Gujarat Elections: Swing Seats Critical for Both BJP and Congress
Campaigning for the second and last phase of the keenly-contested Gujarat elections ended on Tuesday, 12 December. Both the star campaigners – Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi – addressed rallies, trying their best to muster extra votes which would help their respective party cross the halfway mark.
In the first phase, 89 seats of Saurashtra, Kutch and south Gujarat went to polls on Saturday, 9 December. Despite a high-pitched campaign, the turnout for 54 seats in Saurashtra and Kutch was down by 5.4 percent, while in South Gujarat it was down by 3.1 percent.
BJP’s Strongholds in Gujarat
There are 50 Assembly seats where BJP has continued to dominate since the last four elections – 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012. Out of these 50 seats, 20 are in north Gujarat, 15 in Saurashtra and Kutch, 10 in south Gujarat, and five in central Gujarat. These strongholds have contributed significantly towards BJP’s rule in Gujarat since the last two decades.
On an average, these 50 seats made for 42 percent of the seats for the BJP in the state Assembly elections, from 1998 to 2012, with 54 percent seats needed for a majority. In contrast, there are only four seats that the Congress bagged in the last four elections. Among the Congress’ strongholds, three are reserved seats, where traditionally the party has fared better than the BJP.
BJP’s Retention Ratio on a Downward Slide
Retention ratio is defined as the number of seats a party is able to retain in the next cycle of elections. BJP retained 87 seats in 2002 and 88 seats in the 2007 Assembly elections. This came down to 74 in 2012. It’s because of the 50 stronghold seats that the BJP achieved a high retention ratio.
On an average, the Congress has been able to retain 20-odd seats in the last four Assembly elections.
However, the BJP’s retention ratio is witnessing a downward trend – from 74 percent in 2002 to 63 percent in 2012. As a result, the percentage of seats the party has lost in subsequent elections has been rising steadily – from 26 percent in 2002 to 37 percent in 2012.
In contrast, Congress’s retention ratio doesn’t depict a clear trend. While it increased in 2007, it again dipped in 2012. Its loss ratio is, of course, higher than the BJP.
Increase in the Number of Swing Seats
Since 1995, the Assembly elections in Gujarat have shown some striking similarities.
- BJP’s tally of seats in the range of 115-125
- Congress’s tally of seats in the range of 55-60
- BJP maintaining a lead of 10 percent vote share over Congress
However, the elections are also characterised by a significant number of swing seats – the seats which have been changing hands in each election, compared to previous elections. In 2002, 76 seats had different winners compared to 1998. This number has increased to 88 seats in 2012.
Among these 88 seats – 48 in rural and 40 in urban areas – voters threw out the respective incumbent MLA of 2007 and voted for the other major player. Both the Congress and the BJP won 41 of these seats. This represents anti-incumbency at the constituency level.
There are 26 swing seats which have voted alternately for the BJP and the Congress in 1998, 2002, 2007, and 2012. BJP won half such seats in 2012, while the Congress and others won the rest.
Swing Seats Hold the Key in 2017
The swing seats are likely to register an increase in these elections, as retentions are likely to reduce further. In 2012, 94 seats were retained by the BJP and the Congress combined, while 88 seats changed hands.
BJP is facing the wrath from the Patidars in 20 out of its 50 stronghold seats, as they are based in Saurasthra, Kutch and Central Gujarat – the hub of agitation for reservation.
On 10 stronghold seats in south Gujarat, the party is drawing flak from traders due to demonetisation and the goods and services tax (GST). BJP’s performance across the swing seats is likely to determine its tally in the 2017 polls.
(Amitabh Tiwari is an ex-corporate and investment banker-turned-political consultant and commentator. He can be reached @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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