Analysis of Predictions vs Results
Well, I'm certainly pleased with the Indian election results, mostly because I wanted the Manmohan Singh government to return, but also because my pre-results predictions proved to be remarkably good (see post below for full predictions). Obviously I made some major howlers, but on the whole, I think I called this one correctly. Read on for the analysis and my thoughts on the whole thing.
What did I get right?
1. That Congress would be the largest party and UPA will return to power.
2. Mulayam and Lalu appear set to support the UPA government (albeit from a weaker position than I was expecting).
3. BJP allies fared badly (the exception is Nitish Kumar in Bihar - more on that below).
4. Mayawati was a non-factor. I predicted she would get 26 seats, and she got 21. I'm pretty happy with that, considering there was talk of her getting over 40 seats at one point.
5. The communists lost in both Bengal and Kerala.
On all the high level predictions, I was proved correct. Drill down into the numbers, and you see that the main mistake I made was to be a little too conservative when it came to picking a Congress win. Strangely enough, when you drill down into the states, you find that quite a few of the predictions were off. It seems all the errors even each other out!
Of the 12 big states, the ones I got correct (or close enough that I can legitimately claim that I called the trends correctly) are Gujarat, Kerala (bonus: Shashi Tharoor won), Orissa, UP and West Bengal (the last two with a little reservation - keep reading).
But I also failed to see a large Congress resurgence in Andhra (where my hung assembly prediction totally failed to happen), Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and to some extent, UP, where I think the results match my predictions with this one caveat. There was also Rajasthan, where I predicted a small swing towards Congress, when in fact it ended up being a Congress landslide.
I also missed the trends in the two states that definitively went against the national grain - Karnataka and Bihar, where the NDA did surprisingly well. Oh, and of course, Deve Gowda won three seats in Karnataka, so we still have him and his absurd son to kick around.
And finally, there's Tamil Nadu, where I expected Jayalalitha to catch up to Karunanidhi, but instead he came out with twice as many seats as her.
On the issue of West Bengal, I got the trend correct (that the commies would falter), but failed to predict the beneficiary - Mamta. I'm still going to put this one in my correct column because Mamta will be supporting the Congress government, so the upshot is the same.
So, what are the lessons (or "take-aways" as I used to say in my previous, corporate incarnation)?
1. It's all regional. Every party that won or lost did so because of how they have governed in their states. For example, Nitish, YSR, DMK, Patnaik all benefited from their recent positive track record in power in their states. The Communists (both in Bengal and Kerala), and the BJP in Rajasthan were seeking votes in states where their local governments had fared particularly badly in recent years. The Thackeray family fight in Maharashtra benefited the Congress, just as the honeymoon period of the Yediyurappa government helped the BJP in Karnataka. Mayawati and Mulayam's mis-governance in UP over the last decade hurt both of them.
It's all regional.
2. To the extent that there is any "national" trend or lesson, it's not about substance but a more fuzzy question of "national vision". What I mean by this is that when voters think beyond their own constituency and state, they focus more on which party offers a more compelling vision for India (or if you prefer, definition of India) rather than specifics (for which they turn to recent local history). On this count, the BJP failed to provide a compelling vision of India to the voters, and this further aided the Congress resurgence.
3. The following is a pet theory of mine that I can't back up with any evidence, but I think it fits the story. The national elections of 2009 can be viewed as a re-playing out of last year's confidence motion in parliament on a national scale. If you remember, even then, parties horse-traded and voted according to their local concerns (ex. Mulayam was scared of Mayawati and looked to fend her off by moving closer to the Congress) and the larger national vision was lost in the process. But somehow, the parliament muddled through and reached the correct decision. In this election, something similar happened, with the added bonus that everyone who proved themselves to be cravenly opportunistic politicians during the nuclear deal and confidence vote saga lost big time. In fact, support for the confidence motion was possibly the best indicator for how well parties did in this election.
And, now I'm sure you're asking whether I have any advice for our wonderful Parties. Why, of course! Here goes:
To the BJP - focus on regional government, try a little less cynical opportunism (see: nuclear deal) and tone down the Hindutva nonsense.
To Mayawati, Mulayam, Commies, Shiv Sena, Deve Gowda etc. - Please leave politics.
To Congress and UPA - don't screw it up!
Now, where's my TV contract?