The world according to AAP

Updated: Jan 25 2014, 08:37am hrs
In an ultra-fast, hurried mode, the world has learnt a lot about the Aam Aadmi Party in the last few months. The party has opined on subjects well beyond its area of responsibility and expertise, e.g., foreign policy, and well within it, e.g., policies on water, electricity, law and order, and how to run a government (from the street or from the office). The media and glitterati have been chattering about the AAP even at dinner. The Congress party seems to be caught in the AAP's headlights like an ultra-frightened deer. Before one could say copy-cat, two states ruled by it Haryana and Maharashtrahave already announced power tariff cuts along the socialist vision of the AAP in Delhi. Mercifully, they havent gone full-hog with subsidies for the rich as per Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's dictatorial water policy that was implemented in the national capital.

Should the AAP be getting this much attention since, at best, it is leading a coalition government in the small NCT of Delhi Obviously not, except for the fact that there is considerable speculation about the impact of the AAP in the national elections a few months hence. It is in this context that the AAPs actions of recent days have to be considered. By leading a protest march against the central government, the AAP may not have won hearts and minds, but it surely has won all the TV ratings. One hypothesis that deserves serious discussion is to what extent the media-and-journalist-savvy AAP calculated that the national exposure guaranteed by the protest led by the mad anarchist (not mine, but

Kejriwals and the home ministers words) may not have been so mad!

The results of two opinion pollsIndia Today and CNN-IBNhave just been released and both point to more hype than substance in the projections of the AAP as even a semi-major force in Indian politics. Among the major states, the AAP receives a national vote share of 4.6%; excluding Delhi, its national vote share drops to 3.9%. In terms of seats, the AAP receives 5 in Delhi (both polls) and 4 outside Delhi (IT poll, with CNN-IBN not making any seat projections). To put this into perspective, the BSP received 8 % of the national vote share in 2009, and CPM-CPI together received 5%. And recall the fact that a political party is considered a national party only if it receives more than 6% of the vote in at least 4 states. Even after all the news, publicity, moral superiority and arrogance, and before the madcap protest, the AAP will fulfil these criteria (according to the opinion polls) in only three states: Delhi (48%), Haryana (17%), and

Gujarat (12 %).

Both the opinion polls were conducted before the AAPs mad escapade. It is possible that their popularity will go down; it is also possible, but not likely, that their popularity will go up post the madness. But the analysis of vote shares presented yesterday (goo.gl/OGGWR6, When the AAP meets IOU in 2014, Financial Express) was made on the basis of very generous transitions (give-ups) of the other parties' voters towards the AAP; give-ups that resulted in a very large vote-share for the AAP party, upwards of 17% of the national vote. Going by the mood in the media and among disgruntled Congress voters, maybe this utterly theoretical and simulated 17% vote share was what was being looked at.

The accompanying table documents the give-ups of the Congress, the BJP and regional parties to the AAP, and the corresponding seat shares. These give-ups are radically different (and higher) than those revealed in opinion polls, i.e., a Congress give-up of 30-35% and a BJP give-up of 0-10%. Most opinion polls before and after the Delhi assembly elections concluded that somewhere between a third and a half of the Delhi AAP voters would vote for Narendra Modi in the upcoming general elections. Ace psephologist and one of the top 3 leaders of the AAP, Yogendra Yadav, concluded in an AAP survey, that about a third of their voters were likely to shift to the BJP. As a conservative calculation, it is assumed that this fraction will be as little as 10%. The calculations assume that the AAP contests every seat in all the big states (524 seats in total), and obtains votes in each of these constituencies. Neither the Congress nor the BJP have contested every constituency in any election, so this is an ultra extreme assumption.

The opinion polls suggest that the Congress give-up was only 7% and the reverse of give-up, a gain, to BJP of 26%. These assumptions add up to the simple fact that the deck has been heavily stacked in favour of the AAPan over-estimation of the AAP votes to well beyond the dreams of AAP. The likelihood of such give-ups actually occurring will be the blackest of Black Swan events.

These assumptions lead to very similar vote shares as documented in yesterday's column. But, as the table shows, a near-equal vote share can, and does, translate into very different seat shares. That is both the beauty (for the BJP) and the beast (for the Congress and especially for the AAP) of the first-past-the-post system! The following four conclusions follow from an analysis of the data and the various simulations conducted.

n Row 0: Opinion poll resultsa seat share for AAP in the 5-9 range.(The AAP vote share, as reported above, is less than 5 %.)

n Row 1: If Congress loses 30% of its 2009 vote share, and the BJP holds onto its 2009 level but shows no improvement in votes, the result is a near replica of the opinion pollsa 7-seat projection for the AAP. This despite the fact that the assumed vote share for the AAP is about 12 percentage points higher (around 17%) than indicated by the opinion polls.

n Row 6: The most favourable to the AAP, but a historically unlikely scenario, is when the Congress gives up 35% of its vote share and the BJP gives up 10% in every constituency. Obviously, this will not happen, for in some constituencies it will be much more, some a lot less. But the constant average does hint at the likely outcomes. In this scenario, the AAP gains 14 seats nationally, 6 of which are in Delhi. But, and this is an important caveat, the AAP margins of victory in the Delhi seats are razor-thinthey range from 0.2-1.2% of the vote, with an average margin of victory of only 0.5%.

n Row 4: Unlikely scenarios are reported as well, e.g., the Congress loses 30% of the vote, the BJP loses 10% to the AAP, but, in turn, the BJP receives 10% of the aggregate AAP vote (the Kejriwal-to-Modi conversion). This aggregate includes the votes received from the third front parties, etc. In this reality scenario, the AAP ends up gaining only one seat nation-wide.

In elections anything can, and sometimes, does happen. The Aam Aadmi Party defied all odds to win handsomely in Delhi. This regional feat has been achieved by many in state elections. Rarely, actually never, has a debutante party gone on to translate a regional victory into a national one. It is a difficult task. Despite building in very favourable assumptions for an AAP victory, it is very difficult to get the party to score in double digits on an all-India basis. The odds, and the gods, do not seem aligned much in AAPs direction.

Surjit S Bhalla

Second and final article based on work with Prasanthi Ramakrishnan and Sriramjee Singh. The author is chairman, Oxus Investments

and a senior advisor to Zyfin. Twitter: @surjitbhalla