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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Why the BJP is firmly in place as India’s only national party

The BJP has emerged as the only political party with pan-India footprint of significance, while simultaneously diminishing the size and reach of the Congress, cold numbers of voting patterns illustrate.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has won more votes than the Congress in State Assembly elections since April-May 2014, mirroring trends of the Lok Sabha polls held that year.

 A simple totalling of votes polled by the two political parties in 20 State elections, beginning with the ones held concurrently with the Lok Sabha elections, show that the BJP won 9.48 crore votes against the Congress’ 6.29 crore. 
That is, for every vote the Congress got, the BJP got 1.5, or 50 per cent more vote.

Minus UP
These numbers are, of course, skewed by the results of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections: when votes cast in the country’s largest State are excluded, the BJP is still much ahead of the Congress in votes polled, but with a vastly reduced margin. 

From elections in 19 States, the BJP garnered 6.05 crore votes while the Congress got 5.74 crore.

Reading differently

While absolute numbers of votes can be a bit misleading while gauging the popularity of a political party, particularly when the seats contested are uneven due to pre-poll alliances and varying size of constituencies, votes polled per seat contested can be another indicator. 
Here too, the Congress trails the BJP. Across 20 Assembly elections, the BJP managed to get about 42,152 votes per seat contested against the Congress’ figure of 32,877 per seat.

If Uttar Pradesh is excluded from this calculation, the BJP’s lead narrows significantly – to 32,394 votes per seat contested. In comparison, the Congress got about 31,790 votes per seat.

In alliance

The BJP has contested more seats on its own than the Congress in the Assembly elections.

 In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where the Amit Shah-led party had pre-poll alliances, the BJP was the dominant partner.
 The Congress, on the other hand, chose to be the junior partner to Lalu Prasad’s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) in Bihar, and Akhilesh Yadav’s SP in Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP had contested 1,867 seats in 19 States and 384 in Uttar Pradesh, taking the total number of seats contested to 2,251 in all the Assembly elections held from April-May 2014. 

The Congress contested 1,807 seats in 19 States and 105 seats in Uttar Pradesh.

Recent polls

The BJP has governments in Assam, Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, and is the ruling PDP’s partner in Jammu and Kashmir. 

In West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Delhi, regional parties formed the government, and in Kerala, the CPM. The Congress has its own government only in Puducherry and is part of the ruling alliance in Bihar.

The Congress can take consolation in the fact that the total votes it has polled in these 20 Assembly elections is higher than the number of votes it got in the 2014 Parliamentary elections. 

The party won 5.97 crore votes from these 20 States in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and since then its tally has grown by about five per cent to 6.29 crore.

The 9% drop

As for the BJP, it has seen some voters drift away over the past three years. 

As a result, its share of votes has slipped from 10.39 crore votes in the Lok Sabha elections, to 9.48 crore votes in the Assembly elections from the same 20 States, recording a loss of about nine per cent.

Political pundits routinely point out that voting patterns for the Lok Sabha elections cannot be compared with those for the Assembly elections, as the issues and concerns that influence voter behaviour is different.

Silver lining for Cong

Yet, these numbers can offer a glimmer of hope for the Congress and force the BJP to put in some extra effort as it goes into the next round of Assembly elections this year when the terms of the Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh expire. Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura will elect their Assemblies in 2018.

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