SUNDAY’S ANNOUNCEMENT of the general elections — April 11 to May 19 — has officially set the stage for a contest between the chemistry of BJP’s biggest asset, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the arithmetic of Opposition alliances across the country.
The result will, of course, be known on May 23. But an analysis of the 27 Assembly polls held after the previous Lok Sabha elections in 2014 reveals an interesting pattern when it comes to second-time preference of voters for the ruling BJP and the main Opposition Congress.
Although the dynamics of Lok Sabha and Assembly polls differ, the votes polled in the 27 states since 2014 show that the BJP stayed ahead of the Congress, which gained in numbers but still came up behind its key rival.
The BJP witnessed a minor erosion in votes across these states, and the Congress gained more than that slide. But the BJP still polled over 25 per cent more votes than the Congress in terms of absolute numbers in these 27 states since 2014.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP polled over 16.95 crore votes (over 31 per cent) across the country, and the Congress about 10.6 crore votes (under 20 per cent). But in the 27 Assembly elections since then, the BJP was preferred by over 15.5 crore voters (over 28.5 per cent) while slightly less that 12.2 crore (under 22.2 per cent) opted for the Congress.
This means that over 3.3 crore more voters — a gap of over six per cent — preferred the BJP over the Congress for a second time since the 2014 Lok Sabha results.
However, when compared to the BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha performance, the party witnessed an erosion of over 90 lakh voters cumulatively in these 27 states. At the same time, the Congress gained over 200 lakh voters.
In other words, against the over 16.4 crore votes the BJP got in the 27 states in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it got over 15.5 crore votes in these states. In contrast, the Congress polled about 12.2 crore votes as against the about 10 crore votes in 2014.
Focussing solely on the last two Lok Sabha elections, the BJP’s vote share was over 31 per cent from less than 19 per cent in 2009. In contrast, the Congress’ vote share dipped to nearly 19 per cent in 2014 from over 28 per cent in 2009.
In absolute terms, the Congress polled over 10.6 crore votes in 2014 — a net loss of votes from over 11.9 crore in 2009. The BJP, on the other hand, more than doubled its votes — from about 7.84 crore in 2009 to 16.95 crore in 2014.
The series of key Assembly elections that were held after 2014 also reveals an interesting pattern.
The state polls in 2015 witnessed the BJP gaining strength before it suffered a setback in Delhi in February 2015 and Bihar in November 2015. However, the party recovered with a bang by winning the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh polls in 2017.
The BJP’s march, however, has faced a stiff challenge since then. In 2017, the party managed a slim victory in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. It was outsmarted by the Congress-JDS alliance in Karnataka in May 2018, and lost Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to the Congress last December.