The reality: BJP’s support declines

In the most recent evidence of public mood, the BJP was rocked by a 11per cent slide in support in Gujarat as compared to 2014

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Ashis Ray

Assembly elections have so far been held in 18 states since the 2014 General Election. These have occurred in Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and most recently in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

On the face of it, the Bharatiya Janata Party won outright majorities in five states, emerged as the largest single party in three and lost 10. The underlying fact, though, is, the party suffered an erosion in the percentage of votes cast in its favour in 14 of the 18 states as compared to the support granted to them in the 2014 general election.

This represents a significant decline in electoral endorsement during the 40 months Narendra Modi has been in power. In Assam, despite emerging as the largest single party for the first time, the percentage of votes won by it 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 Punjab, from 8.77% to 5.39%.
  • In Uttarakhand, from 55.93% to 46.51%.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, from 42.63% to 39.67%.
  • In Goa, from 54.12% to 32.48%.
  • In Himachal Pradesh, from 53.85% to 48.80%.
  • In Gujarat, from 60.11% to 49.10%.
  • In Kerala, it made a miniscule 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 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. The Congress won an absolute majority here.
  • In Manipur, it made a gain of 11.98% to 36.28%. This was more than a 300% jump - which rather defies logic
  • In the other two states the gain was either negligible or not comparable (as in the case of Pondicherry).
  • It is noteworthy the erosion began as early as the second half of 2014. This is not anybody’s opinion. They are incontestable statistical facts based on the Election Commission of India’s official figures.

One can argue the BJP has historically been a non-player in Kerala, Pondicherry, 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 the three southern states 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 an overwhelming majority of the 18 states illustrated. The BJP was battered in Delhi, outwitted by the mathematical supremacy of a JDU-RJDCongress combination in Bihar (Nitish Kumar’s ideological dishonesty has since overturned the mandate.) and crushed with its partner the Akali Dal in Punjab. Congress also surfaced as the largest single party in Goa and Manipur, only to be pipped to the post in post-election machinations.

In the most recent evidence of public mood, the BJP was rocked by a 11% slide in support in Gujarat as compared to 2014. Even in Himachal Pradesh, where the incumbent Congress chief minister was savaged by CBI raj, the Congress marginally polled more votes than in 2014 – rising from 41.07% to 41.7%. A year ago, the comparisons were not necessarily a definitive indication of the shape of things to come. But they now could well be. The Gujarat outcome in particular suggests it’s game on for the state elections in 2018 and the general election in 2019. Modi has characteristically ruled by a combination of propaganda and terror, with performance not matching promises. The jobless growth since he took office and the reported job losses after the draconian demonetisation – not to mention food inflation creeping up - are unlikely to be forgiven, if there is a credible and united Congress-led opposition on offer as an alternative. There will of course be on Modi’s part gimmicks, populist announcements and enormous money power to sweeten the public bitterness. In the upcoming eight state elections in 2018, it will be interesting to see how the BJP fares in its citadels of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh and how the Rajasthani electorate reacts to the party’s current showing. As for the national election the following year, quite obviously a AkhileshMayawati rapprochement will decimate the BJP. The question is: will it happen? Also, will voters in Bihar punish or reward Nitish for his contempt of their verdict in the state election?

(Adapted from a lecture delivered by the writer at the London School of Economics on November 4, 2016, on “Modi atMid-term”)

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