Why and how the BJP’s tally fell short of its target - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Why and how the BJP’s tally fell short of its target

ByNeelanjan Sircar
Jun 05, 2024 01:19 AM IST

In an election without an overarching national narrative, regional differences and identities strongly shaped election outcomes

The sheen of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) juggernaut is wearing off. A few days ago, the exit polls suggested the BJP would romp to victory with margins rarely seen and a tally (with coalition partners) of more than 400 seats, and in places where it had never been particularly competitive. As the results trickled in, it became clear that those exit polls were far too optimistic — a bit of hubris by pollsters making declarative statements about how voters think.

truth is that the BJP lost a significant number of seats in a small number of important states due to myriad reasons.(HT_PRINT)
truth is that the BJP lost a significant number of seats in a small number of important states due to myriad reasons.(HT_PRINT)

The anatomy of the BJP’s purported victory rested on two principles. First, while there was visible anti-incumbency and frustration with the BJP in parts of the Hindi belt, the party was to use its traditional advantages in the region, alongside Hindu-Muslim polarisation to minimise its losses. Concurrently, the BJP was to break into “vernacular states” outside of the Hindi belt in a big way — particularly in the South — to more than offset any losses in the North.

Now catch your favourite game on Crickit. Anytime Anywhere. Find out how

The challenge of explaining the 2024 election is to derive an overarching claim when the results show extraordinary regional variation. The truth is that the BJP lost a significant number of seats in a small number of important states due to myriad reasons. A close look at the numbers can help us understand how it fell below the majority mark for the first time in 10 years.

In 2019, the BJP surged to win 303 seats across India. Of these, 180 came from just six states: Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh. These seats also accounted for nearly 70% of the BJP’s seats in the 2014 election. Big electoral performances for the party were thus contingent on the spatial concentration of its support. In addition, it expanded its footprint in 2019 by winning 18 of 42 constituencies in West Bengal and 25 of 28 seats in Karnataka. This time, the BJP has won only 208 of its 303 tally in 2019 (69%) — a very strong performance in these seats, but far from the dominance it demonstrated in the last two national elections.

The first major sites of erosion are Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the party won a total of 86 seats in 2019. This time, it won just 47 seats in the two states. It lost five in Haryana (where it had won all 10 in 2019). For the last several years, farmers — particularly from the Jat community — have taken to the streets in and around Delhi, initially in the wake of controversial farm laws promulgated in 2020. The protests forced the Union government to walk back from the laws, but the electoral impact was evident. These three states are all around Delhi, with significant Jat populations and demonstrable rural distress.

The second major site of erosion was the states where the BJP had expanded its footprint in 2019: West Bengal and Karnataka. It had won 43 seats in these two states then, but this time, the number dropped to 26 — although it is worth noting that the BJP gave up three seats in Karnataka for its alliance partner, the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S). Here, support eroded because of formidable political competition at the state level. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) first showed the limits of the BJP’s expansion plans in the 2021 West Bengal election, with the TMC romping to a score of 213 out of 294 seats. The TMC has consistently outworked the BJP in the state with a superior party cadre. In Karnataka, the Congress amassed significant goodwill in the run-up to the elections from chief minister Siddaramaiah’s welfare schemes. A major scandal over the JD(S)’s candidate Prajwal Revanna, against whom there are multiple allegations of sexual abuse and rape, added to the Congress’s momentum in the second phase of the polls in the state.

Finally, the BJP lost a significant share of seats in Maharashtra through what can only be described as a mess of its own making as it wantonly broke Opposition parties and shifted alliances to form the government. It left the state’s party system in knots. In 2019, the BJP won 23 seats in the state, but that fell to 11 seats this time.

While the BJP’s meteoric growth in Odisha, and the steady growth in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, were bright spots for the party, this was far too little to offset the losses elsewhere. In an election without an overarching national narrative, regional differences and identities strongly shaped election outcomes — much like a “normal election” before 2014.

Neelanjan Sircar is senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research. The views expressed are personal

Get World Cup ready with Crick-it! From live scores to match stats, catch all the action here. Explore now!

See more

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, June 23, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On