The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won comfortably in nearly all of the country’s poorest districts, cementing the BJP’s formidable win, an HT analysis shows.

To analyse how the poor voted, HT used a district affluence ranking created by Mint, HT’s sister publication. It captures “patterns of household affluence and poverty across districts”. The survey used district-level indicators from National Family Health Survey 2015-2016, the latest available estimates of multidimensional poverty. Visualised on an India map, the district affluence tracker creates a unique vertical line, splitting India down in halves. Most poor regions lie towards the east, while the western appears relatively richer.

A threefold classification was used to create the district affluence tracker. Households with at least six of the following eight assets — pucca house, electricity connection, phone (landline/mobile), television, AC/cooler, refrigerator, washing machine and motorised vehicle (car/motorcycle/tractor/truck) — were ranked as affluent.

Households with a minimum of one of the above assets were categorised as poor. The rest were classified as middle-income. Based on the above criteria, on a countrywide basis, a little over 25% of Indians are affluent, while slightly more than one-tenth are poor. The rest are in the middle-income category.

In major battleground states such as Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, we chose districts with 30% or more poor households and mapped them on to their corresponding parliamentary seats.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP won by big margins in parliamentary seats comprising the 10 poorest districts, barring the poorest of them all: Shrawasti (61% poor). All figures in brackets in this instance and subsequently refer to the percentage of poor households.

While the BJP lost Shrawasti to the Bahujan Samaj Party, it did exceedingly well in parliamentary seats comprising the second-poorest district Bahraich (56.5%) as well as Sitapur (55%), Sonebhadra (42.4%), Kanpur (53.1%), Hardoi (45.15%), Balrampur (45.8%), Gonda (43.5%), Fatehpur (46.4%) and Kheri (49.9%). The caveat to this inference is that this doesn’t imply the party did not do just as well in richer regions or that it performed better in poorer ones.

The NDA formation performed similarly well in Bihar, which also has approximately 10 districts with similar levels of poverty. The BJP and its allies Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won landslides in the poorest regions of Paschim Champaran (48.2%), Purb Champaran (48.4%), Araria (44.9%), Madhubani (42.6%), Khagaria (41.1%), Purnia (47.1%), Samastipur (53.6%), Sitamarhi (53.3) and Katihar (58%). Of these, Sitamarhi, Purnia and Katihar went to JD(U), while Samastipur and Khagaria were wrested by the LJP. In Bihar, the opposition Congress won only one seat with a high level of poverty: Kishanganj (41%). In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the poorest districts and their corresponding parliamentary seats bear the same names.

In Madhya Pradesh, three districts had a poverty burden of 30% or more. These are Singrauli (36%), Sidhi (30%) and Shahdol (32%) comprising the Shahdol parliamentary seat, which the BJP won by margin of over 400,000 votes. Even in Odisha, which the BJP didn’t sweep, it won from the parliamentary seat that has the poorest district: Kalahandi (36.65%). “This only indicates a wave. Both policies and political outreach helped,” said Prof. Manu Gautam of the Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research.

Prime Minister Modi has adopted a strategy of directly connecting with beneficiaries of government schemes. For instance, he had sent facsimiles of personally signed letters to each identified beneficiary of the flagship health insurance scheme, Ayushman Bharat. On Feb 17, he travelled to Ranchi to meet families covered by Ayushman Bharat in Ranchi. On 27 June, 2018, the PM held a videoconference with beneficiaries of a clutch of social schemes drawn from across the country.

For welfare schemes, such as Ujjwala which offers free cooking gas connections, and the rural housing scheme, the government went for micro-level targeting by collating electoral roles and data from the socio-economic and caste census 2011.

“The cash transfer scheme for small farmers benefited even landless farmers because states interpreted the inclusion criteria liberally,” said economist Yoginder Alagh. The Modi government’s social security programmes were mostly a bunch of life and accident insurance schemes, such as the Atal Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana.

First Published:
May 27, 2019 05:12 IST

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