2019 polls: ‘Mission 123’ to win seats lost five years ago a challenge for BJP
The BJP contested 428 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, out of which it won 282. It is now focussing on the other seats in the backdrop of defeats in the state elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.Updated: Jan 07, 2019 13:10 IST
Earlier this week, Hindustan Times reported that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had revived its ‘Mission 123’, aimed at “winning as many as possible the 123 seats that the BJP contested but did not win in the Modi wave that took it to an unprecedented 282 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections”.
The strategy is among the many steps the party intends to take to recover from its defeats in the recently held assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, all of which it lost to the Congress.
How likely is Mission 123 to add to the BJP’s 2019 seat tally? Hindustan Times has looked at the seats the BJP contested but could not win in 2014 to answer this question.
The BJP contested 428 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, out of which it won 282. Of the 146 seats it did not win, the party finished at the second position in 54 seats, an analysis of the election result data compiled by the Ashoka University’s Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) shows. It isn’t clear where the 123 number is coming from, although there is a certain cadence to it.
To be sure, finishing at the second position does not tell us about a party’s gap with the winner in a given constituency. Looking at vote shares can give a clear picture on this count. The BJP’s vote share was at least 20 percentage points less than that of the winning party in 82 out of the 146 seats it contested but lost.
In another 33 seats, its deficit vis-à-vis the winning party was between 10 and 20 percentage points. This suggests that the BJP will have to cover a lot of ground to win most of these seats.
Most of these seats are not traditional strongholds of the BJP. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP contested 132 out of these 146 seats. It could win only 13. This gives us a strike rate of 10%.
In the 119 seats it lost out of these 132 (in 2009), its vote share gap vis-à-vis the winning party was more than 20 percentage points in 103 seats. A comparison of such seats before 2009 is not possible as the 2008 delimitation process has changed the constituency boundaries.
HT has also looked at the performance of the BJP in the 146 seats it contested but lost in 2014, in the assembly elections which have been held after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. There are 1,196 assembly constituencies in these 146 Lok Sabha seats. Out of these, 1,032 are in states where assembly elections have been held after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP contested 900 out of these 1,032 seats and could win 146, a strike rate of 16%.
In the 754 Assembly seats it lost out of the 900, its vote share gap vis-à-vis the winning party was more than 20 percentage points in 575 seats and between 10 and 20 percentage points in another 74 seats.
The short point is that while there has been a marginal improvement in the BJP’s performance in the post-2014 period, the party still has a huge gap to fill in most of these seats.
Also, the BJP had an extraordinary strike rate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when it won 66% of the seats it contested. In the period after the formation of the BJP, this is second only to the Congress’s performance in the 1984 elections.
Improving the 2014 strike rate will not be an easy task. In fact, the BJP’s strike rate in assembly elections held after 2014, has been 36%, 30 percentage points lower than its strike rate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Moreover, 95 of the 146 Lok Sabha seats that the BJP contested but lost in 2014 are in states which are not the party’s traditional strongholds -- West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. There are a total of 164 Lok Sabha constituencies in these five states, out of which the BJP contested 102 in 2014. Of them, it could win just seven. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won just one of the 141 seats its contested in these five states.
According to Gilles Verniers, assistant professor of political science and co-director at the TCPD, the BJP is unlikely to make gains in these states where it is confronted with regional parties with “strong local presence and organisational capacity”.
“In the south, besides Karnataka, the BJP remains a marginal player,” Verniers said. “Besides, there is no third party that could help - or is willing to help - the party to advance through alliances.”
To be sure, the BJP will also have to account for the seats it holds in the current Lok Sabha and might lose in the forthcoming elections. An analysis of the election data shows that an average of 50% Lok Sabha seats flipped – saw a change in the party which got elected – between two consecutive elections since 1984, which was the BJP’s first Lok Sabha election. The analysis does not include the 2004-2009 cycle due to non-comparability of Lok Sabha seats because of the 2008 delimitation process.