Lok Sabha elections 2019: Oppn ahead on numbers but may find it tough to rout BJP in Karnataka
After failing to get a majority in the 2018 Karnataka assembly elections, the Congress moved quickly to announce a post-poll tie-up with the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka to prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from forming a government in the state.
The Congress and the JD(S) are also fighting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together. With a combined vote share of 56.3% in 2018, against the BJP’s 36.2%, the alliance looks all set to rout the BJP in the state.
An HT analysis suggests that the micro picture might be somewhat different from what the headline numbers tell us.
A majority of the JD(S)’s support is concentrated in the southern part of the state. In fact, 82.4% of the total 6,666,307 votes the JD(S) got in the 2018 assembly were concentrated in 14 out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The BJP, on the other hand, is a bigger player in the northern regions of the state, where the JD(S) does not have a very significant presence.
Adding vote shares of the Congress and JD(S) constituency-wise shows that a pre-poll alliance would not have made much difference in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. BJP would have lost two additional seats from its tally of 17 to the alliance, but still win a majority (15 of 28) of seats in the state.
Aggregating the 2018 assembly election votes to parliamentary constituencies shows that a pre-poll alliance between the Congress and JD(S) would have won them 21 seats compared to BJP’s 7. This is 6 seats more than the Congress-JD(S) extrapolated tally of 15, if they were not in alliance.
Similarly, in the Bellary and Shimoga parliamentary constituency regions, the combined vote share of the Congress and the JD(S) was 7.5 and 7.4 percentage points higher than that of the BJP’s in the May 2018 assembly elections. However, in the bypolls held in November 2018, the alliance could win only Bellary.
These statistics suggest that while the Congress-JD(S) alliance could increase its tally in Karnataka, it might not lead to a BJP rout in the state. There is also a long-term complication to the Congress-JD(S) alliance.
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The BJP is not much of a player in regions which are traditional JD(S) strongholds. The 14 Lok Sabha constituencies referred to above, which accounted for 82.4% of the JD(S) vote in the 2018 assembly elections, had just 40.7% of the total BJP votes in the same election. The combined vote share of the Congress and the JD(S) in these regions was 64.4%.
An analysis of past election statistics in India shows that such high levels of political consolidation are extremely unlikely. The median combined vote share of Congress and JD(S) in 2018, if their votes are aggregated to parliamentary constituencies (55.8%), was on average 10.6 percentage points higher than the median vote share of the party that won a majority of Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka since 1999.
The figure was 15 percentage points when considering the difference with the median vote share of the party that won the largest number of seats nationally.
This increases the probability that either a third political force, in this case the BJP, will be able to capture some of that political space, or the Congress and the JD(S) alliance will not last for a long time.
The Karnataka political theatre is unlikely to become normal even after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.