Lok Sabha elections 2019: Seats with close fights will be key to outcome
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all 26 seats in Gujarat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. No party has achieved this kind of success in the history of Gujarat. Can the BJP repeat this performance in 2019?
The BJP’s 2014 vote share came down by 10 percentage points to 49% in the 2017 assembly elections. Normally a 49% vote share should lead to a huge seat share for a political party. However, this was not the case for the BJP in the 2017 Gujarat elections. Despite increasing its vote share by 2 percentage points between 2012 and 2017, the BJP suffered a 9 percentage point decline in its seat share in the 2017 elections. Understanding this otherwise counter-intuitive trend holds the key to any analysis of the verdict Gujarat might throw in the 2019 elections.
The biggest reason why the BJP could not prevent a decline in its 2017 seat tally despite adding to its 2012 vote share is that its performance was regionally skewed. Simply speaking, this means while the BJP did well in a few assembly constituencies (ACs) in urban pockets, it actually lost ground in a large number of ACs in rural areas of the state.
In terms of vote share, the BJP had a lead of 30 percentage points or more over the Congress in 18 ACs in the 2017 elections. The number of such ACs for the Congress was zero. In another 22 ACs, the BJP had a lead of 20-30 percentage points over the Congress, while there were only six such seats where the Congress had similar leads over the BJP. In contrast, the Congress won 71 ACs with a lead of less than 20 percentage points, while the BJP won just 60 such seat. See chart
A lot of what happens in Gujarat will depend on how the Congress and BJP perform in seats that saw close contests in 2017. If the Congress manages to make even small gains in some close seats it lost to the BJP, it could expect to win a significant number of seats. An AC-wise extrapolation of the 2017 results to Lok Sabha seats gives seven and 19 seats to the Congress and the BJP in the state. Things could be drastically different if BJP were to regain even some of its lost ground in the closely contested regions.