Yesterday on Filter Kaapi Live, we brought to you Part One of the interview with Dr Venugopala Rao of the Centre for Psephology Studies (CPS) who has been a practising psephologist since 2006. CPS has conducted a survey in both the Telugu states. After Andhra yesterday, today we will discuss the findings in Telangana.
Since mid-2016, Dr Rao has conducted several surveys for Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, both to gauge political response as well as gather feedback to different government programmes.
His opinion poll one week before the December elections was spot on with its prediction. CPS had given a range of 84-89 seats to the TRS, it bagged 88. It gave 19 to 21 to the opposition alliance, it got 21. Even in terms of vote share, CPS was close to the actual figure. It had predicted 45.9 per cent vote share for TRS, which ended up with 46.9 per cent. Congress was predicted to get 30.1 per cent and it got 28.4 per cent.
Full disclosure : This survey in Telangana ahead of the Lok Sabha elections was commissioned to CPS by KCR.
CPS conducted two rounds of survey work, first between January 6-9 with a sample size of 67,382 respondents and the second between March 25-29 with a similar sample size of 67510. It was conducted in 16 Lok Sabha constituencies, leaving out Telangana’s 17th seat, Hyderabad. The TRS has left Hyderabad to Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM, though for the sake of ensuring its core vote does not get eaten away by other parties, it has fielded a candidate, P Srikanth.
CPS ensured a sample of around 600 in each assembly segment which meant each Parliamentary constituency had about 4200 respondents.
Dr Venugopala Rao spoke to T S Sudhir of Filter Kaapi Live to give his numbers and analyse the why and how of his findings in Telangana.
Sudhir : What strikes me immediately is the size of the sample. It is much less than the 4.37 lakh and 3.04 lakh you surveyed in Andhra Pradesh in February and March respectively. Even the survey you did in Telangana before the December 2018 elections, you had a sample size of around 3 lakh. Why a much reduced sample size?
Rao : It was decided by the CM. The focus of these surveys was different from the surveys we did in November-December 2018. In the January 2019 survey, he wanted to find out if people endorse the need for the TRS to win all 16 Lok Sabha seats out of 17 in Telangana. 55 per cent said yes, the TRS should try and win all 16 while 42 per cent said No. KCR Sir felt that even with a smaller sample size, we would get a clear idea on these limited questions.
Sudhir : Is this because KCR is still in the honeymoon period of his second term?
Rao : What we found is that the mood of the electorate is still in favour of TRS and KCR. They are not open to other parties. More so because the elections are happening at a time when politicians from other parties are joining the TRS.
Sudhir : I meant is there a sense that KCR thinks his winning is assured under the circumstances? His assembly victory is still fresh in people’s minds and the crossover by Congress MLAs.
Rao : If you look at the vote share we gathered in our survey, the TRS got 55.8 per cent in January, the Congress 33.4 per cent and the BJP 9.1 per cent. It also translated into the TRS winning all the 16 seats in Telangana.
The vote share of both the TRS and Congress dipped a bit in the March survey to 53.4 per cent and 32.3 per cent respectively. The BJP went up to 11.3 per cent.
Sudhir : That is interesting. But what I note is that the gap between the TRS and the Congress is more than 20 per cent, which is huge.
Rao : Yes, it means there is no game. Politically on the ground, what our teams gathered is that the faith in KCR as a leader is unshaken. Also those who are not educated do not know that this election is different from the December one, that this one is for Delhi. They say they have endorsed KCR once, they will do so again. The educated lot agree with his idea of a Federal Front. The vote share is basically a reflection of the continuity of people’s faith in KCR. Which is why the vote share, our survey shows, has gone up from 46.9 per cent TRS got in December to over 53 per cent now.
Sudhir : The last two months have seen influx of Congress MLAs into the TRS. The Congress calls it predatory politics by the TRS. How is it perceived on the ground?
Rao : There is nothing to suggest it is seen as negative. But what it has done is to give immense political muscle to the TRS. Most of the 16 Lok Sabha seats now have TRS legislators. Wherever KCR did not have MLAs, those from the Congress joined the TRS. Ultimately, you need MLAs to mobilise. His strength is his MLAs.
Sudhir : Your survey numbers predict a very bleak picture for the Congress. Is it the end of the road for the party even before the first EVM button has been pressed?
Rao : The Congress is hoping for a close contest in four seats – Chevella, where TRS MP Konda Vishweshwar Reddy moved out of the party before the assembly elections, Malkajgiri and Khammam. The BJP is pinning its hopes on Secunderabad.
Take the case of Chevella. TRS even with a new candidate there is at 47 per cent to 36 per cent for the Congress.
Sudhir : Does it mean that work done by Vishweshwar Reddy as an MP in Chevella is ignored by the people?
Rao : In fact, when we asked about the factors voters keep in mind when they vote, the weightage of the performance of an MP was just 10 per cent. Even the candidate’s strength or weakness accounted for just 17 per cent. In Telangana, it is only the leadership that seems to matter. 47 per cent of respondents cited KCR as the reason for their vote preference.
Sudhir : This is pretty much in line with the Assembly elections. It is also very much like how it was with Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, her candidate did not matter, people voted for Jayalalithaa or MGR’s two leaves symbol.
Rao : In the Telangana Assembly elections, everyone was elected purely going by KCR’s image. It is overriding, his schemes, his vision. His journey from an agitator to an administrator.
Sudhir : How is the BJP placed in Secunderabad which was won four times before by former MP Bandaru Dattatreya.
Rao : It is not easy. Its vote share at 22 per cent is way less than 32 per cent of Congress and 45 per cent of TRS. This even though the TRS has fielded a young leader Sai Kiran Yadav while the BJP has G Kishan Reddy, who has been Telangana BJP president.
There are many factors going against Reddy. Major chunk of BJP vote is the middle class that has to be prodded to come out and vote while the TRS relies on the urban poor. The TRS candidate is a Yadava and there is major community backing for the party thanks to its scheme of distributing sheep. The scheme incidentally was implemented by his father Srinivas Yadav as Animal Husbandry minister. The Congress candidate also is a Yadav but he does not hurt Sai Kiran Yadav much in the community vote.
BJP will have to deal with disenchantment among the middle class with regard to demonetisation, GST. Unless there is a major middle class wave in Modi’s favour, it is tough going for Reddy.
Sudhir : On the ground in Secunderabad, the fact that Bandaru Dattatreya, a BC was replaced by a Reddy, also is spoken of as a factor that may go against the BJP.
Rao : Yes. The caste of the contesting candidate matters in Indian politics.
Sudhir : Khammam is a district where the TRS did not do well in the assembly elections but subsequently they have added muscle by inducting MLAs and leaders from the opposition parties. Does Renuka Chowdhury of the Congress stand a chance against Nama Nageswara Rao of the TRS, who is an import from the TDP.
Rao : In terms of vote share, Renuka Chowdhury is at 44 per cent to Nageswara Rao’s 54 per cent. She can try to narrow the gap but the negative she faces is that over the years, the perception is that she has not been much on the ground in Khammam.
Sudhir : Malkajgiri in and around Hyderabad city, is a microcosm of India, the largest constituency in India. That makes it a prestige contest.
Rao : The BJP candidate here Ramchander Rao is on a weak wicket, having lost the Malkajgiri assembly election three months ago. Revanth Reddy is a heavyweight but is a non-local. Rajasekhar Reddy, the TRS candidate is a political newcomer but with strong support of TRS legislators, he has the upper hand with 49 per cent vote share as against 38 per cent to Revanth. Our survey suggests that Revanth Reddy will lose by 9-10 per cent.
Sudhir : If your survey holds, Dr Rao, this kind of a gap of 10 per cent and above in some cases, would I guess, translate into significant victory margins.
Rao : Because of the heat factor and the inability to mobilise middle classes in urban and semi-urban areas, I am expecting a poor turnout election in Telangana. But going by the difference in vote share that we have picked up in the two surveys, every seat should see a 1.8 lakh majority. In seats like Karimnagar and Medak, 60 per cent of the votes may end up going in favour of TRS.