BJP’s Vote Share Has Steadily Declined Across India Since 2014
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
The Assembly election results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana have established one clear trend – the steady decline of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) popularity since 2014.
The party's massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections under Narendra Modi appears to have been its peak performance. Its vote share has declined in almost every Assembly election since then, with the exception of smaller states in the Northeast where it has grown phenomenally after coming to power at the Centre.
Congress Couldn’t Capitalise on BJP’s Losses
The biggest fall in BJP’s vote share compared to 2014 has been in states where it has been in power since before Modi became Prime Minister, such as Goa (-21.7 percent), Rajasthan (-16.8 percent), Chhattisgarh (-16 percent) and Madhya Pradesh (-13.7 percent). However, the BJP’s loss hasn’t quite been the Congress’ gain. It succeeded in getting only a part of the votes that moved away from the BJP.
The BJP’s biggest successes under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah have come from the Northeast. Compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, its vote share increased by 37.8 percent in Tripura, 24.3 percent in Manipur and 15.3 percent in Nagaland. The BJP had very little presence in these states before 2014. Tripura and Manipur now have BJP chief ministers and the party is part of the ruling coalition in Nagaland.
But the scale of the BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh is misleading. While the party won 325 out of 403 seats in the state, its vote share declined by nearly three percent compared to the Lok Sabha elections. To a great extent, its victory was due to the division of votes between the BSP and the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance. The fragility of the BJP’s lead was exposed by its defeat to a united Opposition in the by-elections to the Phulpur, Gorakhpur and Kairana Lok Sabha constituencies.
Post-Demonetisation Gains for Congress
One can also see a clear pattern in the Congress’ performance since 2014. The party’s vote share fell in every Assembly election from 2014 to 2016 in states where it fought on its own. The only states where it gained was where it contested in alliance with a regional party – such as Tamil Nadu, where it fought alongside the DMK and West Bengal, where it tied up with the Left Front. Of course, there were localised exceptions, such as the Congress’ sweep in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region in the 2014 Assembly elections despite losing the seat in the Lok Sabha polls earlier that year.
However, there seems to have been a change in the Congress’ fortunes in the beginning of 2017, barely a few months after Prime Minister Modi introduced demonetisation. The Congress won Punjab with a massive majority and emerged as the single largest party in Goa in the elections held in early 2017.
After demonetisation, the Congress’ vote share has increased in every Assembly election outside of the Northeast, with two exceptions – Uttar Pradesh, where its vote share decreased due to the fact that it contested just about one-fourth of the seats in the state, and Karnataka, where there was a marginal reduction.
However, in the Northeast, the Congress has faced one reverse after another in the last couple of years, losing Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram and being completely wiped out in Tripura.
Trends to Watch
With barely a few months to go before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, three trends will have a bearing on the BJP’s final tally: the party losing ground in its strongholds in Northern, Central and Western India, and the Congress making some gains in these states – its gains at the expense of the Congress in the Northeast – and finally, its fragile lead in Uttar Pradesh being tested by a possible SP-BSP alliance.