Madhya Pradesh may go Gujarat way

Madhya Pradesh may go Gujarat way

INC’s failure to offer a credible alternative or a robust alliance may help the BJP beat strong anti-incumbency

The forthcoming Assembly election of Madhya Pradesh in many ways can be compared with the recent Assembly elections of Gujarat — the election that the INC lost, not the one that the BJP won.

Madhya Pradesh is one of the key States of the Hindi belt, which sees a direct contest between the BJP and the INC. It is yet another State that has seen a strong BJP government for three terms and the INC has been struggling to claim the State back.

Even after the Gujarat debacle, the INC has not learned the art of communication and its communication in MP is as confused as it was in Gujarat. The popular perception suggests that the theatrics of temple run will not help it in Madhya Pradesh just like in Gujarat. This is one of those dramas that voters enjoy but don’t consider while voting.

Just like Gujarat, the caste and communal equation in MP is beyond the politics of the Hindu-Muslim divide. It is about winning each caste separately, including SCs and STs. A majority of voters of Madhya Pradesh, in their 40s and 50s, still have fresh memories of bad governance of INC Chief Minister Digvijay Singh. Voters of MP may not like Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the BJP but they for sure still hate the INC. So, what is the mood in the State?

No clear alternative
It is widely believed that there is a strong anti-incumbency of three terms but the voters of the State are not in a position to find any clear alternative. Like in Gujarat, in MP too the INC has failed to identify one single face that can challenge Shivraj Singh Chouhan and build a credible narrative for the party.

A defined alternative will help the INC win more vote share than the state of ambiguity. It will not be wrong to say that in the absence of a clear choice, voters are still backing Chouhan as the preferred chief ministerial candidate. The problem with the INC is it has not yet declared its chief ministerial candidate despite having four candidates – Arjun Yadav, Digvijay Singh, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia.

At times, one gets a feeling that the INC is planning a decisive, focused and determined campaign, especially since there is some amount of anti-incumbency and an opportunity for the party to cash in.

‘Unhappy’ farmers
Farmers’ concerns are the biggest political pitch. The party that manages to win the trust of farmers and has answers to suicides and offers good policies related to farm and farmers will have an edge. Further, the party with strong grassroots workers — who can take the message of the party to the farmers and the rural households — will hold an advantage.

Scams aren’t big issue
Big scams such as Vyapam, sand mining, dams and ponds, mid-day meals have still not hampered the image of Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He is still seen as progressive, development-oriented, humble, down to earth and man of the masses. It is the failure of the INC to build a successful groundswell around these large scams.

Soft Hindutva bad strategy
Madhya Pradesh can’t be polarised on the Hindutva agenda. The position of hardcore Hindutva leader is already occupied by Shivraj Singh Chouhan and soft Hindutva will not work. I wonder why the INC is not focusing on the issues of development, big scams and other progressive issues that attract eyeballs of the millennial.

Caste plays a big role
The positioning of the INC as a party that believes in soft Hindutva is not an effective positioning. Madhya Pradesh prefers to votes for caste. Religion is not the core issue here. Roughly 60% of the voters evaluate the caste before casting their vote. Caste-based social engineering is key to the success in the State.

ST, SC central
In Madhya Pradesh, STs, SCs and Muslims (roughly 21%, 15% and 6% respectively) are the big vote banks of the INC. The State has a strong ST and SC population, which is a traditional vote bank of the INC, but the BSP has been successfully consolidating them to its advantage.
Moreover, the BJP has been working hard for the last few years to win over these voters. This move has disturbed the traditional vote bank of the BJP — upper castes and OBCs — but this may help the BJP win over a new set of ST and SC voters.

No Hindu-Muslim divide
MP cannot be polarised on the lines of Hindu-Muslim divide. This is one of the States like Gujarat that has a negligible Muslim vote bank. Over 90% of the voters are Hindus. It will only be apt to say that the caste and communal equation in MP is beyond the politics of the Hindu-Muslim divide.

Alliance was key
The tribal vote has a strong presence in 35-40 seats in MP. In these tribal-dominated areas, the combined might of the INC and the BSP would have won almost all seats but now that the INC and the BSP are not together, the result will be different. Moreover, the voting patterns in the last three Assembly elections indicate that the INC has a loyal voter base of over 30%, the BJP enjoys 35%, and the BSP roughly 5%. This basic arithmetic of voter’s loyalty suggests that an alliance was one of the safest ways for the INC to romp home.

The win and loss in MP will mostly be decided by fence-sitting voters who decide their preference in the final leg of the election campaign. In such a scenario, the last leg of political campaigns will change the dynamics of the election result. The BJP with the political campaign expertise of Modi and Shah, and the positive image of Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be able to challenge the INC once again. Well-crafted campaigns of Modi and Shah in last 15 days could swing a minimum of 5% voters to their fold.

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Millennials Key to Next Government

Millennials key to next government

With about 34% or 400 million of the country’s total population, political parties will do well to address their needs

Kiran is an IT professional, who works at Google and holds a postgraduate degree from a leading US university. She is an early adopter to technology, doesn’t hesitate to present her views on social media and engages with the other millennial on them. Born in Ranchi, she has also studied in Ranchi and Delhi. In Hyderabad, she lives with her friend. She orders food home, buys fashion online, hires a shared cab for her daily travel, watches movies once in a while with friends, and visits temple every Saturday. She is a young independent woman who is proud of her culture, religious views and tradition. She is also aware of her rights and duties as an Indian citizen.

On the other hand, 25-year-old Reshma doesn’t believe in early marriage, strongly advocates the right to education, is very proud of her religious views and tradition. She is an amateur cook and makes her living by cooking at three different houses in the Gachibowli area of Hyderabad. Reshma goes to PVR for movies with family, orders her fashion on Amazon; has an active presence on all social media sites that she accesses on her Redmi. She is a young independent Indian woman who is brand conscious, proud of her culture, religious views, rights and duties as an Indian citizen, including the power of her voting right.

A few basic traits of Reshma or Kiran, or any other millennial from any part of India make them a dominant force that is reshaping culture, business, and politics. The Indian millennial does not mimic their older generation when it comes to taking important decisions such as voting. This generation is development-oriented and does not blindly believe in an old-political twist of caste and religion. It believes in result-oriented politicians and the politics of growth and development.

Internet Generation
Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000, have grown up in an age of rapid change. The incessant change this generation has witnessed has made them demanding.
Millennials spend around 17 hours a week on the internet and widely use digital methods to research a product before taking the final decision. Their decisions are not necessarily based on online reviews or ar einfluence by social media channels but are mostly a function of in-depth research. It is also based on the availability of information and the convenience of reaching the product.

Thy want the best in the world at their fingertips. Their expectations and priorities are completely different from those of the older generations. This generation is also extremely opinionated and desires authentic conversations. Reaching millennials through advertisements and brand marketing is not enough for they do not appreciate a just on-the-surface monologue and wants to engage in a dialogue. In fact, it will not be off the mark to say that marketing and branding agencies have not matured in their communication to win the heart and mind of this generation.

Millennials seek instant gratification from almost everything, right from information to entertainment, shopping needs to political decisions. They have become the juggernaut that enjoys the power to rewrite the culture, influence the way businesses are run and change the direction of the politics. It is extremely important to understand their preferences and be their companion just to be relevant.

Dominant, Restless
In India, millennials constitute roughly 34% of the population. This number translates to around 400 million — more than the total population of the US and more than the total number of millennials China has today. It will not be wrong to say that these people will decide the direction of the economy, politics, and culture.

Millennial and the post-millennial generation makes up a clear majority of voting-eligible adults in India. Their voting share in most of the States in India is over 45%, thereby holding the key to the success of any election. This vote share does not belong to any of established political equation or political parties. They are in search of new dynamic leaders and political parties, which can take them to the next level of growth.

Political parties need to work to capture the changing aspirations of the millennials, their voice of development. Simply relying on anti-incumbency, polarisation, caste equations and hypernationalism is unlikely to help.

Changing Politics
The ambition, anger, attitudes, anxieties, and aspirations of millennials in the recent past have played an active role as citizen, consumer as well as catalyst in shaping the political environment of India.

We saw their power when they took to the streets to protest and support socio-political issues that were spearheaded by Arvind Kejriwal, Hardik Patel, and others. We have also witnessed how this generation supported Narendra Modi as a Prime Minister candidate in the 2014 election.

The election season in India is about to start shortly. Five States – Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana — would go for Assembly elections in November-December. The story to win the heart and mind of these ever curious, demanding, and volatile voter segment would change with States but their dominance must never be ignored.
In all these five States, the win or loss of any candidate or a political party will be decided by the voting patterns of the millennials and the post-millennial generation. The party that manages to meet the demands of this generation would form the government in these State.

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Karnataka: Too tough to call

Karnataka: Too tough to call

A classic case where the BJP may win without any strengths and INC may lose for its weaknesses

Coastal Karnataka

The region has three districts – Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi accounting for 19 seats. Coastal Karnataka is the stronghold of the BJP and all the three MP seats are held by it.

However, in the 2013 Assembly elections, the INC did extremely well here winning most of the seats. The BJP then was a divided house but now they are united. The JDS has very little presence and depends on the charisma of individual leaders.

Dakshina Kannada (Mangalore): The district has witnessed a bipolar contest between the BJP and INC in the last few elections. It has been a strong INC bastion but many INC leaders, including Janardhana Poojary, are unhappy with the Chief Minister and district in charge minister on their minority appeasement policies. This might help the BJP consolidate its position here.

Udupi: The BJP had swept this district in 2008 but lost ground in 2013. The united BJP in 2018 is a strong house with mass leaders like Haladi Srinivas Shetty and Jayaprakash Hegde.

Uttara Kannada (Karwar): It witnesses a bipolar contest between the BJP and the INC except in two seats where the JDS is strong. This election, the BJP tried hard to consolidate its position riding on pro-Hindu sentiments.

Old Mysore and Bangalore

Bangalore is part of the Old Mysore region but the voting pattern here is very different from the rest of the region. It has for long been a stronghold of the BJP. Moreover, the major local community of the city – Brahmins — normally favour the BJP.

Though there has been a direct contest between the BJP and the INC, in two seats, the JDS puts up a tough fight. In 2013, even with the divided house, the BJP got 12 seats but in the 2015 BBMP polls, it could get only 100 of the 198 seats.

Bangalore Urban has 28 Assembly constituencies. Rest of the Old Mysore region has 87 Assembly seats in 13 districts — Davangere, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Shimoga, Chikkamagalur, Hassan, Kodagu, Mysore, Chamarajnagar, Mandya, Bangalore Rural, Kolar, Chikkaballapur.
The INC dominates the region. While the BJP is a strong competition in Chikkamagalore, Shimoga, Kodagu, Davanagere, Tumkur, and Bangalore Rural, the JDS is strong in Mysore, Chamarajnagar, Mandya, Hassan, and Ramanagara.

Old Mysore is dominated by Vokkaliga and Kurbas. The BJP is the only party that does not have good support of the Vokkaliga community. With the induction of SM Krishna, a Vokkaliga, the party may gain some confidence of these voters.

A detailed analysis will help us understand the situation of Old Mysore better.
Davangere: The area sees a bipolar contest between the BJP and the INC except in one seat where the JDS too is present.

Chitradurga: Though it has witnessed a bipolar contest between the BJP and INC, independents have surprised them. This election, the united BJP is in a good position with ST leader B Sriramulu back in its fold.

Tumkur: Sees a triangular contest in 8 seats where BJP has a presence. In another three, it’s a contest between the INC and JDS. The JDS has a presence in all the seats.

Shimoga: Is the home district of BS Yeddyurappa and Eshwarappa. Shimoga is also considered as the Karnataka headquarters of the BJP. In a few seats here, it’s a triangular contest and in others, it is a direct fight between the BJP and the INC.

Chikkamagalur: In 2008, the BJP had won 4 seats but as a divided house, it could only win 2 seats. The minority politics of the INC will help the BJP consolidate Hindu voters here.
Hassan: It is the home district of HD Deve Gowda and the JDS is very strong here. This election we may witness a rise in BJP vote share owing to its Parivarthana Yatra.

Kodagu (Madikeri): Support for Tipu Jayanti by the INC would polarise votes in favour of the BJP.

Mysore: It is Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s home district. It would be a tough fight between the INC and JDS.

Chamarajnagar: Sees a triangular contest among the BJP, INC, and the JDS-BSP alliance. The results here would be very interesting as the JDS and the BSP have joined hands and prominent Dalit leader Sreenivasa Prasad has joined the BJP.

Mandya: The fight is between the INC and the JDS. BJP doesn’t have a presence in this district.

Bangalore Rural: In 2008, the BJP won 3 seats but lost all in 2013 election. Bangalore Rural is now dominated by the JDS.

Kolar: This is one of the rare areas where independents have a stronghold. — Concluded

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Karnataka: Close and critical call

Karnataka: Close and critical call

Demography, cultural and ethnic dynamics play an important role in this southern State

The Karnataka Assembly election is one of the key political contests before the parliamentary election of 2019. It is important for the INC to win Karnataka as it is the largest State where it is still in power. The BJP wants to win Karnataka as the State is perceived as the gateway to south India. It is also important for the JDS as its performance will decide its future in politics.

There are many political parties in the field — INC, BJP, JDS, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Maharastra Ekikarana Samiti (MES), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and Mahila Empowerment Party (MEP) — but the fight is mainly among the INC, BJP and the JDS.

It is important to know the demography, cultural, and ethnic dynamics of Karnataka to understand the election dynamics. Karnataka can be divided into four distinct regions – North-West Karnataka (Mumbai Karnataka), North-East Karnataka (Hyderabad Karnataka), Coastal Karnataka, and Old Mysore and Bangalore. In this part, we analyse the first two regions:

North-West Karnataka (Mumbai Karnataka)
Mumbai Karnataka is a stronghold of the BJP. In a few seats, the JDS can challenge the dominance of the INC and the BJP, but this dominance is owing to strong candidates rather than the party. Mumbai Karnataka is Lingayat-dominated. Siddaramiah is trying his best to break the monolithic BJP vote bank by giving separate religious status for Lingayats. The other dominant force is Marathi influence and the Mahadayi issue.

Karnataka Election

The popularity of the BJP here is because of mass leaders BS Yeddyurappa, Jagadish Shettar and Prahlad Joshi, and the foundational work done by the RSS. Moreover, the pro-Muslim image of the INC would also help the BJP consolidate vote share in this region. A detailed analysis of all the six districts will help understand the situation better.

Belgaum: Of the 18 seats, there has been a bipolar contest between the BJP and the INC in 15. In three seats, the MES is strong and there is a straight fight between the MES and BJP. The BJP is quite strong in this district. In 2013, the divided BJP got 11 seats – BJP (9), KJP (1), BSRCP (1), with roughly 40% votes. If the BJP manages to consolidate Hindu (Kannada and Marathi) votes, it can win most seats.

Bagalkot: It was BJP’s fort in 2008 with 47% vote share, but the numbers changed in 2013 and the party won only one seat. The Parivarthana Yatra by Yeddyurappa was well received and if BJP maintains the momentum, it could double its tally.

Karnataka Election

Bijapur: The INC may challenge the dominance of the BJP here by fueling the Lingayat issue but the BJP local leadership has put up a spirited fight.

Dharwad: This region witnesses a bipolar contest between the BJP and the INC. The JDS has a presence in one seat. In 2013, the united BJP got roughly 40% and INC 37% vote share; and in 2008, it was 47% and 39% respectively.

Gadag: The BJP had swept all the seats in 2008 and lost all in 2013 due to the division of votes between the BJP, KJP and the BSRCP.

Haveri: The BJP is very strong here and had won 5 seats in 2008 with 42% votes. With strong candidates, it may repeat the performance.

The Mumbai Karnataka region contributed to the success of BJP in 2008. Backed by its Parivarthana Yatra, the region is likely to do the same this time too. But the Lingayat card may change the numbers.

North-East Karnataka (Hyderabad Karnataka)
There is some amount of Telugu dominance in this region. With 40 Assembly constituencies, it has a strong mix of Dalit, Minorities, Reddy-Vokkaliga and Lingayat voters.

The region, on one hand, is dominated by BJP leaders like Reddy brothers and B Sriramulu and, on the other, is home to tallest INC leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Anil Lad. All the six districts – Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Raichur, Bellary, Koppal would witness a close contest between the INC and the BJP.

Bidar: The JDS can play a spoiler. In the last election, the united BJP got 38% and the united INC (after Karnataka Makkala Paksha joining it) had 34% vote share. The Parivarthana Yatra might have a positive influence here.

Gulbarga: This district has 13 Assembly constituencies. Here, Yadgir needs a special mention as this district was created by the BJP and is now the party’s stronghold. The JDS has a strong candidate in one seat. Moreover, the united BJP also performed very well in zilla panchayat elections though, the INC won the Gulbarga parliament seat. The fight here will mostly be a function of the right candidate selection.

Raichur: Here 4 seats are reserved for the STs and one for SCs. The district has mostly witnessed a bipolar contest between the BJP and the INC except in 2 seats where the JDS has strong candidates. It is important to note that in the last Assembly election, of the 47% vote share of united BJP, 17% was managed by the Badavara Shramikara Raitara Congress Party (BSRCP) of Sreeramulu. With Sreeramulu back in the BJP, the party could do well.

Bellary: While 5 seats are reserved for STs, 2 are for SCs. Bellary is Sreeramulu’s home district and a power centre of the Reddy Brothers.

Koppal: JDS is strong in one seat. As the BJP was a divided house, the INC won the last election in this district. If the voters go back to the united BJP, the same will be reflected in the results.

The outcome of the 2018 election results of the Hyderabad Karnataka region would mostly decide the fate of the next government in the State. This is the only region where the fight between the INC and the BJP would be very close and critical. In the other regions, the outcome is mostly defined and very little can be changed.

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Rise of regional muslim parties

Rise of regional muslim parties

Muslims have been a trusted vote bank for many parties but new players are changing the old dynamics

In India, the world of politics remains the same, only the reference point changes. On one hand, there is a political party that has aligned its ideology with the RSS. This political party has been classified as non-secular or communal as it has differentiated itself from all others by aligning itself to Hindu ideologies. This is a classic case of differentiation as not only the party in question but also all other political parties who claim to be secular have labelled it as non-secular or communal.

In the process, they helped it come to power by joining their share of voice against it and thereby polarised the voter’s mind. Moreover, there are two other not-so-non-secular parties – the Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena, both of which have aligned with the BJP.

Defining Secularism
On the other hand, the list of secular parties is very long — the largest being the Indian National Congress (INC), followed by the Left, Samajwadi Party, BSP and the DMK. Political parties who have positioned themselves as champions of secularism are facing a big challenge in appropriately defining secularism.

Those who have classified the BJP as the only non-secular or communal party have not classified the other political parties viz, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) as non-secular or communal in nature. Major political parties, including the INC, Left, TMC, BSP and the DMK, believe that anything pro-Muslim is secular in nature.

Changing Game
The Muslims have been the most trusted vote bank in our election system and hence all secular parties play the game of winning their trust. At the national level, the INC banks on the Muslims and at the regional level the Left, TMC, SP, BSP, DMK and others have been focusing on the Muslim vote share.

For long, the secular parties have been playing the same game of ‘minority vote bank politics’. They have been successful in uniting Muslim votes for ages but only made promises without fulfilling them. Muslim voters also experimented with various secular regional and national parties but without any tangible benefits. The community seems to have realised that they don’t get any results from any party. The game of vote bank politics remains the same but the yardsticks change with changing political parties.

Now, the format of vote bank politics, which was well defined and consistent, is witnessing a change. New players are emerging and changing the dynamics in their favour. This also could be a function of the rise in Muslim vote share in different parts of India.

PR Ramesh wrote in the Open magazine earlier this year that “the rise in Muslim numbers is most noticeable in Assam, where they were found to make up 34.2 percent of the population in 2011, up by more than 3 percent since 2001. In West Bengal, this religious group’s share rose by almost 2 percent to 27 percent. In Kerala, it rose by 2 percent to 26.6 percent. Uttarakhand has seen a similar rise to 13.9 percent. In UP and Bihar, the increase is about 1 percent, with the Muslim headcount at 19.3 percent and 16.9 percent respectively. Jharkhand, Delhi and Maharashtra report similar increases, with the 2011 figures rising to 14.5, 12.9 and 11.5 percent respectively, while Karnataka has seen a rise of just below 1 percent to 12.9 percent.”

Key Deviation
The change in the vote share is one key deviation in the format of the game – a confident and decisive Muslim vote bank. We are now witnessing the rise of regional Muslim political parties – IUML, AIUDF and the MIM. This will force Muslims to rethink their normal voting patterns. The rise of the new Muslim vote bank will bring many changes including:

• The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is the classic case of this changing pattern. It has moved out of Hyderabad and opened its account in Maharashtra, and is committed to other Muslim-dominated States such as Karnataka, Bihar, UP and West Bengal. The rise of regional Muslim parties will impact all.

• Branded secular parties – INC, SP, BSP and TMC — will see the end of traditional Muslim vote bank. If Muslim parties make a mark, it will force secular parties to accept one simple truth that they are essentially Hindu parties offering a protection ring for the minorities

• The definition of communal political parties will get a new meaning, which will include both ‘Hindu communal’ and ‘Muslim communal’

• Regional and national secular parties will progressively align among themselves with ‘Hindu communal’ and ‘Muslim communal’ parties. In Uttar Pradesh, the BSP or the SP will have to align with the likes of MIM if they want to make an impact

• The BJP will have to figure out whether polarisation of votes will lead to a reverse consolidation of the non-minority vote or can there be an alignment between ‘Hindu communal’ and ‘Muslim communal’ parties

• There are high chances that the new Muslim parties — IUML AIUDF and MIM — may end up building a strong mass base exactly the way the BSP did with the Dalits
No wonder, we are living in exciting times of vote bank politics, which is witnessing significant changes. But will this bring a positive change to the lives of the citizens?

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