North, South clearly divided over giving another chance to Modi

In States where there is a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress, more than half the respondents favour another opportunity to the incumbent government

Updated - December 03, 2021 08:47 am IST

Published - May 21, 2019 10:56 pm IST

Making it count:  First-time voters showing their inked fingers after casting their vote in Bengaluru on April 18.

Making it count: First-time voters showing their inked fingers after casting their vote in Bengaluru on April 18.

As one eagerly awaits counting day, the pattern of electoral contests across the country, as gleaned from the Lokniti-CSDS Post Poll Survey , points to crucial trends.

While support for the return of the BJP-led NDA government appears visible, important regional variations are clearly discernible.

Politically, the India of 2019 seems to have thrown up three regions: the North and West, which already has an entrenched BJP; the East and North East where the BJP is set to emerge as the central player and the South, which continues to remain aloof to the BJP — so far.

This political map, of course, is an outcome of long-term political trajectories that States have gone through. Therefore, it would be more accurate to say that despite many factors nationalising the campaign, State-level choices continue to drive the electoral verdict.

The nature of the electoral competition in a particular State is an important indicator of satisfaction with the current government. The desire to give the incumbent a second chance as well as leadership choice are also strongly influenced by the nature and structure of political competition at the State-level.

An important indicator of the popularity of an incumbent government is the intensity of the voters’ desire to give it a second chance. Across the Hindi heartland and States of the West, the desire to give the Modi-led BJP government a second chance is extremely high.

The net pro-incumbency in most States is over 10 percentage points — i.e., those who want to give another chance to this government outnumber those who don’t by a margin of 10%. On the other hand if one were to come to the five States south of the Vindhyas, there is a sharp drop in the level of satisfaction with the Central government.


While there is a marginal pro-incumbency sentiment in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, it is in the low single digits. On the other hand, in States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the anti-incumbency sentiment is extremely high (36% in Kerala and 47% in Tamil Nadu).

The North-South divide in terms of giving the incumbent government a second chance is clearly visible. At the same time, among the States of the South, an internal division is beginning to shape: Andhra, Telangana and Karnataka appear to have perceptibly shifted toward the BJP while Kerala and Tamil Nadu continue to be most steadfastly away from BJP.

If one were to view the trends with regard to giving the Modi-led BJP government a second chance from the prism of type of electoral contests, interesting patterns emerge.

One notices that in those States where there is a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress, more than half the respondents favoured a second chance to the incumbent government.


Even in States where the BJP faced a State-based party in the electoral contest, the pro-incumbency sentiment was reasonably high. It is only in those States where powerful State-based parties alone were in the electoral fray there is a sharp dip in support for a second chance to the ruling party at the Centre.

In other words, in States where neither of the two all-India parties are the main competitors, voters are not interested in giving another chance to the outgoing government.

If one were to gauge the variation in the satisfaction levels with the present Central government, the nature of electoral contests are once again an important explanatory factor. Net Satisfaction with the government (satisfaction minus dissatisfaction) is the highest in States where the BJP and the Congress are in direct competition (47% net satisfaction levels).

It is marginally lower in States where the BJP faces a powerful State-based party (35% net satisfaction) and even lower where the competition is between a BJP ally and a Congress ally (25%).

The lowest net satisfaction with the present Central government is where the key competition is between two powerful State-based parties (23%).

This clearly indicates that wherever the BJP is in direct competition with the Congress it has clearly wrested the initiative and the BJP-led Central government has a much higher satisfaction rating. It also means that once the BJP has entered the electoral threshold in a State, it is likely to consolidate its advantage and gradually flush out the State-based parties there.

The above trend is also reflected in the projected vote share of the different parties/ alliances. In States where there is a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP, the BJP has been able to garner a vote share that is significantly higher than its national average.

Similarly its vote share rises sharply in States where it is in direct competition with a State-based party.

The support for Narendra Modi as the preferred Prime Minister of India is the highest in States where the BJP and the Congress are in direct competition. In these States, the support for Rahul Gandhi as the preferred Prime Ministerial candidate is close to half of what is enjoyed by Narendra Modi ( 28% Rahul Gandhi vs 54% Narendra Modi).

Where the competition is between the BJP and a State-based party, the gap between the preference for Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi, remains at 26% percentage points (18% for Mr. Gandhi and 44% for Mr. Modi). Even where the competition is between two State- based parties, Mr. Modi is ahead of Mr. Gandhi by at least 15% points.

Looked at from another perspective, close to one fourths of those who prefer Mr. Gandhi as Prime Minister reported that they voted for the Left parties, BSP, SP or other State-based parties. In the case of those who preferred Mr. Modi as the Prime Minister, less than two of every 10 respondents reported voting for parties other than the BJP and its allies.

Thus, leadership appears to be a factor in shaping the electoral contest though not necessarily the main determinant of the likely electoral outcome, as we argued in this series yesterday.

Over and above these variations, an interesting fact that emerges from the post-poll survey is that both the BJP and the Congress have been by and large successful in retaining their votes from 2014. This nugget from the survey could be a valuable indicator of the possible outcome tomorrow.

Both the BJP and the Congress were able to ensure a minimal attrition of votes. Close to seven of every 10 who indicated that they voted for the party (BJP or Congress) in 2014 remained with the same party in 2019.

In the case of the allies of the BJP and the Congress, the Congress allies had a much higher retaining capacity as compared to the BJP allies. In the case of those who voted for the Congress allies in 2014, more than eight of every 10 continued to vote for the Congress allies or the Congress in 2019.

In the case of those who voted for the BJP allies in 2014, six of every 10 continued to vote for the BJP allies or the BJP. While close to half of those who voted for Left parties in 2014, continued to remain with these parties, the highest shift of Left voters was to the BJP.

It is well possible that developments in West Bengal and Tripura could have contributed to this trend. In the case of the State- based parties, three fourths of those who voted for State-based parties in 2014, continued to support them in 2019 also.

The biggest movement away from the State-based parties is to the BJP. While survey data from West Bengal is incomplete at the time of writing this, there is a strong chance that State-based parties, including parties like BJD and Trinamool Congress would be the immediate casualty of the consolidation of BJP.

Overall trends emerging from our survey suggest that though regional or State-level variations continue, neither State parties nor regional variations may have been able to stop the BJP from winning a second chance.

(Sandeep Shastri is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Jain University, Bengaluru and the National Co-ordinator of the Lokniti network; Suhas Palshikar taught Political Science, he is currently the Co-Director of the Lokniti programme and chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics; Sanjay Kumar is Co-Director of the Lokniti and Director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi)

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