Bypoll results: The party is about to end for BJP and probably end badly

What state elections since 2014 reveal about BJP’s 2019 prospects. The BJP could lose another 31 Lok Sabha seats just from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh based on recent state elections

Praveen Chakravarty
Praveen Chakravarty
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Praveen Chakravarty

The Karnataka elections was a national spectacle, at least in the English media. But, realistically, why should a voter in say, West Bengal or Bihar care about state elections in Karnataka? For one, all elections have now been ‘nationalised’, due to the inordinate amount of time that Prime Minister Modi spends on elections and campaigns. Second, all elections, even bye elections, are now being perceived as a harbinger for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Can performance in state elections portend performance in the subsequent national election? Empirical evidence shows that state elections can indeed be a good proxy of at least the trends for national elections, if not the actual levels of performance.

It is generally believed, mistakenly, that voters vote very differently for state and Lok Sabha elections. Research and empirical evidence shows otherwise. A voter in a state election or a national election is usually presented with the same set of choices of political parties, albeit with different candidates and issues.

However, voter behaviour in state elections exhibit a strong overlap with voter behaviour in national elections. As we know, national elections are fought for Lok Sabha seats. Every Lok Sabha seat is an aggregation of a fixed number of state assembly constituencies. So, an analysis of recent performance in state elections should present an interesting insight into trends for the next national election in 2019. What does it foretell for the BJP?

The BJP won 282 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. There have been 17 major state elections held subsequently since the 2014 Lok Sabha election. It is possible to aggregate the BJP’s performance in each of these state elections into equivalent Lok Sabha seats. That is, if a Lok Sabha constituency comprises of six (say) assembly constituencies, it is possible to analyse the BJP’s performance in these six constituencies in the state election. In other words, it is possible to infer if the BJP won or lost a Lok Sabha constituency based on its performance in those six assembly constituencies. This can be repeated for every Lok Sabha constituency in every state that has had an election subsequent to 2014 and a corresponding tally of Lok Sabha seats for the BJP can be imputed.

According to this analysis, the BJP is losing Lok Sabha seats and at a rapid pace. After the recent Karnataka election, the BJP’s imputed tally of Lok Sabha seats is down to 233, from the 282 it won in 2014

Praveen Chakravarty
Praveen Chakravarty
The imputed tally of Lok Sabha seats for the Congress from 2009 to 2013

The first chart shows the imputed tally of Lok Sabha seats for the BJP after every state election held since 2014. It is evident how the trend is crystal clear. The state elections for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are due later this year. The BJP won 62 Lok Sabha seats in these three states alone in 2014.

If one were to extrapolate the current trend in loss of seats in state elections for the BJP, it is then likely that the BJP can lose another 31 Lok Sabha seats just from these three states. This would put the BJP’s imputed Lok Sabha seat tally at the end of this year at 201 vis-à-vis 282 in 2014.

The natural question that arises in one’s mind is what would a similar analysis for the Congress party from 2009 to 2014 show. Put simply, could a similar analysis have predicted the dramatic drop in Lok Sabha seats for the Congress party in 2014? The answer is yes.

The Congress party won 206 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The exact same analysis of imputing Congress party’s Lok Sabha seats at the end of every subsequent state election held between 2009 and 2013 shows that the Congress party had lost nearly hundred equivalent Lok Sabha seats by the end of 2013, months before the 2014 national election. Its imputed tally at the end of 2013 was 108 Lok Sabha seats. This decline only exacerbated further and as we know the Congress party ended up with a mere 44 seats.

This clearly demonstrates how an analysis of imputed Lok Sabha seats from state election results can actually be a very good indicator and harbinger for the subsequent national election. To be sure, this analysis is not an actual predictor of the number of seats that the BJP will win in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. This is a trend analysis that broadly captures the sharply declining trend in BJP’s Lok Sabha seats tally. On that basis, it is quite evident that the party is about to end for the BJP and perhaps end as badly.

(Chakravarty is Chairperson, Data Analytics department of the Congress party & a former political economy scholar in a think tank)

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Published: 01 Jun 2018, 9:42 AM