Congress has hopes from Rajasthan, but it can easily swing in BJP’s favour

BJP’s growing geographical reach in the state explains the rise in volatility in the performance of the Congress. But given its old roots, the Congress still has formidable support.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2018 11:09 IST
Abhishek Jha
Abhishek Jha
Hindustan Times
Bhartiya Janta Party President Amit Shah with Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje during the closing ceremony of state working committee meeting, in Jaipur.(PTI Photo)

Among the three states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh that go to the polls later this year, Rajasthan holds the biggest promise for the Congress.

The state has been ruled by the BJP and the Congress alternatively since 1993. The Congress will be hoping for a continuation of this trend.

This cycle notwithstanding, an HT analysis has found another interesting pattern which has emerged in the state’s politics during this period. Successive elections have made the Congress’s performance in terms of seats more volatile in the state, while the BJP has gained more stability. This is borne out by looking at two statistics of volatility: the ratio of change in seat share and change in vote share between two elections, and the number of seats retained by the two parties in the next election.

Electoral predictions in a first-pastthe-post system are always tricky due to the difficulty of converting vote shares into seat shares. Similar vote share levels can lead to different seat shares due to factors such as pre-poll alliances and number of effective political competitors in an election. However, it is to be expected that an electoral victory or loss in the state will normally lead to an increase or decrease in both seat share and vote share figures for a party. The smaller the ratio of change in seat share and change in vote share between two elections, the more stable a party’s political performance is. This is because a lower ratio shows that change in vote share has a muted impact on its seat share. This ratio has been increasing for the Congress, while it has been coming down for both the BJP and all other political parties taken together.

To be sure, this measure of volatility doesn’t tell us about the likelihood of victory or loss. A large value only tells us that a small increase or decrease in vote share can make a big increase or decrease in seat share.

Another way to test the volatility of a party’s performance is by looking at its ability to retain a constituency from one election to the next one. In Rajasthan, this number has consistently increased for the BJP, and decreased for the Congress between 1993 and 2013. For this analysis, constituencies with the same names before and after the delimitation between 2003 and 2008 elections were assumed to be the same.

These figures also find a reflection in the seat share to vote share ratio of the BJP and the Congress in successive elections. Seat share to vote share ratio measures a party’s efficacy in converting popular support into seats. This figure has improved for the BJP in both cases: when it has won elections as well as lost them. This means that the BJP has been successful in making its victories bigger for a given vote share, while it has been able to cut down its losses in terms of seats even when it has lost power. For the Congress, the opposite holds true.

What explains these developments? The BJP’s growing social and geographical reach in the state explains the rise in volatility in the performance of the Congress, said Sanjay Lodha, professor of political science at Mohanlal Sukhadia University, Udaipur. The BJP has expanded its support among the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and lower Other Backward Classes, which used to traditionally support the Congress, Lodha said. Geographically too, the BJP has spread beyond large urban centres, which used to be its primary area of influence, he added.

Does this mean that the Congress is likely to do badly in the next elections? Not necessarily. Given its old roots, the party still has formidable support across the state. This increases the likelihood of the Congress winning seats from all regions of the state in case there is a favourable environment for it.

In fact, a simple statistical analysis shows that previous Congress victories in Rajasthan have seen a more uniform performance by the party, than the BJP’s showing in case of a BJP victory. We compare standard deviation of the vote share of the Congress and the BJP across all assembly constituencies to check this. A higher value of standard deviation means that a party’s performance in terms of vote shares has more variation than its average vote share in the state. This increases the likelihood that its seats will not be spread uniformly across the state.

The fact that the BJP is also facing organisational and caste arithmetic troubles in the state (see https:// bit.ly/2lCC472 for details), might further complicate its problems and give an edge to the Congress. What our analysis shows, however, is that poll predictions about Rajasthan are likely to be even more hazardous than they usually are.

Abhishek Jha is a Hindustan Times–Mint– How India Lives Data Journalism Fellow

First Published: Aug 02, 2018 11:01 IST