BY: Rahul Verma and Pranav Gupta
Incumbents in the state have an advantage. But it is difficult to use the results to cull out statewide or nationwide trends.
The results of the recently held bypolls have led many to ask whether the honeymoon period for the BJP is over and if the “Modi magic” no longer works for the party. The BJP lost the by-elections to all three seats in the Uttarakhand assembly. The grand alliance of the JD(U), RJD, and Congress won six out of 10 seats in Bihar, where the BJP-led alliance was expected to win big, given its recent performance in the Lok Sabha elections. Similarly, the BJP had to cede an assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh and in Karnataka, the party could retain only one of its two seats and lost its stronghold of Bellary Rural.
What do the results of by-elections signify? In many parts of the world, by-election results are seen as a referendum on the performance of the incumbent government. While there may be some truth to the claim about declining popularity of the BJP government, an analysis of by-election results since 1967 in India suggests that by-election results are not an indicator of incumbency sentiments. The by-election for an assembly or parliamentary seat happens due to three reasons: vacancy due to the resignation of a sitting member, vacancy due to the death of a sitting member, and vacancy due to the disqualification (or void due to a similar reason) of a member.
We analysed 1,100 by-elections for assembly seats and 213 by-elections for parliamentary seats that took place between 1967 and 2012 and found that the incumbent party in the state is more likely to win these seats than the incumbent party at the national level. The data presented in the table show that when incumbent parties in the state and at the Centre are different, the incumbent party in the state is twice as likely to win a bypoll seat. But when the incumbent party in the state and at the Centre is the same, the party is more likely to win the by-election seat than its competitor. These data make clear that the odds of the Congress doing well in Uttarakhand and Karnataka, and the JD(U) and its allies in Bihar, as ruling parties, continued…