The greater the number of contestants in an election, the higher the chances that winners will be decided by small margins. Margins between 1,000 and 3,000 votes could decide the MLA in a large number of the 288 seats in the Maharashtra assembly election, voting for which was held on Wednesday.
In the 2009 elections, when two alliances squared off each other, 32 of the 288 assembly constituencies were won with a margin of less than 3,000 votes. But it’s the 1999 election that presents the closest similarity to this year’s.
In the 1999 election, fought as a three-way contest between the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, 47 seats were decided by a margin of less than 3,000 votes. Of these, 27 were won with a margin of less than 2,000 votes.
The impact of the division of votes: the Congress lost the seats it should have won. It could bag only four of these 27 seats, but came a close second in 16 constituencies.
The NCP won four and was the runner-up in six. As the two Congress parties turned into rivals, the Sena-BJP gained advantage. The alliance won 15 of the 27 seats and were placed second in four other seats by a small margin.
If the winning margin is below 4,000 votes, then 63 of the 288 seats were decided thus.
“Margins below 2,000 or 3,000 votes mean that the seat could swing any way depending on the candidate and the campaign that he/she runs. In a four-way battle, the impact of division of votes would be more,” said Suhas Palshikar, Pune-based professor of politics and well-known political analyst.
In the last assembly election, eight of the 32 were so closely contested that the victory margin was below 1,000 votes. In Kankavli, regarded as the bastion of Narayan Rane, the margin between the winner and the runner-up was only 34 votes, or 0.02% of the total votes.
How did the alliances fare in the closely contested seats? The honours were shared equally between the Congress and NCP and Sena and BJP.
The Congress-NCP candidates won 14 of the 32 seats and came second in 12 other seats. The Sena-BJP candidates won in 13 and came second in 10 seats.
However, the interesting part is the performance of each party. Congress won 10 seats and was placed second in seven others. The BJP won seven seats and was the runner-up in six, while Sena won six and was runner-up in four. The NCP won four seats and came second in five others.
Independents had a role to play. They won two seats and came second in eight of 32 seats where margins were below 3,000 votes.