Why Pre-election Surveys might be right this time


By Rakesh Bisaria

The recent surveys done by different Indian media indicate that Aam Aadmi Party is getting closer to the possibility of majority of seats day by day. The author brings forth a timely take on the aspects that might prove the winning factors for Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi Assembly polls.

Delhi Assembly election is fast turning into a two party contest. Congress party has failed to keep up with the intensity of the campaign and has been somewhat sidelined by the voters looking for a “Contest of Equals”. Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi are the new faces of this contest with impeccable personal records but represent parties that could not be more divergent on major campaign issues. Notwithstanding her distinguished police service, Ms. Bedi looks uncomfortable and out of patience rationalizing her party’s position on election funding, women’s safety, jobs and wages, primary education, healthcare, water supply and electricity tariff. What compounds Ms. Bedi’s problems is the absence of a manifesto from BJP and almost one year lost to fighting AAP. While AAP was engaging the public in its massive Delhi Dialog on campaign issues, BJP MLA’s were celebrating Modi’s victory. At a recent Krishna Nagar roadshow, Ms. Bedi talked at length about her 6Ps approach but had precious little to offer in terms of concrete measures to address Women’s safety. Upon being questioned by NDTV’s Ravish Kumar about the poor state of Geeta Colony’s (under Krishna Nagar constituency) roads and sanitation under BJP municipal Corporation and BJP MLA, party volunteers could not remember anything that had been done to fix things in this safe BJP seat. By contrast AAP volunteers and voters know every project and every initiative undertaken in each constituency. The pulse of this election has changed perceptibly. Out of Delhi’s 17 million population, 10 million people live on monthly wages of Rs13,500 or less working in unorganized labor sectors without contract and with no wage protection . It is this formidable number of Delhi’s dispossessed who are putting their faith behind AAP and rejecting the Congress and BJP. In India’s elections, the last week of the polls always has a Lahar (wave) and it appears that in this election it is the Tsunami of Delhi’s dispossessed who are rallying behind AAP. India’s pollsters rely less on statistical methods and keep their nose to the ground to look for shifts in public opinion. If you are looking for trends, here are some trends that may carry AAP to a thumping victory.

10. BJP runs away from debate – Ms. Bedi has failed to convince her party that a public debate on election issues is not optional. Dodging the debate has hurt BJP. People want to know BJP’s plans to tackle the huge problems of unorganized labor struggling with sub-living wages and living in unauthorized colonies without water, sanitation, and primary healthcare.

9. Ms. Kiran Bedi succumbs to political opportunism – Though Ms. Bedi is irritated by the charge of opportunism levelled by AAP, the fact remains Ms. Bedi had to make a huge leap of self-denial to be BJP’s CM candidate. People are not ready to accept her in her new avatar given that she was the most visible face of India Against Corruption just a couple of years ago which considered BJP and Congress equal partners in crimes of corruption. Both parties have refused to disclose their party funding and it is undeniable that the root of political corruption lies in the source of party funding.

8. Election reduced to a two party contest Congress has failed to field a credible CM candidate. In this “clash of the titans” (TV Media’s chosen description) on governance, integrity and vision for Delhi, Maken seems to be completely marginalized. The triangular contest has shrunk to a two party contest with a section of Congress votes crossing over to AAP.

7. BJP shies from releasing Delhi manifesto – BJP has abandoned all efforts to release a party manifesto for Delhi. For BJP , Modi is the party’s manifesto. The strategy has not worked for the party as the voters want more details on party priorities and plans. Ms. Bedi has been seen floundering in TV interviews and offering anecdotal wisdom to voters in lieu of plans and policies.

6. BJP struggles with a poor report card at the Center – Despite Modi’s positive steps in international diplomacy and Defense, there is no movement in the direction of creating 8 million jobs that were promised by him. BJP’s “Health Assurance to all Indians” is yet to see the light of day. After eye-catching photo-ops of “Swachh Bharat”, the program is completely stalled. The Rs. 1,000 crore announcement for the Nirbhaya Fund is languishing in some bureaucratic vault. What hurts the people of Delhi every day is the rising price of food essentials.

5. Delhi voters wary of Majoritarian State-Center Arrangement The argument has been made by BJP leadership that a single party rule at the Center and Delhi State will benefit the people of Delhi. Nothing could be farther from truth as during 10 years of Congress rule in Delhi State that overlapped with control at the Center, people of Delhi got very little in terms of higher wages, increased employment, and essential public services. There were mega scams that were partially made possible by the absence of scrutiny and checks in a single party majoritarian arrangement.

4. AAP’s Delhi Dialog promotes public partnership – AAP built its manifesto in partnerships with the people of Delhi over a period of several months. Concrete, time-bound plans were worked out to address core areas including Women’s Safety, Water Supply, Primary Health, Electricity Tariff, and Education. The people of Delhi were included as equal partners in the process of planning and that clearly gave a huge head-start to the AAP campaign.

3. Polls project rising AAP vote share – Recent Polls are giving a larger vote share to AAP. The latest polls give AAP a 42% vote share which is going up on a daily basis in the run up to the polling day. The vote share is likely to follow a rising trend as BJP makes more appeals to caste and community, further fragmenting its voter base.

2. Kejriwal tops the list of CM Candidates In the so called clash of the titans, Kejriwal has definitely come out on top with 43% preferring him over Ms. Bedi (39%). Clearly, AAP has succeeded in connecting with the people and the people have resonated strongly with AAP’s Development based agenda.

1. Poll wave favors AAP This is the last week of campaigning and if there is a wave it is here now. Media is favoring AAP to have a thumping victory in this election. But the real wave is on the street corners, the Metro platforms, the flyovers, the slums of Sangam Vihar, Metro Vihar, the unauthorized colonies of TrilokPuri where millions wait for their first chance to live with dignity and have a say in their own future. If you count the numbers, Delhi has 10 million who are desperate for a better life and who have waited patiently for decades for a fair deal. Therefore, by all accounts it is this wave of humanity that will decide the elections on February 7th.

The author is a telecom engineer and political commentator. This article is one of his opinions and views that he shares here.