSP or any other party in the state. Pre-poll surveys like this one tend to under-estimate smaller parties, but we can at least be sure that there is as yet no big third player in this election. In a two-horse race, a lead of 5 points is big enough to give a decisive victory. If Modi’s party can retain this lead till the end point of the race, it could win 100 out of 182 seats in the state assembly, leaving Congress behind at 76 seats. This would cause little surprise in a state where the BJP has won all elections from 1991 till 2002 with a margin of about 10 percentage points. Yet this election is different. This is more about Narendra Modi than about the BJP. This is about Modi building his own party and leading it to polls against his own party organisation. The CNN-IBN – Indian Express – Divya Bhaskar -- CSDS survey shows that Narendra Modi has acquired a larger than life image for an average Gujarati voter. His popularity remains unmatched by any of his rivals within or outside his party.

Sharp class divide in voting
Class
BJP
Congress
Rich
65
28
Middle
50
35
Lower
43
40
Poor
36
49
Very Poor
36
50
Keshubhai does not come anywhere close to him even among the Patels. Waghela is more popular among the Congress voters but not beyond that. If anything Modi has gained in the last five years, as his major rivals have shed popularity points. There is high level of satisfaction with his performance as the CM. Yes, there is unease with his handling of the rebels, disapproval of his dictatorial style of functioning and a lack of trust in his sincerity. Yet if the Gujaratis, BJP voters or otherwise, had their way they would have him rather than Advani or Vajpayee lead the BJP in the next Lok Sabha elections. PAGE_BREAK It is not Modi brand of Hindutva that attracts him to the voters. At the same time the massacre of 2002 is not a liability for him. This is bad news for ideological and political opponents of Narendra Modi who had seen him as a symbol of the dark side of Indian democracy. Ironically, the very issue that makes this election special for a large number of democrats within and outside India appears to be a non-issue within the state. An average Gujarati wishes to forget 2002 riots as a bad dream that must not recur, without taking or assigning any responsibility for what happened. If the ordinary Hindu does not show any signs of remorse, the ordinary Muslim is not driven by anger or revenge. This mood fits in with Modi’s requirement: having successfully shifted the political agenda, Narendra Modi now sees little need to foreground aggressive Hindutva. The survey shows that his confidence in the positive assessment of the government’s performance is not misplaced. As with the NDA government in 2004, the people rate the state government fairly positively, a shade more than in 2002, and are willing to give it another chance. More importantly, the people report an improvement in virtually all the development related indicators: electricity, drinking water supply, quality of roads, government hospitals and schools. As in the case of Vajpayee government, the catch lies in the assessment of the economic policies: people praise the government for development and growth of business but believe that it has benefited only the rich and that corruption and unemployment has increased. The poor say that their economic condition has deteriorated. Muslims and dalits say that they are more insecure. But all these grievances do not add up to the picture of a government that has lost legitimacy with the people. What, then, makes Modi vulnerable? For one thing, the margin of BJP’s lead is neither big nor safe. The BJP has won the last three Assembly elections with nearly 10 point lead over the Congress. This survey indicates that that era of BJP dominance is coming to an end. PAGE_BREAK Ever since 2002 the BJP's vote share has gone down. The BJP's lead has shrunk from 9 percentage points in the Indian Express- CNN-IBN- CSDS Mid Term Poll held in September this year to 5 per cent now.
BJP Vote share is declining since 2002

Year

Percent

Assembly 2002
50
Lok Sabha 2004
47
Pre-poll 2007
45
Once the slide has begun, the situation can get much worse in the weeks to come. A similar survey conducted by the CSDS for Frontline before the assembly election of 2002 had found BJP ahead by 15 percentage points. When the votes were counted in 2002, the BJP secured a lead of 10.5 per cent. If the party loses that much this time, its lead might be wiped out. This is crucial for even a small swing in popular preferences can change the electoral equation radically. A swing of two per cent from the BJP to Congress could leave both the parties tied with 88 seats. This kind of swing is very common in Indian elections. Think of Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, Amrinder Singh in Punjab and Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu. They all started their campaign with a similar lead but ended up on the opposition benches. A loss of more than 2 points for the BJP could hand a majority of seats to the Congress. In this context, some aspects of the changing voting pattern would cause a good deal of anxiety to the BJP strategists: > The regional equation is turning unfavourable to the BJP as its lead is thinner in bigger regions like Saurashtra and North Gujarat. The BJP could lose a large number of seats by small margins in Saurashtra region which has remained a stronghold of the party in the last decade.
Saurashtra and North swinging away from BJP

Regions

Leads for BJP over Congress

2007
2002
Saurashtra
+1
+6
North
+3
+11
Central
+10
+18
South
+8
+2
CNN-IBN -- Indian Express -- CSDS pre-poll survey 2007
> There are signs that Congress is recovering its famous social coalition of KHAM with ‘Kshatriyas’ coming back to the Congress in a big way this time. ‘Harijans’ and Muslims never left the Congress and a substantial proportion of Adivasis are still with the Congress. There is marginal erosion of Patidar votes for the BJP.
KHAM coming back to Congress, rest with the BJP
Caste
BJP
Congress
Brahmin
64
20
Rajput
50
37
Patidar
66
20
Koli
30
48
Mer
47
38
Other Peasant OBC
46
35
Dalit
30
56
Tribal
45
43
Muslim
13
74
CNN-IBN – Indian Express – CSDS pre-poll survey 2007
> Congress enjoys a big advantage over the BJP among the poorer voters; relatively higher turnout among the poor could hurt the BJP. This does not mean that Modi will meet the fate of Vajpayee in 2004. These factors merely open the possibility that he might, notwithstanding a clear lead at this point. All we can say is that the era of BJP's unquestioned dominance appears to be coming to an end. Unlike 2002, the ruling party has not won the elections even before the notification. Unlike many other incumbent parties, it cannot be said to have lost it until the last vote is cast. The assembly polls of 2007 could turn out to be a cliff-hanger.
Change from 2002 Assembly Election

Party

Change

(in per cent)

BJP
-5%
Congress
+1%
Other
+4%
All the findings in tables PAGE_BREAK
Positive assessment of the work done by the state government

In the last five years…

Better

Worse
Supply of electricity
55
11
Condition of roads
55
15
Supply of drinking water
52
16
Condition of govt. school
44
11
Public transport
40
18
Condition of govt. hospital
39
13
The rest either did not have any opinion or said there was no change in the last five years
But some question mark on performance as well

In the last five years…

Better

Worse
Corruption situation
16
39
Price situation
12
60
Law and order (Muslims)
18
31
The rest either did not have any opinion or said there was no change in the last five years.
Economic condition improved but not for the poor

Change in personal economic conditions in the last five years…

Better

Worse
All
46
11
Rich
66
5
Middle
57
6
Lower
39
12
Poor
33
16
Very poor
24
23
Rest remained same and No opinion
Keshubahi is no match for Modi
Better leader of the two …
All
BJP
Narendra Modi
48
81
Keshubhai Patel
19
8
CNN-IBN – Indian Express – CSDS pre-poll survey 2007
Vaghela overtakes Modi but only among Congress voters
Better leader of the two …
All
Congress
Narendra Modi 47 10
Shankar Singh Vaghela 26 53
CNN-IBN – Indian Express – CSDS pre-poll survey 2007
Narendra Modi continues to be viewed very positively
Agree
Disagree
In him Gujarat has found an effective leader after long time
56
22
Has added to Gujarat’s prestige
52
23
Responsible for progress on Narmada
53
17
CNN-IBN – Indian Express – CSDS pre-poll survey 2007
But there is some unease about his style of working
Agree
Disagree
His style of rule is Dictatorial
34
24
He cannot be trusted for Truth
30
36
CNN-IBN -- Indian Express -- CSDS pre-poll survey 2007