An analysis of vote share and number of seats won in the assembly and parliamentary elections in UP in the last decade gives interesting results.
In 2007 assembly elections, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won 206 seats with a vote share of 30.43% but in 2012 its vote share dropped to 25.91% and it could win only 80 seats.
Thus, a decline of 4.52 per cent in vote share led to a loss of 126 seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP) won 97 seats in 2007 with a vote share of 25.43 % but it won 224 seats with a vote share of 29.15% in 2012.
Thus, a gain of merely 3.72% in vote share resulted in a gain of 127 seats.
Two things emerge from these figures. First, a party getting about 30% votes is likely to form a majority government in a multi-cornered fight. Second, the proportionate gain in seats rises with an increase in vote share.
This may be measured by strike rate, that is, the number of seats won for each per cent of vote. Thus, the strike rate is 2.5 when vote share is around 10%. It rises to 3 when vote share goes up to 15%.
The strike rate goes up to 4 when vote share goes up to 25%. Beyond 25%, there is a dramatic jump in strike rate which goes up to 7 or more when vote share is around 30%.
The shift in voting pattern was not very marked between state elections of 2007 and the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. However, there was a tectonic change in vote share of the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections as compared to 2012 state assembly elections and 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
The vote share of the BJP was 42.32% in 2014 parliamentary elections as compared to only 15% in 2012 assembly polls, that is, a jump of 27.32 percentage points. Of this gain, 6.3 percentage points were contributed by the decline in the share of BSP votes, 7 percentage points by decline in SP votes, 4.2 percentage points by the share of Congress votes and 9.9 percentage points by decline in share of other parties.
In 2014 general elections, widespread anti-incumbency worked against the Congress at the Centre and a hard-hitting campaign led by Narendra Modi led to the success of the BJP.
The 2017 assembly elections represent a different scenario. There is no strong visible current in favour of any party. Anti-incumbency against Akhilesh Yadav is not strong and he enjoys the support of a large section of the people after shedding the burden of the older Yadav clan.
His alliance with the Congress is likely to attract the majority of Muslim votes and some sections of the Brahmins and the poor who have been the traditional supporter of Congress.
Though the personal popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains high, there appears to be no wave in favour of BJP. Absence of a chief ministerial face and adverse impact of demonetisation, particularly in rural areas, are likely to dent the appeal of BJP.
BSP also remains a formidable force in UP politics making 2017 elections a triangular fight. There is a widespread feeling that the electorate will give a split verdict with no party winning a clear majority.
It would be interesting to see how much vote swing will be there. Amidst the storm in favour of BJP in 2014, BSP was able to get 19.6% of total votes.
If it is able to get a section of Muslim votes it may increase its vote share this time to around 25%.
SP had managed to get 22.2% votes in 2014. Its vote share is likely to rise and even if half of the Congress vote shifts in favour of the alliance, its vote share may cross 30%.
The BJP’s vote share of 42% in 2014 election is likely to go down as many of the traditional supporters of BSP, SP and RLD will go back to their old party.
The BJP’s vote share is likely to be much higher than its share of 15% in 2012 state elections. It may gain from shift in Brahmin, non-Yadav and non-Jatav votes in its favour.
However, it may lose a fair share of Jat support and some of ‘bania’ votes. In all probability, the vote share will be close to 30%. Hence, the fight remains very close and victory margins are likely to be low. Local factors and choice of candidates will have a big impact on the results.
No party is likely to get a clear majority. Much depends upon to what extent there will be erosion in the BJP vote share since 2014 Lok Sabha elections when it got 42 per cent of the votes.
If BJP is able to get 32-35 per cent of votes it will be close to majority and may be able to form the government with the support of its partners like Apna Dal and and RLD (which can align with either of the formations).
If BJP’s vote share goes below 30 per cent, it may not be able to win more than 100 seats. If SP-INC combine is able to get a vote share of around 35 per cent, which is a distinct possibility, it may get around 160-170 seats and may cobble a majority.
The possibility of Muslim MLAs of BSP shifting their loyalty to SP cannot be ruled out in this scenario. BSP is likely to improve its seat tally of 80 in 2012 and spoil the prospects of SP-INC.
The Ides of March is not over. Elections often throw up surprising results which are not foreseen by political analysts and psephologists. No wonder if any one of the three main contenders passes the half way mark when election results are announced. We have to wait with bated breath till March 11.
Ajit Kumar Singh
Former director, Giri Institute of Development Studies