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Elections not a done deal

Sunil Jain in New Delhi | March 13, 2004 15:02 IST

Did you know that 60 per cent of the state governments were voted out of power in elections held in the last two years?

And, while this is an area of concern for the ruling National Democratic Alliance, the Bharatiya Janata Party has made steady gains in the vital tribal vote share at the expense of the Congress?

In the 1999 general elections, the BJP won 38 per cent of the tribal-dominated/reserved scheduled tribe seats, against 34 per cent in 1996, while the Congress won just 13 per cent in 1999, compared with 30 per cent in 1996.

In last year's Assembly elections, the BJP's performance was even more dramatic: it swung 15 per cent of the tribal votes away from the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and 17 per cent in Rajasthan. It won three-fourths of the tribal seats in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

This is not political punditry from professional political analysts. It forms part of the latest strategy advisory put out by investment banker Morgan Stanley for its clients.

Since politics affects markets, Morgan Stanley's argument is it is important for market analysts to analyse politics.

The report argues that the forthcoming elections, contrary to what several pundits are predicting, are not a done deal--it is not necessary that the NDA will come back to power.

On the other hand, the report dwells on the Congress's unexpected losses in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and the reasons for it.

It argues that though anti-incumbency will hit the NDA, the BJP will be helped by its work among the tribals.

Equally important is the role of pre-poll alliances in a scenario where the seat share of national parties in Parliament has gone down from around 90 per cent to 67 per cent in the last decade.

The BJP realised this early on and went into alliances. Thus while its vote share fell in 1999, its seats remained more or less constant. The Congress, however, saw its seats going down dramatically though its vote share went up.

According to Morgan Stanley, the Congress's attempts at sewing up more successful alliances this time around makes the outcome of this election less predictable.

Another major imponderable, especially to Morgan's analysts, who are more comfortable with balance sheets than ballot papers, is Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

These states together account for close to a fourth of the Lok Sabha seats, and it is anyone's guess as to how either the BJP or the Congress will fare in the cow belt.

The biggest worry for Morgan Stanley is that while markets typically do well before elections, this is the strongest pre-election rally seen in the last two decades.

So, the markets appear to be assuming that there will be a stable government, and probably an NDA one, after the elections.

"Going into next month," concludes the report, "this has to be the risk factor for the market."


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