EC stats show a significant decline for BJP and Modi since 2014

Election Commission statistics on assembly elections held in 11 states since May 2014 show a significant erosion of support for the BJP

Photo by Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images
Photo by Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images
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Ashis Ray

As is well known, assembly elections have been held in 11 states since the 2014 General Election. These are Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.


What appears to be not so well known is that the outcome of the polls established a significant erosion in support for the Bharatiya Janata Party as compared to its performance 32 months ago.


  • In Assam, despite emerging as the largest single party for the first time, the percentage of votes won by BJP reduced from 36.86% to 29.51%.
  • In Bihar, from 29.86% to 24.42%.
  • In Delhi, from 46.63% to 32.19%.
  • In Haryana, from 34.84% to 33.2%.
  • In Jammu & Kashmir, from 32.65% to 22.98%.
  • In Jharkhand, from 40.71% to 31.26%.
  • In Tamil Nadu, from 5.56% to 2.84%.
  • In West Bengal, from 17.02% to 10.16%.
  • In Kerala, it made a minuscule gain—10.45% to 10.53%.
  • In Maharashtra—where it fought almost all assembly seats, as opposed to contesting only about 50% of constituencies in the Lok Sabha election—it was up merely from 27.56% to 27.81%.
  • In Puducherry (Pondicherry), the BJP did not put up a candidate in the general election; it obtained a meagre 2.41% of votes in the state polls.

In other words, the erosion occurred in nine out of the 11 states (including Maharashtra), while in the other two the gain was either negligible or not comparable (as in the case of Puducherry).


It is also noteworthy that the erosion began as early as the second half of 2014. Thereafter, the decline accelerated—with the BJP losing six out of seven state elections.


None of the foregoing is an opinion. They are statistical facts based on the Election Commission’s official figures.

Data Source: Election Commission
Data Source: Election Commission
Graphic: BJP’s vote share percentage in 2014 General Election vs BJP’s voteshare percentage in state assembly elections post-2014

One can argue the BJP has historically been a non-player in Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The counter argument would be, if the Modi factor assisted it to win Assam and Haryana for the first time, why did it not help it to make headway in Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal? One can also argue people vote differently in state elections as compared to a general election. The truth is they did not do so in nine out of the 11 states illustrated.


Besides, the BJP was battered in Delhi; and outwitted by the mathematical supremacy of a JDU-RJD-Congress combination in Bihar.


Notwithstanding his persistence in ballistic boasts and an attempt to convince people about how well he and his party are doing, Narendra Modi should have been only too aware of the negative numbers.


The comparisons are not necessarily a definitive indication of the shape of things to come. But they are a barometer of the trajectory of public opinion in India since the 2014 General Election.

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrating BJP’s win in Assam assembly electionnin May 2016. If the Modi factor helped BJP win Assam and Haryana, why did it not help BJP in the south and West Bengal?

BJP TRYING TO ARREST THE TIDE

With an important assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in the offing—not to mention Punjab, which punches above its weight—Modi needed to conjure populist measures to arrest, if not reverse, the tide. Therefore, such moves were only to be expected.


His first gimmick surfaced in September, when the BJP embarked on Megaphone propaganda (dangerous propaganda at the expense of the armed forces) on “surgical strikes”, said to have been carried out by the Indian army against infiltrators’ staging-posts in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. In effect, the BJP went to town to claim Indian troops had crossed the Line of Control in an unprecedented manner.

The BJP vote share comparisons are not necessarily a definitive indication of the shape of things to come. But they are a barometer of the trajectory of public opinion in India since the 2014 General Election.

The official statement of the Indian Director-General of Military Operations, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, though, said the operation was mounted “along the line of control” and not across it. Whether this was issued for the sake of diplomatic correctness or was the actual truth, it was incongruous that a ruling party preferred to spin a yarn contrary to the army’s version of events.


The BJP has also conveniently brushed under the carpet hitherto almost unheard of terrorist attacks on generally impregnable military facilities at Pathankot and Nagrota during the tenure of the present central government.

THE COUNTRY-WIDE DEMONETISATION GIMMICK

The second dose of gimmickry was administered by Modi on November 8, 2016 in the form of demonetising ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes. He justified this by saying it would mop up black money, neutralise fake notes and contain terrorism.


It was evident within weeks that none of the objectives had been or was likely to be achieved. So, the narrative changed. While he still maintained it was an anti-corruption and pro-poor step, he added it would achieve a cashless and digital India. In a country where poverty alleviation should be a paramount priority, this was an absurd and apathetic pronouncement.


Who is responsible for the people who have died because of hardship, are not getting enough to eat or are afflicted by under-employment or unemployment? Can any benefit from demonetisation mitigate such an assault on the Indian people?

The comparisons are not necessarily a definitive indication of the shape of things to come. But they are a barometer of the trajectory of public opinion in India since the 2014 General Election.

Yet, the jury is out on what the Indian people as of now really think of demonetisation. There is still a sizeable section of the population who either support Modi, give him the benefit of the doubt or are afraid to criticise him. Those in the first two categories, also dream of a windfall.


Modi has been thundering that demonetisation has recapitalised public sector banks, which have been weighed down by crippling unproductive loans. This has misled some optimists into believing he has now recovered the black money he had been referring to since 2012 and is, thus, poised to distribute the ₹15 lakhs he pledged to every citizen in the 2014 general election campaign. One should fear the fury that could explode should such innocents realise they have once again been taken for a ride.


It would not be surprising if the erosion in support for the BJP continues in Uttar Pradesh. Whether this will be to the extent of it tumbling from winning 73 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats to losing the state elections remains to be seen.


In what appears to be evolving as essentially a three-cornered contest in UP, any formation mustering 35% electoral support could post a landslide. In this respect, the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance is numerically significant. Time will tell if it proves to be a winning ticket.


This article is adapted from a lecture delivered by the writer at the London School of Economics on “Modi at Mid-term”.


This article was edited at 10.21 pm to shift the position of a blurb; a second blurb was also added.


Ashish Ray, former head of CNN in India, is based in London

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Published: 24 Jan 2017, 10:15 PM