Monday, 30th October 2017

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Narrow loss for BJP? Devil does not agree

Detailed numbers then and now show dramatic shift in support base

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 13.12.18, 4:05 AM
  • Updated 13.12.18, 8:16 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
In the Narendra Modi wave of 2014, the BJP had polled 55.61% of the votes in Rajasthan. In the 2018 Assembly polls, the party got only 38.80% of the votes. (PTI)

The Congress may have struggled to reach the magic figure in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan but the devil hidden in the detail appears frightening enough to trigger panic in the BJP.

The BJP has lost over 61 lakh votes in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh since the 2014 parliamentary elections, which should be the benchmark in the context of the battle ahead in 2019. To be precise: 61,59,246 votes.

The Congress has gained 1.24 crore votes in these three states since 2014. The exact number is 1,24,01,295 votes.

This suggests a dramatic shift in support base, which got camouflaged by the tight race for power in Madhya Pradesh and, to a lesser extent, Rajasthan.

The message the BJP had sought to highlight on Tuesday was that it had been spared a pulverising defeat in the two states.

The party bagged 73 seats in Rajasthan, to the Congress’s 99. In Madhya Pradesh it got 109 seats, just five behind the 114 won by the Congress.

But in the Narendra Modi wave of 2014, the BJP had polled 55.61 per cent of the votes in Rajasthan. In the Assembly polls for which results were declared on Tuesday, the party got only 38.80 per cent votes. This translates into a 16.81 per cent swing away from the BJP since 2014, which spells disaster in the electoral lexicon.

If viewed without the 2014 backdrop, the figures do not appear alarming because the Congress’s vote share is only marginally higher at 39.30 per cent.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP had polled 54.76 per cent of the votes in 2014 and is down to 41 per cent now. The 13.76 per cent negative swing is again a big loss.

In Chhattisgarh, where the BJP got a drubbing, the party’s vote share is down to 33 per cent now from 49.66 per cent in 2014 — a slide of 16.66 per cent.

The Congress vote share in Rajasthan has jumped from 30.73 per cent in 2014 to 39.3 per cent now. In Madhya Pradesh, it has risen from 35.35 per cent to 40.90 per cent. And in Chhattisgarh, from 39.09 per cent to 43 per cent.

While the BJP can draw consolation from the fact that its vote share in Madhya Pradesh remains a shade higher than that of the Congress, the party has lost 3.72 lakh votes in the four years since 2014.

In Rajasthan, the vote loss is a whopping 11.37 lakh. Whether it is because of local anti-incumbency or rural distress or disenchantment with Modi, the loss indicates a drastic change in the mood of the people.

Local issues were raised in these elections, but the Congress campaign had centred on the Prime Minister’s failure to create jobs, address agrarian distress and fight corruption. The joke was about “Achchhe din” — the promise of good days that had defined Modi’s campaign in 2014.

The BJP would be in denial if it reads the verdict merely as a mandate against the chief ministers.

For the Congress, there is good reason to believe Rahul Gandhi’s acceptability among voters has increased significantly. The party has covered a long distance: its tally since the last Assembly elections has gone up from 21 to 99 in Rajasthan, 58 to 114 in Madhya Pradesh, and 38 to 68 in Chhattisgarh.

It could have won a few more seats in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, if it were not for the division of Opposition votes among smaller parties and rebels. The BSP appears to have cut both ways this time, damaging the prospects of the Congress as well as the BJP in many constituencies.

The BJP has been hurt by the new anti-quota outfit SPAKS and the unusually high number voting for Nota (None of the above). In Madhya Pradesh, a large number of upper-caste youths had declared their intent to opt for Nota to teach the BJP a lesson. While 5,42,295 votes went to Nota in Madhya Pradesh, the number was 4,67,781 in Rajasthan. The Nota votes in Madhya Pradesh are higher than the votes polled by the Samajwadi Party and the Aam Aadmi Party.

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