Why Modi remains a high-probability scenario?

More importantly, the limited dissidence is unlikely to impact electoral outcomes barring at most a couple of seats, says IIFL Institutional Equities in a recent report.

March 29, 2014 2:35 IST | India Infoline News Service
Candidate selection by the BJP witnessed a few high profile dissensions but these were quite confined given the rush for tickets from hopefuls expecting to piggyback the NaMo wave. More importantly, the limited dissidence is unlikely to impact electoral outcomes barring at most a couple of seats, says IIFL Institutional Equities in a recent report. With Modi still firmly the centre of political discourse and with electorally important alliances in place, a strong Modi-led government remains a high-probability base-case scenario. There is little evidence that campaigns of key national challengers — the UPA and AAP — are gaining traction. Regional parties in the key swing states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have yet not succeeded in emerging as a credible alternative for the anti-incumbency vote, the report adds. 

Following is an extract of the report:

There were fears that a section of the BJP leadership with little electoral pull but still not reconciled to Modi’s ascendency might coalesce localized dissent against denial of tickets to hopefuls as many constituencies had multiple contenders. 

There were protests against the choice of candidate in 4-5 seats with the most high profile being the case of Jaswant Singh, an important cabinet minister in the NDA regime.

While a respected veteran, Singh is no political heavyweight. He has never contested an election from Barmer, a constituency he about which he is so insistent. His rebellion has elicited nothing more than sympathetic platitudes from the brooding camp and heartburn caused by denial of constituency of choice to even veterans like Advani has died down. 
The important point to note is that most leaders and allies with electoral relevance have been accommodated with allies getting more than their fair share of seats. 

The ascendency of Modi within the BJP is complete and augurs well for the cohesiveness of a likely NDA government. 

On the other hand, most political commentaries suggest that the Rahul-Gandhi-led Congress campaign is not resonating with the electorate and the rank and file is urging the leadership for a course correction.

Media reports indicate that AAP campaign is drawing less than enthusiastic response even in vicinity of Delhi. 

Recent Supreme Court observation on negligence of the state government during recent riots in Uttar Pradesh will only add to Samajwadi Party’s woes. In Bihar, both the RJD and the JDU are contending with high profile exits. 

The brooding camp in BJP has effectively lost relevance
There is a section of the BJP central leadership that has not been comfortable with Modi’s rise within the party since the time he was given a national role for the first time as the head of party’s campaign committee last year. There were murmurs of protest then and again when he was anointed the Prime Ministerial candidate by the party. But the protests had only become feebler with the passage of time.

This group of leaders though high profile but with limited relevance in the electoral arena, hoped that some deft manoeuvring during the candidate selection process might still result in a modicum of influence after the elections.

However, the dominant Modi-led faction has been quite hard-nosed in candidate selection with micro constituency based winnability factors being the main criteria for choosing candidates in most cases rather than perceived profile of candidates. In some cases, the most straight forward choice has been superseded to accommodate an important ally or a leader with influence in nearby areas. Only in 1-2 constituencies have the obvious candidates being denied nominations on grounds of doubtful loyalty to the dominant faction.

The brooding camp has been able to do little other than registering token protests. Their isolation is so stark that the party has not even bothered to address their grumblings in any meaningful way. Modi is in complete control of the party at this point in time. This augurs well for the cohesiveness of a likely NDA government.

Limited fallout of the confined dissidence
The most high profile case of rebellion against the party is that of Jaswant Singh who held the finance, defence and foreign affairs portfolios at different times during the previous NDA regime. While his resume looks impressive, he is a lightweight in electoral politics. He has served nine terms as an MP and six of these terms have been through the Rajya Sabha. He has won Lok Sabha elections thrice from three different constituencies – once outside his home state, Rajasthan. He has never contested elections from his home constituency, Barmer, from where he insists he wants to contest this time. The risk of his dissidence impacting the chances of the Barmer BJP candidate is not high, in our view.

Leaders with electoral pull rallying behind Modi; focus to return to campaigning
Modi has ensured allegiance of the electorally important state leaders. None of the Chief Ministers of BJP ruled states has struck a discordant note. Second rung leaders with sub-regional influence have been accommodated. In instances where the leadership could not allot the preferred seat to these leaders, they have been offered a suitable alternative. With the ticket distribution process out of the way, the focus should return to the campaign. Modi has set a punishing schedule for himself – he is slated to address 185 election rallies over the next seven weeks translating into four rallies a day. 

BJP still in hunt for allies; aiming for 272 together with pre-poll allies
A key risk in an electoral campaign is complacency in the last lap if the lead over rival alliance is large (100+ over UPA in the extant case). However, the Modi campaign seems focussed on the minute details and is not letting go any opportunity to fortify its position even in states where it is ostensibly on an ascendency. 

BJP has pulled off an improbable compromise in Maharashtra
In the 2009 elections, the UPA won 25 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra largely due to split in the anti-incumbency votes. The MNS which got formed due to a split in the Thackeray clan polled more votes than the margin of defeat of the BJP-Shiv Sena in 8 out of 10 seats in the Mumbai-Thane region. Given same political support base for the Shiv Sena and the MNS, almost the entire vote base of MNS got built at the expense of the NDA. Had MNS not contested the 2009 elections, the UPA’s 9-1 score in the Mumbai-Thane region would have possibly read 1-9.

BJP giving it the best shot even in states where it has marginal presence
The BJP has had marginal presence in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and the North Eastern states. But the party seems to be trying hard for some surprise wins in these virgin territories. For example, Modi has organized three large election rallies in the North East accounting for 25 seats compared with two rallies in Bihar with 40 seats.

AAP campaign drawing tepid response
Media reports suggest that AAP campaign in Gurgaon, Delhi’s satellite city and other parts of Haryana is drawing less than enthusiastic response. This was a state where AAP was expected to do well given proximity to Delhi where AAP is the strongest. Anecdotal evidence suggests meaningful erosion in support for the party after it renounced power in Delhi after being in government for only 49 days. Instead of sympathy that the party hoped for, most people have construed the move as opportunistic. In the course of last four weeks, we have come across many potential AAP voters who have changed their minds but not a single instance of a hitherto unfavourable opinion turning constructive about the party.

Rank and file not enthused with Rahul-led Congress campaign
Media reports suggest that the Congress rank and file is urging the party leadership to effect changes in the Rahul-Gandhi-centric campaign. As per media reports, grassroot workers feel that the Congress campaign so far has not been able to resonate with the electorate. It remains to be seen how the party leadership responds to the feedback. Minor tinkering is unlikely to be helpful, a major overhaul in strategy might be difficult to implement at such a late stage.

Source: IIFL Institutional Equities

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