Will an SP-BSP alliance dash BJP’s 2019 hopes?
The back-to-back decimation of the opposition in Uttar Pradesh has led to what was once considered impossible: a pre-poll alliance between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP). This will likely be announced on Saturday.Updated: Jan 14, 2019 22:54 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) increased its Lok Sabha tally from 116 seats in 2009 to 282 in 2014. More than a third of this increase came from the state of Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 seats. The BJP went from 10 seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2009 to 71 in 2014. Its ally Apna Dal won another two seats. In the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP maintained its stellar performance in the state. It won a massive 312 (326 along with allies) out of 403 seats compared to just 47 in the 2012 polls.
The back-to-back decimation of the opposition in Uttar Pradesh has led to what was once considered impossible: a pre-poll alliance between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP). This will likely be announced on Saturday.
To be sure, this will not be the first time the BSP and SP will contest in Uttar Pradesh in an alliance. The two parties had a pre-poll pact in the 1993 assembly elections, which were held after the dismissal of the Kalyan Singh led BJP government after the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya. The BJP suffered heavily due to the alliance. Despite increasing its vote share by 1.8 percentage points between the 1991 and 1993 assembly elections, it suffered a 10.9 percentage point decline in its seat share in the state. To be sure, the 2019 elections will not be the same as 1993. The BJP’s vote share in both 2014 and 2017 elections was much larger than its 1991 or 1993 vote shares. In fact, the BJP is the only party to have breached the 40% vote share barrier in Uttar Pradesh in Lok Sabha or assembly elections since 1989.
An exceptionally high vote share, with a fragmented opposition, gave windfall gains to the BJP in terms of seats. The BJP posted the highest seat share to vote share ratios in Uttar Pradesh since 1989 in both 2014 and 2017. In a first-past-the-post system this ratio is a useful way of capturing a party’s ability to convert popular support into seats.
What would have been the BJP’s tally in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 had the BSP and SP fought the elections together? HT has compared the combined vote share of the BSP and SP with that of the BJP to run a simple test. The combined vote share of the BSP and SP was more than that of the BJP in 41 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh. These 41 seats exclude Amethi and Raebareli, won by the Congress, where the SP did not put up candidates. A 2017 comparison might give misleading results, as the SP and Congress had a pre-poll alliance.
Does this mean that Uttar Pradesh outcome will be equally distributed between the BJP and BSP-SP in 2019? In politics, it is hazardous to rely on arithmetic from previous elections to predict future outcomes. For example, the combined vote share of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Congress in the 2014 assembly elections of Telangana was six percentage points more than that of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). However, in the 2018 elections, the Congress-TDP alliance ended up with a vote share which was eight percentage point lower than its 2014 figure. The TRS, on the other hand, increased its vote share by 12 percentage points.
This brings us to the question of anti-incumbency vis-à-vis the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. It is after almost three decades that Uttar Pradesh will vote in a general election with the same party running the central and state governments. This will further increase the level of anti-incumbency for the BJP. This could alienate a section of floating voters, which sided with the BJP in 2014 and 2017 to bring a change in the state. The results of the 2018 bypolls in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana prove this point. The BJP’s vote share was more than 50% in all these seats in the 2014 polls. However, it lost all of them in the bypolls held in 2018. While the BJP’s vote share went down compared to 2014, the combined opposition’s vote share went up compared to 2014 levels.
Things could change between now and when elections are held. As of now, it looks like the BJP’s biggest 2019 challenge will be Uttar Pradesh.
Watch: Can the BSP-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh upset BJP’s 2019 arithmetic?
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First Published: Jan 12, 2019 09:21 IST