Why pollsters couldn’t gauge Karnataka’s mood

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: How did the pollsters go off the mark in their reading of the mood of the electorate in BJP-ruled Karnataka in the 2009 Lok Sabha election?

One obvious reason is that they failed to take note of the political leanings expressed by the voters in the assembly elections held a year ago in the mistaken belief that the voters think differently in the parliament and assembly elections.

The latest parliament elections in Karnataka, has provided more proof that the pattern of voting in parliament and assembly elections are not as different as has been generally believed all these days.

In a way, both are interconnected too.

The thinking of the voters is the same whether the two polls are held separately or jointly.

In the assembly elections, the main parties draw their support from their core voters. In the parliament elections, while the core support remains more or less the same, the extra support comes from the category of voters who had not preferred them in the assembly polls.

This trend was quite discernible in the 1999 and 2004 elections when both the Congress and the BJP picked up more voters in the parliament segment over and above what they had received in the assembly segment.

This trend is clearly visible in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls held in 2008 and 2009.

The BJP, which had received support from 90.42 lakh voters in the Karnataka assembly polls last year, picked up an additional support of 11.85 lakh votes this time. In this process it etched out victories in six more parliament seats than what the poll trends in the 2008 had indicated and emerged on top.

With this the BJP has been able to increase its lead over Congress in the vote share by 10 lakhs, as against a mere 28,000 after the eight by-elections in 2008.

The Congress which had polled 89.13 lakh votes in 2008 added 3.35 lakh votes this time but was unfortunate to lose five constituencies, where the polling trends of 2008 had put it in the lead and had to end up with six seats, its lowest tally in history.

The only silver lining for the Congress has been that its performanance this time has ended the drought in votes which it had been experiencing since 1999, with the party not being able to get a single extra vote in the three elections held between 1999 and 2008.

Another interesting factor has been that the additional votes it has secured this time, has puts its vote strength almost on a par with the 2004 elections when it had secured 92.47 lakh votes to win eight Lok Sabha seats.

For the JDS, it has been one more instance of the electorate not trusting the party in the Lok Sabha polls, notwithstanding the fact that the party supremo had occupied the gaddi of the Prime Minister and had promised to play a powerful role in national politics if the voters reposed faith in his party.

The party’s share of votes has come down from 48.13 lakhs in the assembly polls to 33.36 lakh votes this time. As a consequence it has won three Lok Sabha seats as against four, as the polling trend in the 2008 had indicated. It incidentally had polled 51.35 lakh votes in the 2004 parliament elections.

The inference is obvious: In a Lok Sabha poll, the bonus in the form of the extra votes comes only to BJP and the Congress to the total exclusion of the JDS. And the two parties have shared the increase in votes in the ratio 3:1.

In the 2004 when simultaneous polls had been held for parliament and assembly, the two parties had picked up extra votes in the same ratio.

This has happened despite 15.29 lakh drop in the polling, the enrolment going up almost by the same number. There has been a drop in the vote share of the JDS and also in those voting for the parties other than the three main contenders considerably.

Pending the release of the official figures of the poll statistics, it is difficult to authoritatively state how the extra votes were apportioned. But it is obvious that the two parties the BJP and Congress between themselves had picked up an additional support 15.20 lakh extra votes, which they shared in the ratio quoted above.