Until 2012, a “sweep” — winning by a two-thirds majority — was a rarity in Assemblies. Not anymore. Two weekends ago, the two-thirds electoral majority (as opposed to a post-poll majority) became the norm rather than the exception across Assemblies the size of Delhi or larger.
Out of 20 Assemblies with at least 70 seats, 12 have now been elected with a majority of nearly two-thirds or more. The massively one-sided verdicts in UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab — where the Congress is just 1 seat short of two-thirds — carried Indian Assemblies collectively across the threshold on March 11.
This is the first time in the last 20 years, probably more, that the number of two-thirds electoral majorities has exceeded smaller majorities and hung verdicts among the larger Assemblies.
This search of election data went back until 1993 to account for the results of 110 elections leading to the formation of these Assemblies — earlier 17, now 20 excluding Telangana — as they stood at various stages from 1997 onward. Telangana does not qualify as an independently elected Assembly; its members were chosen in an election that took place in undivided Andhra Pradesh.
In the last 20 years until March 11, 2017, when the results of the elections in 5 states including UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand were declared, the highest number of Assemblies with a two-thirds majority at any given time was 8 out of 17. This happened between May 2001 and February 2002, when Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand had not yet held elections as independent states, although the interim government in Uttarakhand did have a two-thirds majority. In February 2002, Punjab dropped out of the list of two-thirds majorities, followed by Jammu & Kashmir in October.
The graph plots Assembly standings from 2005, the year Jharkhand held elections, and the number of states with at least 70 MLAs rose to 20. It shows the number of two-thirds majorities (expressed as a percentage of the 20 Assemblies) that were in place after the last election results in any given calendar year. It is not, however, a representation of only the election results that year; each year’s figure also accounts for previous elections. Some of the two-thirds majorities that were in place in 2005, for example, had been elected as far back as in 2001.
On March 11, UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab joined states that already had two-thirds majorities — West Bengal, Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Odisha, Kerala, Assam and Delhi. Maharashtra does not count: the two-thirds shared between the BJP and the Shiv Sena is a post-poll majority, not an electoral one.
In defining two-thirds, the trend demands that an allowance be made up to 64% rather than stick to the rigid conversion of 66.67. It is a small allowance in arithmetic terms — the equivalent of two seats in a hypothetical Assembly of 75 — but significant for capturing the trend, for it enables the inclusion of Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat in the current list, and a number of other elected Assemblies at earlier stages.
The upward trend began in 2013. In the beginning of that year, 6 of the 20 Assemblies had a two-thirds electoral majority. In fact, in the stretch chosen for the graph, the number of two-thirds majorities remained around the one-third mark until 2013.
The count doubled from 6 to 12 over a phase during which only Tamil Nadu (2011) dropped out of the list in 2016. Of the other 5 states that came into this phase with two-thirds majorities from previous polls, 4 repeated their sweeps: West Bengal (2011, 2016), Bihar (2010, 2015) Odisha (2009, 2014) and Assam (2011, 2016). The sixth such state, Gujarat, is yet to go for elections in this phase.
MP and Rajasthan entered the list in 2013, followed by Delhi in 2015, Kerala in 2016, and UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand now. That’s 7 new states minus Tamil Nadu, or a gain of 6.
If Gujarat delivers a two-thirds majority verdict later this year, the count will remain 12; if not, it will drop to 11. Either way, it will be over the halfway mark. The frontier has been breached.