April 30, 2016

GHMC results analysis: part 4


Earlier in this series we sized the TRS victory in the GHMC elections. In the most recent post I demolished certain outlandish "reasons" offered by the losers or their apologists.

In this concluding part I will examine explanations that are (or, on the face of it, appear to be) more credible. I will also provide my own assessment of the historic verdict.

Defections impact

As we are aware GHMC is spread across 24 assembly constituencies. 14 out of these members of legislative assembly (MLA's) were elected on NDA ticket while 7 MLA's won on the Majlis symbol with TRS capturing the balance three seats.

Talasani Srinivas Yadav (# 62 Sanathnagar), Teegala Krishna Reddy (# 50 Maheshwaram), Madhavaram Krishna Rao (# 46 Kukatpally) and G. Sayanna (# 71 Secunderabad Cantonment) broke away from TDP and shifted their loyalties to TRS. The contention these defections played an important part in the TRS victory needs to be verified in earnest as these four constituencies traverse 20 wards.

Subsequently six more TDP MLA's (including 4 from the city) jumped ship effectively reducing the party to 3 MLA's from the original 15 with just one "absentee" legislator from GHMC. Two Congress legislators also joined the chorus. This is not relevant to our analysis and is only noted in the passing.

A little history first. As many as 14 MLA's (TDP: 6, Congress: 4, Congress rebels: 2 & YCP: 2) defected to the TRS between the 2014 general elections and the 2016 GHMC polls. Adding the nominated MLA, the 8 later day turncoats and a lone bye-election win, TRS's effective strength is 87 out of 119 with one seat vacant.

The subject of defections raises a lot of heat & dust with much indignation and posturing. I am compelled to point out that several other states (Jharkhand, Assam, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu & AP) have seen equally controversial party hopping with the very same folks raising concerns in Telangana benefitting in some of these cases.

Defection has been a time honored practice right from independence. TRS gave tickets to 14 defectors in 2014 among whom six emerged victorious. 35 NDA candidates (TDP: 33, BJP: 2) in the 13 Andhra districts were defectors who donned the party colors on the eve of the elections with 15 (TDP: 14, BJP: 1) of these party hoppers winning at the hustling, three going on to join the cabinet.

It is probably not an exaggeration to say every major political party has accepted or even encouraged defections when it suited its interests. A large number of leaders including very prominent ones have jumped ship one or more times in their career.

There has been a steady influx into the TRS post 2009. This broadly consisted of second & third rung leaders as well as ordinary cadre from almost all political parties, the statehood & other contemporary movements and civil society. Congress too enjoyed a lower but reasonably strong upswing in the months between the central Telangana decision & the 2014 general elections. Media often overlooked this exodus & focused only on high profile defections of those in elected positions.

As an analyst, one must look at the impact of these events. The moral, ethical or even legal angles are beyond the scope of this report.

Assuming for the sake of argument these defectors tilted the scales I simulated a scenario where the TRS stays at its 2014 vote share in these four seats. We still arrive at a remarkable 40.3% vote share, a nominal 3.4% dip. The resulting set back is quite low with a "guesstimate" of around 85-90 wards, still a historic verdict. But did even this happen?

Talasani Srinivas Yadav is a veteran leader of good standing. Having said this, his preferred constituency is the neighboring Secunderabad (# 70) that TRS won comfortably both in 2014 & 2016. He bagged 45.3% of the Sanathnagar votes in 2014 against TRS's 23.3%. This time around the combined TRS vote was at 55.5% against NDA's 31.1% i.e. much higher than 2014 NDA share. Even if we attribute the entire 14.2% swing away from NDA to the defecting leader, TRS "stand-alone" performance at 41.3% share & 18.0% swing would still be substantial.

G. Sayanna, another veteran leader, won by a narrow 3,275 vote majority in 2014. TDP's fortunes dipped in the 2015 SCB elections with the party losing all four wards. His daughter G. Lasya Nanditha lost despite much fanfare. It may be noted in passing that she won comfortably from Kavadiguda (ward # 90) outside her father's geographic domain with a majority of 11,388 votes!

This time around NDA retained much of its vote in Secunderabad Cantonment falling just 0.9% below its previous 35.5%. TRS share grew 14.9% from 32.9% to hit a formidable 47.8%. This can be attributed to "cannibalization" of Congress, YCP & minor parties rather than the defection.

Though a first-time MLA, Teegala Krishna Reddy too is a senior politician having served as MCH Mayor in the past. He won the 2014 elections by a comfortable majority 30,784 votes cornering a 42.9% share. In 2016, TRS jumped from a third position 19.5% share to the top of the table with 40.3%, a swing of 20.8%. Majlis, who did not fight in 2014, stood second with 20.1%. NDA share fell 25.4% ending with third position at 17.5%. Congress slid two positions losing 7.7% votes.

Maheshwaram therefore presents a very complex scenario. Majlis could not have gathered such a large vote share merely from Congress. One therefore has to assume the voters preferring the absent Majlis split their patronage between Congress, TRS & smaller parties in 2014. This leads to a near 30% TRS swing in 2016: something no single individual can accomplish all by himself. Reddy's contribution may have been good but TRS probably did not need him desperately.

Madhavaram Krishna Rao, another first-time MLA, is comparatively less known. His family is quite active politically in Kukatpally: two of his relatives contested from Vivekananda Nagar Colony (ward # 122) with the TRS candidate beating the TDP relative by a modest 1,492 vote majority.

NDA lost around 10.9% share in 2016 from Kukatpally while TRS went up to 50.6% share i.e. a swing of 26.6%! Even in the highly unlikely event the entire NDA negative swing is the result of the defection, TRS "stand-alone" performance at 39.7% share & 15.3% swing would still be commendable.

One must conclude from the above the defectors did not benefit TRS to any material extent. The only possible (that too partial) exception is that of Teegala Krishna Reddy.

Looking at it from a different angle, we find:

·         TRS swing in the 4 defectors' constituencies is between 14.9%-32.2% with a simple mean of 23.5%
·         The four seats that saw defections later are more range bound (22.2%-29.0%, simple mean: 27.3%)
·         The numbers for the balance six constituencies: 18.6%-39.8% range, simple mean: 28.3%

A cynic would congratulate the eight defectors on their "wise decision" and recommend the others (with the possible exception of T. Raja Singh, # 65 Goshamahal BJP MLA, incidentally a defector who won the 2009 GHMC election on TDP symbol but jumped to BJP later) to switch over as well J

Local strongmen effect

As we know TRS did not contest the 2009 GHMC elections. Quite a few councilors shifted to TRS in the run-up to the 2016 elections. Councilor defections are quite common in India. For example Congress won the Gandhinagar corporation in 2011. Some Congressmen crossed over to BJP enabling it to rule the corporation the next two years. It may be noted in passing the anti-defection law (tenth schedule) does not cover local bodies.

The theory that such local strongmen (contesting directly or through a "proxy") are particularly good at winning votes irrespective of party affiliation deserves serious consideration. After all the wards are reasonably small and geographically concentrated. It is quite conceivable that someone in a commanding position in one or two localities (especially weaker section areas) can poll quite well on his own strength.

Parties select candidates considering several complex parameters including social composition, loyalty, internal dynamics and a strange animal called "winnability". There is little doubt that strongmen are blessed in the last factor. This may even have been one of the main reasons why the present defecting councilors won in 2009!

In the present case we saw delimitation not only reduced skew across wards but also resulted in several boundary changes. The 2016 wards do not correspond to those in 2009 even if the names are the same. By definition a local strongman stays local: his advantage is diminished when boundaries change.

Deciding who won the votes- party or the individual- is rather tricky. One can however draw some deductions using the performance of rebels & independents as a clue. Because of the complexity of candidate selection it is not possible to accommodate all aspirants, defectors or otherwise. This typically gives rise to the rebel phenomenon i.e. disgruntled individuals fighting as independents. As we saw earlier GHMC in 2016 was singularly devoid of well performing independents.

Before proceeding further let us examine how the other strongmen fared:

·         Mulla Vikram Goud, declared by Congress as their choice for Mayor, came in a dismal fourth position at Jambagh (ward # 77) losing his deposit & polling just 3,382 votes
·         Former Congress mayor Banda Karthika Reddy (whose spouse incidentally is also a strong local leader) contesting from Tarnaka (ward # 143) lost to TRS novice Alakunta Saraswathi by a huge margin of 12,941 votes and, in fact, barely managing to retain her deposit
·         Vemullapalli Pradeep Choudhary, the presumptive TDP Deputy Mayor candidate, lost Vengalrao Nagar (ward # 99) by 1,182 votes to Kilari Manohar, the comparatively unknown TRS nominee
·         Most of the TRS's own strong candidates such as Bonthu Rammohan (# 3 Cherlapally), Bethi Swapna Reddy (# 8 Habsiguda), V. Srinivas Reddy (# 87 Ramnagar), G. Lasya Nanditha (# 90 Kavadiguda), P. Vijaya Reddy (# 91 Khairatabad), Kavitha Reddy Manne (# 92 Venkateshwara Colony), Vijaya Laxmi Gadwal (# 93 Banjara Hills), Baba Fasiuddin Mohammed (# 103 Borabanda) and KM Padma Goud (#132 Jeedimetla) won comfortably

Let us now look at the performance of those 2009 councilors (or their kin) in the present election. 43 out of the 106 non-Majlis councilors returned to the fray this year. 20 of these (TDP-12, Congress-6, BJP-1 & PRP-1) fought on the TRS ticket.

·         With the exception of Kanjarla Annapurna (#101 Erragadda, relative of Kanjarla Sadashiv Yadav) who lost to her Majlis opponent by 951 votes, the other 19 TRS candidates won their wards
·         Two of these candidates lost vote share in comparison with 2009 while the gain for two others was rather modest (less than 5%)
·         The other fifteen candidates increased their vote share significantly with a simple mean of 17.1%

The other 23 strongmen (6 of whom contesting from a different party) presents a sharp contrast:

·         Only two BJP candidates i.e. Ale Lalitha (# 35 Gowlipura, relative of Ale Jitendra) & G. Shanker Yadav (# 50 Begum Bazar) managed to win. It may be noted these wards are in the Hindu pockets of the old city, a traditional BJP stronghold. Another point of interest is that these individuals are both defectors from Congress, their party in 2009
·         Two others gained vote share compared to the 2009 performance
·         The other 19 lost significant vote share with a simple mean of -17.4%
·         9 of the 23 candidates secured third or lower position with only one of these retaining deposit

The conclusion is obvious: individuals did not matter in this admittedly wave election!

The "settler" question

An interesting point of view often floated in several forums can be summarized as per the following:

·         There are a large number of "settlers" in Hyderabad. If you throw a brick at any random direction it will hurt several of these nice folks J
·         These individuals were largely opposed to Telangana statehood and preferred status quo or, as a second option, Hyderabad as a separate Union Territory (UT)
·         They were so angry at Telangana formation that they voted enmasse for TDP (or BJP where it contested as a part of NDA) rejecting Congress & TRS totally
·         This anger has subsided by now and most of them want to buy peace with TRS (or forgave the party in response to KTR's "apology")

This theory appears to be popular with educated web savvy upper & upper middle class upper caste Andhra men: the very same group that vigorously opposed Telangana statehood movement. You will remember the Hyderabad UT bogey was a frequently used arrow in their quiver!

Let us first resolve the terminology. The word "settler" refers to Andhras who migrated to the Hyderabad state before 1956 and gave up links to their former homes. The number of settlers in Hyderabad is not very high. Originally limited to areas like Chikkadpally, Dilsukhnagar, Vijay Nagar Colony, Vanasthalipuram & Anand Nagar Colony, they are now fairly well spread out across the city. They are broadly indistinguishable from other Hyderabadis, have few if any links to Andhra and are involved in a wide range of white collar work.

The first generation white collar Andhra migrants who migrated after 1996 (or 1983 depending on whom you ask) are not settlers. They maintain close links to their home, enjoy a lifestyle quite difficult from the rest of the city and are limited to a few professions like technology, films, media, education & real estate.

Another group consisting of government employees broadly shares the same interests as the first. They have comparatively fewer links to Andhra but strongly identify with the region. Their numbers may not be high but they make up for this with high visibility.

The third group consists of blue collar workers employed in a wide range of services. Except those in segments supporting the white collar migrants (e.g. Andhra "mess" workers), there is little interaction and/or common interests between this and the other two groups. How big is this group? Difficult to estimate but I would guess it would not be insignificant.

There is little evidence or basis to suggest the blue collar Andhras vote (or even think) on lines similar as the other articulate groups. After all a construction worker is not likely to be concerned with grievances such as article 371-D, river water sharing or the so called Telugu mother. For the limited purpose of this analysis however I will club all three groups as "Andhras" with a common cause.

Demographic data is not easily available in India and, where available, of suspect accuracy. This is probably the main reason why armchair "experts" can get away with outlandish speculative shibboleths passed off as "wisdom". Due to the proliferation of sensation hungry media, any Tom, Dick or Harry with a gift of gab can enjoy glory grossly out of proportion to his knowledge & analytical skills J

How many Andhra migrants are registered electors in GHMC? As there is no way to provide a reasonably accurate answer, people tend to indulge in their own number game. A "commenter" recently claimed 20-30 lakh Andhras travel to their hometowns from Hyderabad every Sankranthi!

What is the evidence behind this exaggerated claim? Media frequently claim around Sankranthi "Hyderabad has become empty" with visuals of smooth flowing traffic! What do you expect on a holiday especially at the commuter peak hours? If the claim is even reasonably close, the usual Sankranthi major film release should bomb at the box office in Hyderabad!

There is no conceivable way the transportation system can handle this kind of volume in a short duration. Even if entire fleets are commandeered to cater to this rush, we should be witnessing two diametrically opposing chaotic scenarios: total traffic jam on the alleged route & lakhs of people waiting for transportation in the districts that "donated" their fleet. No media outlet has ever provided these visuals: yet the gullible lap up this nonsense just because it suits them J

Sri Krishna Committee citing census data shows a total 533,198 Andhra origin population in the districts of Hyderabad & Ranga Reddy. This comes to 7.2% of the population in the two districts. This territory includes several areas outside GHMC borders but misses out Medak district GHMC areas. Assuming there are no Andhras in the non-GHMC areas and extrapolating for Patancheru we arrive at an Andhra population of 543,007 in GHMC.

Census is an exercise where enumerators visit your home to collect data while electoral registration is a process that involves certain amount of time & effort. White collar registration is therefore on the lower side in India especially with people that shift jobs/residence regularly. Let us however assume that all eligible members of the GHMC Andhra population are registered electors in the city.

As countries go we are a young country: 41% of the population is under the voting age of 18 years. Assuming this ratio holds we arrive at 320,374 Andhra electors in GHMC. At the 2016 turnout of 45.1%, this translates to 144,489 votes. Even assuming these votes are restricted to just 75 wards, the average per ward is a mere 1,927 votes! It may be worth noting here that 84 of the 99 TRS councilors won with a majority of over 2,000 votes J

Let us look at this from a different perspective. If the contention is correct, NDA vote share should have gone up dramatically in 2014 in comparison to 2009. As we saw NDA actually lost 2.6% votes in these five years. In fact this fall could be as high as 10.2% if we accept TDP claim that PRP & LSP "stole" their votes in 2009!

This theory is incompatible with another known fact: YCP polled 5.2% of the Hyderabadi votes in 2014. Surely some of these folks were Andhra migrants?

Pursuing a different line of investigation, 30 lakh population with 59% adults works out to 17.7 lakh electors i.e. 21.7% of the 2014 electorate. NDA won 35.4% of the votes in that elections. Even if every single Andhra voter voted for the alliance, it would still account only for 61.3% of the alliance's performance. The balance votes would have to be from Telangana voters but for whom NDA would have been just a notch above TRS's 19.6%. NDA may be thankful to receive the so called "Andhra protest vote" but could scarcely be expected to ignore the interests of a demographic that effectively catapulted them to the top of the table, especially when they otherwise lost votes in the previous five years.

Let us shun the idle speculation and focus on data. This does not reveal any evidence whatsoever to support the contention that TRS did better in areas where the Andhra voters live. There are probably very few Andhras in the assembly constituencies of Goshamahal, Karwan & Nampalli. As we saw earlier, TRS did pretty well in the wards in these seats.

The oft repeated claim that Andhras in Hyderabad opposed Telangana statehood is not backed by any credible evidence. The "performance" of the individual calling himself G. Kumar Chowdary Yadav and the unrecognized party with the grandiose name of Samaikyandhra Samithi Party founded by him is extremely interesting. This gentleman, incidentally a part of the so called Visalandhra Mahasabha fringe group, contested from Sanathnagar in 2009 winning a grand total of 182 votes (0.16%) and securing a remarkable twelfth position in a field of 15 rivals. Doubtless he was encouraged by this as he aspired to enter the Loksabha in 2014 scoring 547 votes (0.054%) and an improved rank of 25 out of 31 Secunderabad aspirants. The fact that such vote counts are usually associated with student body or housing society elections need hardly be stressed.

Perhaps one should check aggregate data rather than the saga of an individual's "heroic" struggle? Sundry ragtag parties opposed to Telangana secured 0.033% of the 2009 GHMC votes. Assorted anti-Telangana groups bagged 0.46% of the GHMC votes in 2014. This time around none of these worthies (or the Hyderabad UT fans, their ideological cousins) deemed it fit to risk their caution deposit by entering the fray J

The conclusions from the above analysis are summarized below:

·         There is very little support for the anti-Telangana or Hyderabad UT platforms in Hyderabad
·         Andhras may have voted for TRS in droves but no more than every other demographic (except Muslims in the wards Majlis contested)
·         Andhra votes were certainly welcome but TRS would have pulled off a historic win even without them

Subjective assessment

I will conclude this four-part report by providing my own assessment of the verdict. This is by definition purely subjective.

This is a comprehensive victory for TRS. The usual electoral models are inadequate to explain the huge surge in vote share. Even sophomore surge, a phenomenon never seen before in India, does not cover situations where an incumbent jumps up 24.1% in under two years.

A steep raise in a ruling party's popularity is often caused either by an atmosphere of fear (e.g. post-911 Bush surge) or a striking "game changer" idea (e.g. "garibi hatao"). Neither scenario is applicable in the present case.

Landslide elections are usually negative. The 1971 Loksabha election, probably the best known positive wave election, saw Congress peaking to 43.7% vote share.

The most remarkable part of the present verdict is that it is not only huge but also positive. Neither the circumstances nor the government performance appear to warrant such a big victory.

There is much speculation that Hyderabadi voters were swayed by factors such as uninterrupted power supply and the double bedroom scheme. No doubt these may have helped but could not have been the prime reasons by themselves.

In my assessment, the two main reasons why TRS won so big are as follows:

·         Telangana was seen by the activists as a gateway or an interim destination. The refrain that Telangana's problems can be solved only after achieving statehood dominated the discourse. This hitherto untested hypothesis is gaining wider acceptance as results (or even projections) start coming in. The problems remain broadly undiminished but the construct of Telangana as the vehicle to solve these looks much more real than ever before
·         TRS was perceived both by friends, foes & others as an agitation platform. The party's inherent shortcomings (weak structures, hit-or-miss strategies, one-man show etc.) raised doubts whether it can emerge as a party of governance. TRS appears to be handling the transition quite well in relative terms. They may or may not be settling as well as they need to: what is important however is that they are doing so way ahead of the expectations!

This is not to say TRS can get complacent. The tougher job of delivering is still ahead!

April 08, 2016

GHMC results analysis: part 3

Update from Warangal & Khammam

As everyone knows by know TRS swept Warangal winning 44 wards with TRS rebels coming in second with 8 seats. Congress bagged 4 wards while BJP & left won one seat each.

Rather unexpectedly TRS did extremely well in Khammam too winning 34 wards with Congress taking a creditable 10 seats. Left with 4 & YCP with 2 bring up the rear.

The official results from the Warangal & Khammam elections are not available. In any case I did not plan to analyze these. However information from secondary sources may be of interest:

·         Warangal: TRS 51.7%, Congress 13.5%, BJP 10.4%, TDP 2.4%
·         Khammam: TRS 42.4%, Congress 20.5% Left 12.3% YCP 10.7% TDP 8.4% BJP 1.6%

TDP not only drew a blank in both the cities but suffered a humiliating defeat in Warangal with just one of its nominees retaining his deposit. One of its candidates won a grand total of 4 votes J

YCP polling 10%+ in Khammam is an interesting takeaway. BJP did reasonably well in Warangal reinforcing our earlier finding that it may be better off fighting on its own.

Congress can find solace from the fact it appears to be the second popular choice outside of Hyderabad. They need to bridge the gap as well come back in the capital in order to have a serious fling in 2019.

A quick recap

In the first part of this report, we came to the following conclusions:

·         TRS scored a historic win dominating the non-Majlis areas
·         TRS did quite well even in the Majlis strongholds
·         Majlis performed predictably well retaining its traditional base
·         This election was a virtual nightmare for both NDA & Congress

Continuing the analysis, in the second part we found:

·         If assembly elections are held today TRS would win 18 seats in GHMC, Majlis retaining 4 constituencies and the other two being too close to call
·         If Loksabha elections are held today TRS would win 3 of the 4 seats with Majlis retaining Hyderabad
·         Vote swing in favor of TRS is around 24% in the period 2014-16 while Majlis broadly stood its ground
·         NDA and, to a lesser extent, Congress both lost ground in the last two years
·         BJP appears to have been dragged down by TDP

I will now move on to find the reasons behind this historic win. By necessity, this exercise though data driven is somewhat subjective. In the present post I will look at some outlandish "reasons" offered by the losing parties or their sympathizers. I will examine more serious matters in the next (concluding) part.

Vote tampering accusations

Immediately after the results were out, former Congress mayor Banda Karthika Reddy accused TRS of tampering with Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Nalamada Uttam Kumar Reddy, state Congress president, made the same allegation earlier about the 2015 Warangal Loksabha bye-elections.

Such allegations have been levied quite a few times in the recent years ever since one Hari K. Prasad "demonstrated" a simulated attack. Prasad has since removed the "demonstration" videos from his site retaining only a transcript. I do not consider the paper serious scientific research in view of several defects: that is a subject for a different post though! For the present let us assume the attacks claimed by Prasad are possible at a laboratory level to see if these can be repeated in a real world situation.

The authors list several tampering possibilities in their "vulnerability analysis". I prefer to restrict myself to what they claim to have actually done to an EVM they managed to obtain instead of chasing speculation:

·         Dishonest display
·         Inserting a chip-on-memory manipulator

Both these methods require physically tampering the control unit. The first method is not only cumbersome but also useless as the machines can output data to a computer. Tampering display is meaningless when the results are based on machine read output. The authors' claim "officials manually record the totals from each machine and add them together to determine the election result" does not sound correct to me as the extensive statistical reports are not easy to generate from manual compilation. Even assuming the contention is correct, the existence of an audit trail that can be used in case of a dispute rules this method out for any serious mischief maker.

The second method is more realistic in attempting the stated objective of stealing votes. This involves inserting a chip-on device consisting of a microcontroller, three light emitting diodes (LED) and a ten position rotary switch. The rotary switch is set to any position between 1-9 corresponding to the ballot position of the "stealing party" candidate.

Physically tampering with the control unit is not as easy as it sounds. Even though security may be lax at times some kind of break-in or trespass would still be required. The attack can be executed only between the time the machines are transported to the storage site and the votes are counted, a window that can be just a couple of days as in the GHMC case. The organizational element of reconnaissance, planning, staffing, communications & execution can be daunting. In addition unusually high criminal movements can be easily detected by intelligence & law enforcement.

Stealing votes would require opening each EVM control unit and inserting the manipulation device. The manipulator executes a program in two parts: reading the actual votes polled and rewriting votes to the programmed level. After this is complete, the "done" LED lights up. The authors went to the extent of providing a rudimentary but clever error recovery mechanism with an "error" LED. Looks brilliant at a first glance but how feasible is this?

The sheer volumes are a challenge to any wannabe thief. Assuming an average of 1,000 electors to a booth, we are looking at around at around 7,500 units in GHMC. Considering just the wards won by TRS, this figure is around 5,000.

As Indian EVM's are totally different from those used elsewhere, the manipulators have to be built specially for India. The microcontroller, like most sophisticated components these days, is a surface mount device (SMD). Assembling the chip-on manipulator therefore requires access to an anti-static production facility with pick-and-place (P&P) system together with as reflow/wave soldering equipment.

Only the rotary switch & LED's are available off-the-shelf. The custom PCB (printed circuit board) and microcontrollers can be traced back to the buyer: something that no thief would like J

Assuming for the moment that thousands of devices are somehow assembled and the transactions are buried deep, we are still left with the programming issues. While burning an EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable Read-Only Memory) is quite easy, programming is not so easy.

The ballot positions of the major party candidates vary widely. The 150 GHMC wards resulted in 100 unique ballot positions. This means the party intending to steal the elections must plan several program combinations.

The ballot positions are the same inside all booths in a ward thus posing a different & difficult problem. An EEPROM typically store only a small amount of data (e.g. EVM EEPROM is 64 kb). This limited memory does not provide much room for complex/smart pieces of code. Unless a different program is used in every booth, the mischief will result in clearly identifiable trends that can result in invalidation of the result.

Programming the EEPROM is not a mere technical job. The trick is not to steal too few votes and lose the election or steal too many leading to raised eyebrows! In addition to this, the "stealing party" needs to balance booth wise variations. This calls for an accurate understanding of the mood not only at a ward level but also at booth level. A tall order given the poor performance of surveys and even exit polls J

The authors glibly claim "the device fits in a shirt pocket" omitting to mention the thief needs to carry a screw-driver too. Any thief with any knowledge of electronics would realize the device needs to be carried in a suitable anti-static bag. Otherwise he could end up damaging or inducing latent damage in the EVM thereby risking serious scandal. This leaves him with the problem of disposal of the bags.

I see no way the control unit can be used after the manipulator is inserted. The entire mischief must be conducted with the unit open. Reading the transcript of the alleged "demonstration" video, it appears that Prasad demonstrated the eyeball catching but useless "dishonest display" method.

What is the "stealing party" left with now?  The political crook needs to predict with a great deal of accuracy the vote stealing plan at thousands of booths. The technical accomplice would need to create thousands of programs, label each burnt EEPROM to avoid unintended results, pack it in an anti-static bag and create a "kit" for the heavy.

A semi-skilled thug needs to carry the "kit", surreptitiously break into the premises, identify the appropriate control unit, break the seal, open & switch the unit on, conduct the crime, close, shut down the unit and reseal taking care to leave no incriminating evidence like screws or the anti-static bag behind. Unless the miscreants take additional risks deploying several individuals, this needs to be repeated one after the other for each unit. All this calls for a great deal of organization: this is no lone wolf operation J

An audit trail is available even after this rigmarole. The memory manipulator can only work like a postscript leaving the original vote records intact.

Even ignoring the standing of the authors, slanted presentation and serious defects in the so called technical paper, it is clear that this is at best an amateurish attempt. There is no conceivable way this "experiment" can be scaled up to any reasonable degree.

The authors let the cat out the box by observing "in close races an attacker might be able to change the election outcome by tampering with only a few machines. A small number of tightly contested seats often determine which party holds a majority in the parliament, so a national-level attacker could focus on tampering with machines in these districts".

The present case can in no way be described as "tightly contested". As we saw earlier TRS won by 5,000+ majority in two-thirds of its wards. The party outscored all the other major parties put together in three-quarters of the wards it won.

Gerrymandering theories

A channel believed to support TDP came up with a gem in the immediate aftermath of the results. They attributed the TRS victory to gerrymandering claiming that boundaries were manipulated to transfer slums and areas with weaker sections to wards where TRS was perceived to be weak. We may note that the media & the cyberspace were abuzz with stories about officials (including Somesh Kumar, the then GHMC Special Officer) in the run-up towards the elections. The insinuation of misuse of official powers was clear though carefully couched in vague terms.

This allegation is based on the stereotype that rich & middle classes (presumably dominated by Hindu upper caste folks) tend to vote for NDA in great numbers while the weaker sections do not. If true this is a recipe for disaster as no party can hope to do even reasonably well if it depends only or primarily on the well-to-do people. There is no conceivable way NDA could have polled over a third of the votes in 2009 & 2014 if this was the case.

What is gerrymandering? One can define this as "manipulating electoral boundaries to favor one party or class". This practice is not uncommon in some countries with United States (US) topping the list. American courts have consistently stuck down racial gerrymandering but there is some consensus that partisan redistricting may not be illegal as long as racial exclusion is not the primary purpose.

Hyderabad has over 1,400 slums distributed across the city with the core city (old MCH area) accounting for the biggest chunk. The suburbs, conventionally held to be a TDP stronghold, have fewer slums.

Within the core city however the slums are fairly well spread out. Even areas like Banjara Hills where the super rich live have their share of slums. The reasons are not far too seek. Slums supply unskilled & semi-skilled labor to both the domestic & business sectors. Outside the old city, only a handful of wards are dominated by slum dwellers with the rest being hybrid in composition.

I found no perceptible difference between wards dominated by the weaker sections and their hybrid neighbors. For example, Adikmet (# 85) gave TRS a 6,350 vote majority while TRS won its better-off neighbor Musheerabad (# 86) by 4,121 votes. The case of # 103 Borabanda (4,511 votes) & # 102 Rahmathnagar (2,330 votes) is similar.

What will happen when ward boundaries are manipulated? The first thing that comes to mind is that it results in increasing the mal-apportionment i.e. certain "receiving wards" become bloated. Looking at the distribution of votes across constituencies, I find evidence contrary to this assumption. The skew has actually come down to a good extent in the last seven years. The table below summarizes the facts:

Average electors
Standard deviation

The only conceivable way of gerrymandering without increasing the skew is to continuously work on several permutations of transferring districts out & in: a foolhardy recipe if there ever was one!

Gerrymandering by definition requires both an accurate demographic profile and a predictable & consistent pattern of voting behavior. The fact that pollsters provide abundant & constant data on both these combined with the sharp differences in the major party platforms makes US an ideal candidate for gerrymandering. In India, none of these conditions are applicable. Our pollsters depend almost totally on statistical methods with very little emphasis on either profiling or voter positions. This is probably the main reason why their "forecasts" end up looking like crystal gazing rather than scientific predictions.

In India it is the Election Commission, an independent constitutional body, that determines constituency boundaries. This dramatically reduces the ability of the ruling party to influence the delimitation exercise. The Commission may depend on the bureaucratic machinery for information but even here the possibility for manipulation is not high.

Finally gerrymandering historically works in marginal fights. The present case is anything but one.

Incumbency factor

Quite a few "expert commentators" attributed TRS victory to the so called honeymoon. In my opinion this argument is not worth serious consideration. In general the "feel good" period runs a few months at a maximum. Twenty months is far too long for an electoral honeymoon. The fact that the very same worthies often castigated TRS on television about its alleged anti-people decisions lends very little credence to their conclusions.

A variation of the honeymoon theme is the claim "ruling parties often tend to win local polls". This is clearly not true as much contrary evidence shows.

A case in point is the TDP performance between 1985-87. The party won the assembly elections held in March 1985 in a landslide. However it lost considerable ground when the mandal elections were held almost exactly two years later. Within a few months it lost badly in the municipal polls.

Hyderabad has not been immune to this trend either. During the 1987 MCH elections, TDP resorted to widespread rigging, voter intimidation & other malpractices but struggled to achieve joint second largest party position. The ruling NDA won the 2002 MCH mayoral elections with a slim majority while Majlis emerged as the largest single party. Congress fresh from its 2009 assembly elections victory managed to win the maximum seats in the GHMC elections later that year but failed to cross the 30% vote mark.

In any case this theory assumes the ruling party retains the support it received earlier. As we saw TRS vote share saw a dramatic positive swing. Mere retention would not have fetched the party a victory, much less a landslide J

February 29, 2016

GHMC results analysis: part 2

Methodology & challenges

In the first part of this report, I analyzed the GHMC results at a high level. I trust this answered the first question "what is the true scope of this victory?" adequately. However answering, or even attempting to answer, the others requires a more detailed analysis. This throws up several challenges that I outline together with the methods I adopted to bridge the gaps.

There are two proximate results that are of interest in the present context:

·         2009 GHMC elections
·         Assembly elections in 2014

When GHMC was constituted in 2007 or sometime shortly thereafter a delimitation exercise was conducted to delineate ward boundaries. The election commission conducted a nation-wide delimitation exercise in the period leading to the 2014 general elections. The 2014 exercise resulted in several wards crossing assembly boundaries.

A fresh delimitation initiative was taken up in the period leading towards the current GHMC elections. Among others, this corrected the assembly-ward overlap issue. Unfortunately this also means the 2016 wards no longer correspond to those in 2009 even if the names are the same in several cases.

As per usual practice the election commission supplementary final rolls just before the election in all the three cases. In addition a nation-wide enrollment drive was conducted a few months before the 2014 general elections.

There is an additional dimension to the above "apples to apples" mismatch. Though 20 of the 24 assembly constituencies are fully within GHMC limits, the other four do not. While Secunderabad Cantonment (# 71) is fully urban, parts of the constituency fall under the limits of Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB). Three other constituencies (# 40 Patancheru, # 50 Maheshwaram and # 51 Rajendranagar) are partially rural.

The ward level mismatch between the 2009 & 2016 elections does not affect us seriously. So much water has flown down the Musi that a granular comparison does not yield any benefit even had there been a 1:1 correspondence.

The comparison between 2014 & 2016 can however not be dismissed in like vein. Unfortunately no matrix, map or any other information linking wards with assembly constituencies is available. I tried to resolve this by resorting to painstaking & rather unscientific process of assigning each ward to an assembly using knowledge, guesswork and some tricky balancing.

Even a pakka Hyderabadi like me is unlikely to be fully knowledgeable of the entire city's topology. My subjective assessment of the "confidence level" of this exercise is around 90%.

Regarding the four "partial" assembly constituencies, I assumed the vote preference is evenly distributed in each assembly constituency. This is a reasonable assumption in my opinion.

Turning now to the party landscape across the three elections, one finds the following issues:

·         TDP & BJP contested the 2009 elections separately. I assumed the vote transfer would have been total had they contested under the NDA umbrella.
·         TRS did not contest the 2009 elections. I assumed they would have drawn a blank or near blank had they done so.
·         The now defunct Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) did quite well in 2009 while YCP put up a similar show in 2014. LSP did well both in 2009 & 2014. I am treating all these as a part of the OTH votes.

Finally what about party rebels contesting as independents? I was able to reconcile the status of the deposit retaining independents in 2014. While the major party rebels did quite well accounting for just over the 3% mark across Telangana, GHMC remained rebel free.

I did not attempt this reconciliation in the current elections. However even if the combined vote of the deposit retaining independents is transferred to any single party, the impact at hardly 1% is not particularly material.

This situation is fortunate for the analysts as deciding how to treat the votes polled by a rebel is extremely tricky. The first reaction is to credit the rebel's votes to the "parent party". This may not be a valid assumption in the case of strong individuals.

I do not consider the fact that the turnout was different in the three elections as a serious deterrent. This is always the case in every situation. After all one is comparing vote shares when determining vote swing & change. The next time you come across some one reporting "x% of party A voters shifted away in this election" take it with a pinch of salt! This may sound interesting but the reality is "the percentage of votes polled by party A in this election is x% less than the previous one" J

Impact on assembly & Loksabha constituencies

What will happen if assembly & Loksabha elections are held today? Let us assume for the moment NDA stays intact and the voters act exactly as they did in the GHMC elections.

TRS is sitting pretty in the three assemblies it won in 2014 with no other party coming even remotely close. It will win all three constituencies hands down.

NDA is trailing badly in 4 of the 5 constituencies BJP won in 2014. The only exception is Goshamahal (# 65) where it has a slender 692 votes (0.6%) lead over TRS. This can be offset if the NDA breaks up, TRS mops up a few votes from the Congress's 13.9% share or some of the Majlis's 21.2% voters resort to tactical voting. It may be noted that Majlis is no stranger to tactical voting. I will put this assembly down as too close to call.

NDA performance in all the nine assemblies that returned TDP nominees in 2014 is even more pathetic. It does not come close in even a single assembly.

Majlis is way ahead in 4 of the 7 constituencies it won in 2014. Karwan (# 64) looks trickier with its lead over TRS at a somewhat lower 5.5%. TRS can try to turn the tables by attracting some of the NDA (14.0%) and/or Congress (3.4%) votes. The demographics of the constituencies are such that Majlis would find it difficult to garner many more votes. In view of the situation, I will classify this seat as too close to call.

The situation in Nampalli (#63) is opposite that of Karwan as TRS enjoys an identical 5.5% lead over Majlis. Given more or less identical demographic composition, I will call this constituency for TRS.

Malakpet (# 58) falls in an altogether different category as TRS is at a comfortable 42.9% share outscoring Majlis & NDA together. Congress is in a bad shape with just 7.4% share with the result that a Congress-Majlis tie-up is not feasible. As this would have been the only serious challenge to TRS, we can safely call this assembly in favor of TRS.

Summarizing, I would expect TRS to win 18 assemblies, Majlis to retain four with the other two constituencies too close to call. While Congress would draw a blank yet again, TDP will provide them company in the "duck club". BJP too could join them unless they get their act together.

What about the Loksabha? Medak with just one assembly seat is not of much interest to us. Let us examine the situation in 4 constituencies.

Majlis will retain Hyderabad comfortably with a 43.2% vote share in spite of the setback in Malakpet and tougher conditions in Karwan. TRS can upset the applecart by allying with the NDA: a situation that is extremely unlikely if not downright possible!

TRS won only in Chevella constituency in 2014. While TDP won all the three GHMC assembly seats in Chevella, TRS turned the tables in the four rural constituencies. This time around TRS is sitting pretty in the urban segments outscoring the combined NDA & Congress votes. We can therefore safely predict TRS will retain this seat.

TRS lost Malkajgiri narrowly to TDP. It won Medchal, the only urban seat in Malkajgiri's seven assemblies, by a comfortable margin. The present situation in the six GHMC assemblies shows TRS at an unbeatable 50.7% strength thus winning the seat handsomely.

BJP won Secunderabad in 2014 with a thumping 43.7% vote share. TRS will reverse the situation with an even more impressive 49.0%.

To summarize Majlis will retain its lone seat while TRS will sweep the other three. TDP & BJP will both end up losing the only Loksabha seats they hold in Telangana.

Vote swing

Here are the long awaited swing numbers:


Vote share
Vote swing

TRS more than doubled its strength in just a couple of years. Majlis stood its ground in all the three elections. The other players came tumbling down election after election J

There are however a couple of surprises:

·         The swing away from Congress in 2016 is much better than the NDA's
·         Contrary to popular perception, NDA performance in 2014 is actually a letdown from 2009!
·         Both Congress & NDA lost around a third of its 2009 votes in seven years

There is a general perception that the 5.2% 2014 YCP share shifted nearly enmasse to TRS this time. While this is plausible, the residual swing is quite impressive at 18.9%. The conclusion is inescapable: TRS took votes away from every rival with the exception of Majlis. Even the Majlis voters in the 90 wards it did not contest shifted to a good extent to the TRS.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2009 general elections, TDP argued that its defeat was due to PRP and LSP splitting the anti-Congress votes that they should have rightfully won. If we accept this contention, NDA vote fell by 10.2% in 2009-2014 and a further 14% in the next two years. This represents a 24.2% negative swing in seven years, much worse than the Congress's 18% loss in the same period.

NDA dynamics

The relations between TDP & BJP parties have been quite inconsistent after the former was established in 1983. TDP led a broad coalition of non-Congress parties including the BJP in the 1984 Loksabha elections and the 1985 mid-term elections. The relationship broke up shortly afterwards.

TDP did occasionally ally with other parties after 1985 but stayed away from BJP preferring the groups styled "third front" or similar nomenclature. The situation changed in 1999 with the TDP joining the BJP led NDA. The alliance worked well till TDP broke away in the aftermath of the 2002 riots.

TDP rejoined NDA before the 2014 general elections. The alliance contested 119 seats in Telangana polling around 21.6% of the votes and winning 20 seats. Their performance in the 24 GHMC assembly constituencies was an impressive 14 seats and 35.4% vote share.

There was certain amount of resistance to the alliance with a few murmurs. Formal rebellion was somewhat muted and restricted to a couple of constituencies. TDP rebel Kancharla Bhupal Reddy stood second at Nalgonda (# 91) relegating the official nominee to the fifth position. BJP rebel Sankineni Venkateshwer Rao repeated the feat at the neighboring Suryapet (# 92). However GHMC remained rebel free in 2014 for all major parties.

The situation took a different turn this time around with the two parties fighting each other in 13 wards effectively limiting the NDA banner to 134 wards. The quantum of rift does not very look serious but can definitely not be dismissed as an outlier.

The following questions are pertinent in this context:

·         Would the situation have improved had these fights been avoided?
·         How did TDP & BJP fare against each other in these "friendly contests"?

The first question can be looked at assuming the votes of both the parties would have transferred to the leading party if the ground management was better. BJP candidate Dr. Kathyayani Burugula contesting at Ameerpet (ward # 98) not only did better than her TDP rival but may have won the ward in this scenario. The same goes for the Jeedimetla (ward # 132) TDP nominee Gaddam Swathika Reddy. In other words one can expect the tally of both parties to go up by a lone ward each at the TRS's expense. While every additional ward won is nice to have, this does not hold any significant interest to any serious analyst.

Coming to the next question, TDP polled 50.3% of the combined vote in these wards. TDP fared better than BJP in 7 of the wards while BJP led the contest in the other 6. Both parties averaged around 3,850 votes across the "contest spectrum". Nine TDP nominees and ten BJP candidates failed to cross the 5,000 threshold. In three wards their combined vote fell below this "no hoper" limit. The two parties secured the second position in four wards each.

At a first glance this appears to be an even draw. In reality TDP's 50.3% performance is significantly lower than the 55.9% share of the NDA votes it obtained across the 150 wards.

Let us take a deeper look at see if any further clues emerge. The contests were limited to nine assembly constituencies. Two wards in two constituencies were won by non-NDA parties in in 2014: TDP led BJP in both these. Out of the 7 contests in the 5 constituencies won by TDP in 2014, BJP came ahead in 3 wards. BJP did even better in the 4 contests mapped to the two constituencies it won in the assembly elections by yielding only a single ward to TDP. In other words, TDP yielded ground to BJP in just under half of its own strongholds while wresting the initiative only in a quarter of BJP support areas.

Looking at the performance in the 134 wards where the alliance held firm, BJP polled an average 5,584 votes per ward nearly 16.7% than the TDP's 4,789. Could this have been the result of better negotiation by the BJP? Unlikely in my opinion as TDP aspirants would have upped the ante even further if their party gave away favorable seats to its partners.

Was this because BJP supporters were not as enthusiastic for TDP as the other way round? Possibly but this signals more concerns for the alliance already troubled with simmering discontent. The other reason could be that the TDP lost much more ground than BJP. This can be tested in part by checking the assembly wise "average votes leadership" situation of the 134 "NDA wards". The situation in four constituencies is undeterminable as BJP did not contest even a single ward in these under the NDA umbrella. BJP performed better than TDP in 12 of the other 20 constituencies.

In summary BJP appears have emerged as the third most preferred party in Hyderabad!

The other pointer is that 3 of the 4 wards won by BJP are in the Hindu pockets of the old city. Even though TRS made major gains in the old city, BJP is not much far behind in its traditional stronghold. BJP also did quite well in areas where Hindi speaking voters, its other traditional votebank, live.

I tried to the estimate the respective "real votes" of the two parties using two alternate scenarios. In the first scenario I assumed the 50.3%:49.7% ratio would hold across all wards except the 44 won by Majlis where BJP would win 80% of the combined vote actually polled. This resulted in the BJP walking away with 52.8% of the "NDA votes" and improving its overall vote share to 12.4% against TDP's 11.1%.

The second scenario used the 80% share for BJP across seven assembly "old city" constituencies and the 50.3%:49.7% ratio in all others. BJP's vote estimate jumps to 55.3% of the "NDA votes" with its overall vote share coming to 13.0%. TDP's vote share falls to 10.5% i.e. just a notch above the Congress. While the situation may or may not be as alarming as this indicates, TDP must face the reality that its position in Hyderabad has been seriously dented.

As for the BJP, this is an improvement over the dismal 10.3% performance it put up in 2009. This will go up further when the votes that did not transfer to TDP return home. In addition they will also benefit by mopping up votes from the fast slipping Congress & TDP.

The evidence, though not substantive, indicates the saffron party may need to rethink the alliance strategy. The argument that the alliance dragged the BJP down is likely to find quite a few takers in the saffron ranks. This is clearly the BJP's "must decide now" moment in Telangana. The fact that the BJP is contesting on its own in the upcoming Warangal & Khammam municipal polls indicates the top brass may be moving in this direction.

I have now answered most of the questions that I set out at the beginning. I will continue working on the reasons behind the verdict in the reminder of the report.