BJP’S win margins rose in 2019

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - NATION - Nee­lan­jan Sir­car let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ (Nee­lan­jan Sir­car is an As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor, Ashoka Univer­sity, and Vis­it­ing Se­nior Fel­low, Cen­tre for Pol­icy Re­search)

CLEAN SWEEP The BJP per­formed ex­cep­tion­ally well in straight con­tests with Cong, win­ning 92% of th­ese fights

NEWDELHI: Op­po­nents of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were con­vinced the BJP’S sweep­ing vic­tory in 2014 atop the Modi Wave was a black swan event — a rare event that hap­pens by chance and is un­likely to be re­peated again. Af­ter see­ing the re­sults of the 2019 elec­tion, we re­alise the 2014 re­sult was the first step to­wards po­lit­i­cal con­sol­i­da­tion. Over­all, as per the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion’s pro­vi­sional data by 7 pm on Fri­day, the BJP won around 303 out the 438 seats it con­tested for a strike rate of about 68%. At its core, be­yond af­fir­ma­tive sup­port for Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, this is a re­buke to the Congress. In 2019, pro­vi­sional data from the ECI helps un­der­score the point. In 2019, the BJP and Congress had 191 headto-head con­tests, mean­ing that they were the top two fin­ish­ers in a con­stituency. In th­ese 191 con­stituen­cies, the BJP won 175 con­tests for a whop­ping 92% strike rate against the Congress. In 2014, the BJP had a sim­i­larly large strike rate of 86%.

Crit­ics ar­gued then it was a one-off, but we are wit­ness­ing now that it was only the first step to­wards the num­bers we are wit­ness­ing in 2019.

It is ex­actly this dy­namic that Ru­ral area in con­stituency (%)

ex­plains the sweeps in the Hindi belt states of Mad­hya Pradesh and Ra­jasthan in 2019, just like in 2014. In the 185 con­stituen­cies that the BJP was com­pet­i­tive (fin­ish­ing in the top two) against a party other than Congress, its strike rate was 68% (a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion due to the BJP’S per­for­mance in Ut­tar Pradesh). Thus, while the BJP has made inroads to re­gions out­side of its core base in north­ern and western In­dia, the re­gional par­ties in In­dia con­tinue to put up a much bet­ter fight than the Congress. (This is to say

noth­ing of the 65 seats in which the BJP is not com­pet­i­tive).

In fact, the inroads the BJP has made can also be par­tially at­trib­uted to the Congress, as it has taken over the op­po­si­tion space (or more) in states like Odisha, Tripura and West Ben­gal where the Congress has tra­di­tion­ally been the chief op­po­si­tion party to a re­gional power. The BJP also in­creased its margins of vic­tory against the Congress in th­ese con­stituen­cies, from an av­er­age of 16% in 2014 to 20% in 2019. One ma­jor sto­ry­line for the Congress through­out the elec­tion was that ru­ral dis­tress would cul­mi­nate in a “silent vote” against the BJP for the Congress. But the data show any­thing but this trend.

The fig­ure dis­plays the pre­dicted vic­tory margins for the BJP in 2014 and 2019 against the 188 seats it com­peted head-to­head against the Congress us­ing a sta­tis­ti­cal tech­nique known as LOESS. What is no­tice­able is a sec­u­lar in­crease in the mar­gin of vic­tory be­tween 2014 and 2019, with the great­est gains and high­est margins of vic­tory com­ing in the most ru­ral re­gions.

How do we ex­plain this spec­tac­u­lar per­for­mance of the BJP, es­pe­cially vis-a-vis the Congress?

First, it is about the per­son­al­ity and pop­u­lar­ity of Modi. While a class of an­a­lysts is still try­ing to un­der­stand why is­sues like job­less­ness and ru­ral dis­tress didn’t cut ice with the elec­torate, the BJP’S sup­port­ers are demon­strat­ing a prin­ci­ple well-known to schol­ars of vot­ing be­hav­iour.

Vot­ers are drawn to Modi and have de­cided to vote for him, and are then look­ing to come up with is­sues to sup­port the idea — whether it be qual­ity of lead­er­ship, stand­ing strong against Pak­istan, or cen­trally spon­sored wel­fare schemes.

Sec­ond, it is about the qual­ity of the BJP’S com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the voter. In a very gen­uine sense, we have wit­nessed the first me­dia PM in Modi. This means Modi, from the day he was elected to government, has care­fully chore­ographed his ap­pear­ances to ap­peal to the voter and max­imise fu­ture vote share. It is a phe­nom­e­non we have seen in the United States with pres­i­dents like Ron­ald Rea­gan and Bill Clin­ton, but never in In­dia. The av­er­age cit­i­zen’s tes­ti­monies to the unim­peach­able char­ac­ter of Modi tes­tify to this fact. This ex­plains why Congress’ “chowki­dar chor hai” (the watch­man is the thief) jibe at the Prime Min­is­ter fell flat.

Fi­nally, one must marvel at the strength of the BJP’S party ma­chin­ery, and the fi­nanc­ing of that ma­chin­ery. In the coun­try­side, par­tic­u­larly in the Hindi belt, one will of­ten only find BJP party work­ers — with the Congress work­ers miss­ing.

This con­fers an ex­tra­or­di­nary ad­van­tage to the BJP, as it has work­ers to di­rectly com­mu­ni­cate the BJP’S and Naren­dra Modi’s mes­sage to the voter, and, of course, min­imise its short­com­ings.the BJP has built a jug­ger­naut, and it has changed In­dian elec­tions. For once, let us not spec­u­late about the fu­ture, but let us marvel at the scale of this vic­tory for the BJP.

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Union fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley (cen­tre) with se­nior of­fi­cials of the fi­nance min­istry on Fri­day. Those present are (stand­ing from left) rev­enue sec­re­tary Ajay Bhushan Pandey; GC Murmu, sec­re­tary of de­part­ment of ex­pen­di­ture; CBIC chair­man Pranab Ku­mar Das; DIPAM sec­re­tary Atanu Chakra­vorty; CBDT chair­man PC Mody; San­jay Mishra, di­rec­tor of ED; See­man­chal Das, spe­cial di­rec­tor of ED; (sit­ting on left) Rajiv Ku­mar, sec­re­tary of de­part­ment of fi­nan­cial ser­vices; and (sit­ting on right) fi­nance sec­re­tary Sub­hash Chan­dra Garg.

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