The Swing States

Posted: May 13, 2009 in Indian Politics
Tags: , , ,

As I write this the 5th and final phase of polling for the general elections 2009 is drawing to a close. Among the chief states going to the polls today is my state of Tamil Nadu which has been the key game changer in the general elections over the last decade. If one analyses the results of the last few elections, one unmistakable trend which can be noted is the representation of Tamil Nadu in the ruling party or coalition. The main reason for this phenomenon is the fact that the entire state invariably votes for one party or coalition, thus giving it a huge edge in the final tally. The Congress & AIADMK swept the polls in 1991. DMK and TMC swept the 1996 polls thus helping form the short-lived Deve Gowda and IK Gujral govts. The NDA govts of 1998 and 1999 had key representation from AIADMK and DMK respectively while the 2003 elections saw the DMK coalition sweep all 40 seats contrary to poll predictions, helping form the UPA govt.

Similarly, the states of Andhra Pradesh with 42 seats, Uttar Pradesh with 80 seats, Bihar with 40 seats, and Maharashtra with 48 seats have been the “swing” states in the past elections. The reason being their size as well as their tendency to elect the combination which finally forms the govt at the centre. These states generally capture the nation’s mood. But local factors too play a huge part in the ultimate outcome.

The 2009 elections too promises to be no different. Due to the ban on exit polls, the predictions of most news channels and pollsters are a bit out-dated considering the long drawn process of the 5 phase elections which spans a little over a month. The latest indications are that the UPA which was predicted to be the early front runners have lost a bit of ground with the NDA gaining at their expense. With the election commission’s lifting of the ban on exit polls at 5 pm this evening a clearer picture is likely to emerge. However, I personally feel that all the major pollsters are in for a major surprise this time too like the last elections when everyone expected NDA to sail through only to be trumped by the people of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh who went against the ruling combine en-mass.

The final results are likely to hinge on which way the swing states are going to go. Pollsters have predicted a 25 – 15 edge to the AIADMK front in Tamil Nadu and a dead heat in Andhra Pradesh between the TDP’s mega alliance and the Congress. The NDA lead by Nitish Kumar’ JD (U) is expected to sweep Bihar while the Congress – NCP combine is likely to edge the NDA in Maharashtra. The state of UP is a big enigma due to its unique size and demographic nature. Further, a 5 pronged battle makes predicting its results a real hazard. No wonder the pollsters got it all wrong in the last state assembly elections, when they failed to spot the emergence of BSP.

I expect these Swing states to stump the pundits and pollsters alike this time around too, throwing up a thoroughly unexpected result. However, the winners as well as their margin of victory in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh is going to play a huge part in the ultimate formation of the next government at the centre.

I will be glued to the TV watching it all unfold. The results and the subsequent game of musical chairs is going to be gripping stuff!!!

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