The Crest and Trough of a Wave

What going it alone after 25 years shows about the strength about the BJP

October 31, 2014 09:38 am | Updated May 23, 2016 07:25 pm IST

Maharashtra Chief Minister- designate Devendra Fadnavis flashes victory sign during his meeting with Union Minister for Transport Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi. File photo

Maharashtra Chief Minister- designate Devendra Fadnavis flashes victory sign during his meeting with Union Minister for Transport Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi. File photo

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The BJP’s performance in the Maharashtra Assembly elections was nothing short of spectacular. To go from 46 seats and 14 per cent vote share to 122 seats and 28 per cent vote share in the span of one election is incredible. This achievement is particularly notable in light of the fact that the BJP has been in a pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra for the last 25 years.

What does it mean to go it alone in a state where you have had a partner for 25 years?

Let’s look first at the 2009 and 2014 Assembly elections only, because the delimitation of constituencies that took place in 2008 makes analysis prior to 2009 a bit complicated. >Pratap Vardhan , a data scientist at >Gramener , did the number-crunching on this one.

The Maharashtra Assembly has 288 seats. This time around, the BJP contested 111 of the 119 seats it had contested in 2009, the rest going to its allies. It won 82 of them, with a voteshare of a whopping 47.55 per cent in these 111 seats, Pratap worked out.

How did it do in the 160 seats that it did not contest in 2009 because those went to the Shiv Sena in the seat-sharing arrangement?

It won only 38 of these with a vote share of 27.76 per cent, Pratap found.

Among these 160 seats which the Shiv Sena got in the seat-sharing arrangement in 2009, are 12 in which the BJP candidate’s voteshare was under 5 per cent in 2014.

This, you could call the limit of the Modi wave; the surge largely mopped up seats the BJP had contested in the past, and did well but could not sweep seats it had not contested. It’s instructive, though, that even the trough of this wave is not very low; the BJP’s voteshare in seats that it did not contest in 2009 is nearly the same as the Congress’ voteshare in seats that it did contest in 2009 as well. In short, the BJP’s lowest point is nearly the same as the INC’s highest.

But rather than continuing the endless BJP v INC food-fight, what’s more interesting to me is how difficult it must have been for all four parties in the state to contest elections in constituencies that they had largely left to their alliance partners for decades. And it’s here again, that the scale of the BJP victory is impressive.

I looked at Election Commission data to identify seats that the BJP and Shiv Sena respectively had never contested in their 25-year alliance. (This is an inexact exercise because of the 2008 delimitation; I restricted my analysis to only those constituencies which did not change drastically.)

There are 18 such constituencies, which the BJP had not contested in the 25 years before this election – and yet it won. This is quite a feat – the Shiv Sena, on the other hand, won just 2 seats that it had never contested prior to this election, showing just how hard it is. This, for me, is the crest of the current wave.

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