Assembly elections

Despite converging vote shares, opinion polls give BJP a comfortable win in Gujarat

An average of three polls said BJP will bag 110 seats in the 182-strong assembly, with Congress getting 70.

The Congress might have gotten a fillip from an opinion poll published earlier this week that showed it neck and neck in terms of vote share in Gujarat, but that survey’s seat prediction as well as those of two more pollsters predicts a comfortable victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party. With the last few days of campaigning upon us, a look at the opinion polls suggests incremental rather than exponential gains for the Congress, despite the amount of disaffection and support it appeared to have tapped into.

All three of the pollsters here, CSDS, VMR and CVoter, are giving the BJP around 110 seats, or something within that range. The Gujarat assembly has a total of 182 seats, with the halfway mark sitting at 91. By that measure, 110 seats counts as a comfortable victory for the BJP. The Congress, meanwhile, would be 21 seats short of that mark.

As such, this would suggest incremental changes within the polity for both parties. For one, it would not even come close to the 150-seat target that BJP President Amit Shah set for his party at the start of the campaign. It would also broadly mean a 10-seat swing towards the Congress from the BJP, which has been winning around 120 seats to the Congress’ 60 in the last few elections.

Remember, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said a drop in even two seats will lead to questions within the BJP – queries that will have to be asked if these opinion polls get it right.

In general, however, seat predictions are a tricky thing in the first-past-the-post system, since they involve trying to convert a more straightforward voting intention result from a survey into a likely distribution of seats. To that end, it might be more relevant looking at the vote share predictions from the same pollsters.

Here the picture is a little more interesting, though still weighed towards the BJP. CSDS, as it revealed a few days ago, suggested the Congress had pulled off a huge surge in the last three months and is now neck and neck with the BJP at 43%. The other two give the BJP a comfortable 5 percentage point lead, which comes to an average of 44.8% predicted for the BJP and an average of 41.6% for the Congress.

Again this represents a tightening of results compared to previous years. In 2012, for example, the BJP got 47.9% of the vote, while the Congress had just 38.9%, a difference of 9 percentage points. The polls seem to suggest the margins will be much closer this year, with the average putting the gap at 3.2 percentage points and at least one pollster saying the parties are neck-and-neck.

Gujarat goes to the polls in two phases, with the first on December 9 and the second on December 14. The results are expected on December 18.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.