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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Spoiler alert: Vote transfer between Maharashtra alliances bigger concern for parties

A party is defined as spoiler if it polls more votes than the victory margin in a particular seat, but finishes third or below.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 20, 2019 03:43 IST
Abhishek Jha
Abhishek Jha
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena appear comfortably placed in the assembly elections scheduled on October 21.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena appear comfortably placed in the assembly elections scheduled on October 21.(PTI)
         

The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had tried to stitch together an alliance with the Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi (VBA) led by Prakash Ambedkar in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra. The talks did not materialise and the VBA eventually teamed up with All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) thus creating a third pole in the elections. The VBA-AIMIM alliance polled 7.6% votes in the state and won the Auarangabad Lok Sabha seat. Of the nine seats where it played spoiler, the Congress-NCP alliance finished second in seven. A party is defined as spoiler if it polls more votes than the victory margin in a particular seat, but finishes third or below.

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena appearing comfortably placed in the assembly elections scheduled on October 21, is the lack of Opposition unity, especially between the Congress-NCP and VBA, the major reason for the edge that BJP-Sena have in Maharashtra?

An HT analysis suggests that it is not the case. Two major reasons can be given.

The BJP-Sena alliance polled 50.9% of votes in Maharashtra in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This is a 0.4 percentage point decline compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when three other parties had also contested with the BJP and Sena. The combined Opposition vote share increased between 2014 and 2019. In 25 out of 41 Lok Sabha seats they won in 2019, the BJP-Sena alliance had a vote share which was higher than 50%. This means that no alliance could have defeated them in these seats. To be sure, the number of seats where the BJP-Sena had a vote share of 50% in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was 31.

See Chart 1: Vote share of BJP-Sena, Congress-NCP and Others

Hindustantimes

A comparison of the four seats – Hingoli, Kolhapur, Nanded and Madha – which the Congress-NCP had in 2014 but could not retain in 2019, shows the VBA-AIMIM alliance played spoiler only in one seat, Nanded. This suggests that voters who had supported Congress-NCP in 2014 actually switched to the BJP-Sena in 2019. The Congress-NCP alliance won four new seats – Raigad, Amravati, Shirur and Chandrapur – in 2019 which it had not won in 2014. In two out these four, the VBA-AIMIM played spoiler for the BJP-Sena alliance. What’s even more interesting is that the Congress-NCP vote share actually increased compared to 2014 in all these four seats, while the BJP-Sena vote share went down in three out of these four seats.

This suggests that transfer of votes between the BJP-Sena and Congress-NCP alliance is still the bigger factor in Maharashtra politics rather than VBA-AIMIM playing spoiler for either of the major formations.

The VBA and AIMIM have not been able to forge an alliance in the forthcoming assembly elections. There are 16 districts in Maharashtra, comprising of 128 assembly constituencies (ACs) where the population share of scheduled caste (SC) and Muslims is greater than 25% and above the state average of 23.3%. While the Congress-NCP cannot blame the VBA-AIMIM alliance for the BJP-Sena victory until now, it remains to be seen whether the VBA increases its political support in the future as Congress-NCP appear to be losing further ground in the state’s politics.