NEIGHBOURS: THE MYTH OF THE BJP’S SWEEP

Published December 10, 2023
BJP supporters carry a hoarding of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah for celebrations after winning three out of four states in key regional polls | REUTERS
BJP supporters carry a hoarding of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah for celebrations after winning three out of four states in key regional polls | REUTERS

When the Indian prime minister said “hat-trick” about the recent assembly elections, everyone repeated “hat-trick” as if this conclusion required no questioning.

By the next morning, the message spread across the country that, after the victory in three states, no one can stop the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from winning the Lok Sabha [national parliament] elections for a third time. BJP supporters are already celebrating; opponents are dejected. But no one has stopped to ask, is this conclusion true?

This is how psychological games are played and won. Inflate a small balloon of truth so big that every contradictory truth is hidden behind it. Even before the fight starts, if the opponent’s morale is shattered, the match is likely to become a walkover. Therefore, it is important that we examine this claim with a cool mind.

Step 1: Start with the Election Commission website. Add the total votes received by all the parties in the four states for which results were declared on December 3. The BJP, which is blowing the trumpet of victory, has got a total of 48,133,463 votes, whereas the Congress, which was “defeated” in the elections, has got 49,077,907 votes.

Much was made of the BJP’s success in recent provincial elections in four states as a harbinger of the Modi juggernaut for the upcoming general elections next year. This is how psychological games are played and won

That means, overall, the Congress has got about 9.5 lakh more votes than the BJP. Still, all discussions seem to be assuming that the BJP has completely destroyed the Congress.

If we look at the number of seats in the three Hindi-speaking states which the BJP has won, in fact, there is not much difference in the number of votes. In Rajasthan, the BJP has got 41.7 percent of the votes, while the Congress has got 39.6 percent votes. The difference, then, is only two percent.

In Chhattisgarh, the difference is four percent — BJP has 46.3 percent votes while the Congress has 42.2 percent votes. Only in Madhya Pradesh is the difference a little higher, at more than eight percent — the BJP got 48.6 percent votes and Congress 40 percent votes.

Despite losing in all three states, Congress has got 40 percent or more of the votes, from where it will not be very difficult to make a comeback.

The overall lead that the BJP has got in all three Hindi-speaking states is compensated by only one Telangana. In Telangana, the Congress party got 39.4 percent (more than 92 lakh) votes, while the BJP got 13.9 percent (less than 32 lakh) votes. In a state where the Congress was on the verge of being out of the electoral race after 2018, the party reaching the top is a sign of political vitality.

Step 2: Look back on history to test the hat-trick myth. For the last two decades, Lok Sabha elections have been held within a few months of the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Last time, in 2018, the BJP had lost in these three states. But then neither the prime minister nor the media claimed that the BJP’s defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was certain. When parliamentary elections were held, the BJP won a landslide victory in these three states and the rest of the Hindi belt.

Similarly, while the Congress lost in these three states in 2003, it achieved an unexpected success in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections just a few months later. This means that the nature of elections for assemblies and the Lok Sabha are different, and it would be wrong to draw conclusions about the Lok Sabha directly from the assemblies. If the BJP can reverse this trend, then why not the Congress?

Step 3: Look at the equation of change of power in 2024. The BJP is dependent on these three states of the Hindi belt, but the opposition’s hopes do not rest on them. The electoral mathematics of the opposition INDIA alliance depends on reducing the BJP’s seats in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar and West Bengal.

Out of 65 seats in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the BJP already has 61 in its account and the Congress has only three. That means the BJP’s challenge is to retain all these seats and, if possible, get more than the four seats it had won in Telangana.

On the other hand, the Congress has nothing to lose in these states. This means that, from a national election point of view, the BJP has not achieved anything new in these assembly elections.

Step 4: How much do these legislative assemblies count for in the Lok Sabha? In fact, the Congress does not need to overturn these results in the Lok Sabha elections.

Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram together have 83 Lok Sabha seats. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP got 65 of these seats; only six went to the Congress. The rest went to the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Mizo National Front and All India Majlis-i-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

If in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and Congress get exactly the same number of votes in every assembly constituency as they got in the 2023 assembly elections, then the figures will be like this:

Rajasthan: BJP 14 seats, Congress 11

Chhattisgarh: BJP 8 seats, Congress 3

Madhya Pradesh: BJP 25 seats, Congress 4

Telangana: Congress 9 seats, BJP 0 (BRS gets 7 and AIMIM 1)

Mizoram: JMP 1 seat.

Overall, according to these assembly elections, out of 83 seats in the Lok Sabha, the BJP gets 46 seats and Congress gets 28 seats. This means that, instead of gaining, according to these assembly results, BJP may suffer a loss of 19 seats, while the Congress may gain 22 seats. All the Congress has to do is ensure that the votes it got in the assembly polls, it also gets in the Lok Sabha elections.

Now, some may say this is simple mathematics — you haven’t even accounted for “Modi magic.” If Modi’s magic works, then a saffron wave will wash over all these states and the Congress will be wiped out.

But if “Modi hai to kuchh bhi mumkin hai” [anything is possible as long as Modi is there] is the mantra — if you believe in magic — then call it faith. What is the need to take cover from the results of provincial assembly elections?

The writer is a political activist and psephologist, and founder of Swaraj Abhiyan.

By arrangement with The Wire, India

Published in Dawn, EOS, December 10th, 2023

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