The results of several opinion polls, large and small, reliable and questionable, all point to one conclusion: a Modi wave. Of course, they can be wrong, and we all know how such polls missed the emergence of a new party on the Delhi scene. But several, indeed all, opinion polls pointed to a Modi wave in the three other states that went into elections in November-
December 2013—the large states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. The poll forecasts were spot on, albeit with a slight miss on the Modi wave in each of the three states. Overall, the track record of these polls in India is pretty good, and if there weren’t occasional surprises along the way—like the 2004 Lok Sabha election—one would be forced to conclude that opinion polls actually did affect the vote!
So, with these opening caveats, let me assume that the opinion polls (about 10 of them, including one by a respected foreign polling agency, Pew) have got it right. What do the results mean?
Since elections are fought on a coalition basis, most opinion polls report vote-shares for the two major parties: the BJP+ and the (Congress) INC+. One back-of-the-envelope calculation is to subtract about 3 percentage points from the BJP+ to obtain the result for BJP, and about 4 percentage points from the INC+ to obtain the result for the INC. Doing this, the median poll result is 31% and 19% for BJP and INC alone, respectively. The joint vote-share of the BJP and the INC will be close to 50%, a level that all election results since 1984 have centred on (average of 51.5%)
The accompanying table reports the average of seat-results emerging from individual state-level vote-shares. These, in turn, are derived from considerations about the economy, e.g., it is the economy which determines voting, a model reported repeatedly in these columns and a Headlines Today TV programme in December 2013; considerations about age, caste, religion and urbanisation at a parliamentary constituency level, as well as historical vote-shares and opinion poll estimates. As is well known, there are a variety of models to convert from votes to seats in a first-past-the-post system, and three very different methods were employed.
This will be an election for the record books. It will record the largest vote-share decline for Congress in its entire history; matching, if not exceeding, the 9.2