The caste fault lines are much stronger in Uttar Pradesh in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will secure 10-12 seats and more than 30 percent vote share in West Bengal, where it is engaged in a do-or-die battle against Trinamool Congress supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee, thanks to a saffron surge, said author and global investor Ruchir Sharma.
“All we needed to do in this Uttar Pradesh trip — and by the end of the day it was quite frustrating — is that you ask a person what the surname is and the surname will reveal to you as to which way they are going to vote,” said Sharma, who is well-known for making a habit of travelling across India before a vital assembly or general election to assess their outcomes.
In West Bengal, Sharma said that there is an incredible saffron surge that is happening and the BJP’s 30 percent vote share is a staggering development. “I can’t remember any large state where one party which was so dominant there — the Left — has disintegrated so quickly after having ruled the state for 34 years and I can’t recall of any party which has surged so massively in a short span of time,” he told CNBC-TV18 in an exclusive interview.
In India, Sharma hits the road regularly ahead of a major poll to assess and wager a prediction. His latest book, Democracy on the Road, is based on his travels around the country over 25 years during elections.
On the basis of his observations from his recent trip, Sharma said the ongoing Lok Sabha elections are the most unpredictable anyone has ever seen in the country so far. Yet, BJP will return to power at the centre though it might lose some seats in the Hindi heartland, according to him.
Sharma said polarisation based on caste and religion will not end with this election. “As we have discussed in the past that Indians typically don’t just cast their vote, they vote their caste that has been a very old saying of Indian politics and it has never been sort of truth than in Uttar Pradesh," he said.
The Congress may have committed a mistake by not allying with the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party combine in Uttar Pradesh, according to Sharma. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's entry into Uttar Pradesh elections may hurt the SP-BSP Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), he said.
Weighing in on Yogi Adityanath, Sharma said the Uttar Pradesh chief minister doesn't have a huge appeal in the state and so BJP is fighting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's name.
Read the full interview here