The Lok Sabha elections in 2019 is one of the most polarized elections in Indian history. BJP, aided by the media, has polarized the elections and social media has taken it to the next level. Poll-troll is at its peak right now.

The current scenario in India depicts elite polarization i.e. ruling party members have come close ideologically and there is almost no ideological overlap with opposition parties. This has led to creating an environment of popular polarization i.e. polarization amongst the mass voters.  Let us understand why the BJP needs such a polarized election in order to come back to power.

In 2014, BJP vote share increased by 12.5% to 31.3% while INC vote share decreased by 9.5% to 19.5%. BJP became the only party in independent India to get a majority with the least ever vote share! BJP’s loyal vote bank is only around 20% … not enough to come back to power with a majority on their own. Their vote share is very low… hence they need to retain / increase if they want to come back to power.


So, BJP’s strategy is very simple…. Polarize the voters such that they will stay with them in 2019 i.e. convert their non-loyal voters to committed BJP voters. If they are successful in doing that, then a higher turnout may in fact help them and may not necessarily be an indication of anti-incumbency. In a polarized environment, higher turnout among the educated urban people will be beneficial to BJP while a lower turnout in rural areas will also benefit them. At the same time, INC is the only other party which has a pan-India voter base. Hence attacking Rahul & co. is the best strategy to convert INC loyal voters towards them given the growing weakness in Congress’s regional organizational structure & lack of credible image of Rahul.

What Modi has done is that even though we are a multi-party system, the elections is more like the US two-party system i.e. Modi v/s the rest. In such an environment, voters lay a lot of emphasis on social issues. This is where INC is focussing on issues like lack of jobs, farmer distress & intolerance. BJP is focussing on welfare of women & children, providing utilities (water, gas & electricity), healthy environment (toilets, medical care), women empowerment (Triple Talaq) and Government accountability and non-corruption.

Trump emerged victorious in 2016 despite his negative popularity. He was successfully able to influence the implicit mind of the voters to such an extent that the opinion polls showed a different result and what actually happened during polling was different.

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This is what Modi is hoping he can do by appealing to the voter’s sub-conscious mind – publicly the voters may acknowledge that they are not happy with Modi but privately, they may vote for him.  Providing national security & a decisive leadership are key motivators for people to vote despite the social issues (which is why Modi keeps saying ‘What did Congress do in 70 years about this?’)

Predicting the outcome for the 2019 elections is extremely challenging given the above environment in the country. We will need to consider social issues, popularity of leaders and the past & future voting history. A combination of all these factors are built into my prediction model.

For the past & future voting history, I conducted an opinion poll with a sample size of 3500 spread across India.  Gamified version of questioning style was used where I tried to get the respondents to let go of cognitive aspects where they are not thinking about the decision-making process but are playing out scenarios that may be more honest and appropriate to actually how they make decisions.


Hence, a question like ‘Who will you vote for ? ‘ was rephrased to ‘If your life depended on the Government, who would you vote for in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections? ‘

Similarly for ‘How will you rate the performance of Government on scale of 0 to 100’ was replaced by ‘If you were a judge and had to rate the Modi Government’s performance from 2014 to 2019 on a scale of 0 to 100, what score will you give his government?’

For a rating of political leaders, question like ‘Please rate the following leaders on a scale of 1-7’ is replaced by ‘If the following politicians are restaurants and you have to rate their food quality, how many stars will you give to each of them? More stars indicate better quality.’

Let’s see what some of the quantitative findings of the poll are…

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BJP’s performance rating has increased in its own voter base but has decreased in its non-voter base. This is a clear case of mass polarization.

Let us now see the popularity scores of key political leaders

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The above data indicates the presence of extreme polarization. Modi is increasing his popularity within the BJP voter base but has lost ground with the non-BJP voter base. While Akhilesh has increased his popularity in his voter base category, the same cannot be said for his Mahagathbandhan partner, Mayawati. Hence, we may not witness a straightforward vote transfer from BSP to SP-BSP combine. Rahul’s popularity has increased slightly but is very low among the non-voter base. Hence, it is less likely that Modi voters will switch to Rahul. For BJP, this is good since anti-Modi votes may get split among other parties. Interestingly, Uddhav’s popularity has remained the same among his voters but has increased amongst his non-voters – a clear indication that MNS votebank will be transferred over to SS-BJP combine.

Let’s look at the switchers ….

An analysis of the claimed 2019 v/s 2014 votes received shows that BJP stands to retain it’s vote share. Opposition vote share will also witness an increase due to anti-Modi voters who missed to vote in 2014. Hence it is in the opposition’s interest to increase the turnout amongst such voters.

These voters will have negative impact on the seats won by BJP but it’s impact will not be significant because of lack of unity in the opposition.

55% of first-time voters are likely to vote for Modi. It is also seen that Modi has greater support from the women given the various government schemes which has helped them. Taking a clear stand on triple talaq is bound to fetch votes from Muslim women.


It is extremely difficult to predict in such a polarized environment. As per my calculations by each constituency, I would stick my neck out and put BJP at around 256 & NDA around 300. INC around 67 and UPA at 129.

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There is always a but to these predictions …. If SP-BSP manage to do exceptionally well in UP and get close to 50 seats, then BJP will be struggling at around 225-230.

In such a scenario we will get kingmakers from the southern region (KCR, Jaganmohan Reddy, Deve Gowda ..!)

If you are brave enough… put in your money on Sensex once it falls closer to the weekend!


Aneesh Laiwala


This article was originally published here



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