A majority of exit polls may be predicting a BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh as a slam dunk outcome, but having spent weeks traversing this vast state, I would like to hedge my bets. Here are five factors pollsters may not be capturing well.
1. BJP Voters are vocal, in-your-face: They stop you to tell that they voted for Narendra Modi. In fact, the same can be said of SP-Congress voters, dial down the volume by a level or two. During my travels, even women supporters of PM Modi approached me on their own just to say that they feel safe under his rule.
2. Akhilesh has a fan club: The number of UP CM’s followers has seen a spike after he wrested SP lock, stock and party symbol from his father and uncle after a bitter family feud. He is seen a stronger leader. He is seen as a batsman who got only the last 10 overs to bat and his supporters now want him to bat for the full 50 overs. And by the way, there are enough young women out there who feel only Akhilesh can provide a safe atmosphere for women in the state.
3. The Dimple Factor: Akhilesh’s wife and SP MP from Kannauj Dimple Yadav is a hit among all segments of SP voters. The Bhaiya-Bhabhi jodi is certain to help SP and counter the image of SP as a boys club with leaders like Gayatri Prajapati who is absconding after rape charges. During the campaign trail, Dimple told us: “Logon ko Akhilesh Bhaiya pasand hai, isilie unhe Dimple bhabhi bhi pasand hain.” May be he should have brought her into the campaign much earlier.
4. That eerily silent BSP voter: Well, half the exit polls analysis focused on this aspect after every single poll predicted a rout for Mayawati and her party. Behenji’s voters are from the lowest of the low in social strata and like to keep their political opinions to their own. BSP leaders claim the pollsters have missed them. They also claim this segment would have also misled pollsters into believing that they voted for BJP.
5) That Delhi Redux: There is a sizeable chunk out there who believe the best deal for UP is ‘Modi for PM, Akhilesh for CM’. This is very similar to Delhi 2015 polls where even some BJP supporters voted for Arvind Kejriwal.
(The author spent weeks travelling though districts such as Lucknow, Barabanki, Bahraich, Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Shrawasti, Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Varanasi. The views are personal)