How the BJP won this election

1. Votes

The BJP got 64.7 million more votes than the party that came closest at the all-India level, the incumbent Congress party. With >172 million votes, the BJP more than doubled the number of votes it received in 2009. This gave the party a voteshare of 31% - or nearly every third vote cast in the country – as against the Congress’ 19.3%.

This also made the party’s victory far more convincing than its previous stint in power in 1999, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In that election the BJP won just 86.6 million votes - 17 million votes less than the Congress – with a vote share of 24%, but was able to form the government.

The swing in the voteshare away from the Congress was however smaller than the swing in the voteshare towards the BJP.

Large voteshares are never a guarantee of electoral success, as both the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh and the DMK in Tamil Nadu also discovered this time – with 19.6% of the vote and 23.6% respectively in their states, neither party could pick up a single seat. Rajiv Gandhi famously led the Congress to a 40% vote share for the party alone in 1989, yet could not form the government.

2. Seats

The BJP converted its votes into seats at a far better rate than the Congress could. The winning party needed on average just over 6 lakh votes to win a seat, while the Congress needed over 24 lakh votes to deliver it one seat. The winning party’s gain since 2009 was almost exactly what the Congress’ loss was.

With 282 seats, the BJP has won the highest number of seats by a single party in the modern, post-regional politics era, compared with 244 for the Congress in 1991 and 206 for it in 2009. The BJP got more seats than it had in the last two elections combined. It could have formed government on its own, a feat that no party has come close to since the 1984 election which saw a wave of sympathy following the assassination of Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi.

The BJP came close to but did not beat the best ever performance by a non-Congress party, the 295 seats won by the Janata Party in the 1977 post-Emergency election that drove Mrs. Gandhi out of office.

3. States

The BJP’s biggest win came from Uttar Pradesh, where it won 71 seats despite a big coalition partner, the best performance by a single party in the state since 1984 when the Congress won 83 of 85 seats. The BJP also improved its voteshare in states where it did not have a substantial presence, with voteshares of 22% in Odisha, 17% in West Bengal and over 10% in Kerala. Kerala is now the only big state where the party does not have an MP, while the Congress has no MPs in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Delhi, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu.

The BJP consolidated its position in states where it has grown strong, shutting the Congress entirely out of Gujarat and Rajasthan and almost entirely out of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The Congress lost 37 seats between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh alone, two states that it had done well in 2009.

4. Allies

Two of the BJP’s main allies – the Shiv Sena and the TDP – performed strongly, while the Akali Dal ceded space to the Aam Aadmi Party and wasn’t able to get the BJP leader Arun Jaitley past the post either.

So strong was the wave, that the BJP managed huge victories in states where contesting without allies has been unthinkable with the rise of regional parties, picking up 22 seats in Bihar despite going without its major past ally, the JD(U), and a huge tally in Uttar Pradesh despite going nearly solo.

Not only did the Congress do worse than it ever has, its current and past allies did equally badly.

The DMK, which left the UPA alliance last year, was wiped out of Tamil Nadu, while the NCP went from eight seats in Maharashtra to four. The Rashtriya Janata Dal was the only ally that performed comparatively and surprisingly well, winning four seats in Bihar.

5. At the constituency-level

The BJP’s wins were comprehensive right down to the seat level. The party won only two seats by less than 5,000 votes and won 195 seats by over 1 lakh votes. The average BJP candidate won by over 1.69 lakh votes, a good 1 lakh higher than the victory margin of the average Congress candidate.

This article has been corrected for a factual error.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 9:13:09 AM |

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