Numbers Speak: Post-2014 vote consolidation behind idea of ‘united’ Opposition ahead of Lok Sabha Election 2019

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New Delhi | Updated: May 25, 2018 10:51:07 AM

The apparent coming together of parties to pose a formidable challenge to the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government just as it completes four years in power at the Centre is believed to be guided by the will to counter, as the Opposition claims, the "divisive politics" practised by the Bharatiya Janata Party and provide an "inclusive" alternative.

UNITED OPPOSITIONH D Kumaraswamy’s oath-taking ceremony outside Karnataka Assembly in Bengaluru came as the perfect photo-op for Opposition parties and their key leaders to display the strength of their unity.

H D Kumaraswamy’s oath-taking ceremony outside Karnataka Assembly in Bengaluru came as the perfect photo-op for Opposition parties and their key leaders to display the strength of their unity. The apparent coming together of parties to pose a formidable challenge to the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government just as it completes four years in power at the Centre is believed to be guided by the will to counter, as the Opposition claims, the “divisive politics” practised by the Bharatiya Janata Party and provide an “inclusive” alternative.

The idea of a “united opposition” — first mooted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to then Congress president Sonia Gandhi before he shifted loyalties back to the NDA — has seen erstwhile enemies turn into friends and years of rivalry flushed down the drain. This coming together of the anti-BJP bloc has been positioned as being based on ideological positions of political parties to hold forth a promise of a viable alternative to the electorate. Or so it would seem.

For, an analysis of major elections across Indian states post 2014, when Narendra Modi swept to power with a resounding majority, suggests that the idea of a “united opposition” finds is guided by the art of survival than efforts to provide a viable alternative. There is clear pattern of consolidation of votes among major contenders which may have pushed this parties to come together. With less than a year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, parties are looking for perfect formula to crack the political arithmetic.

An analysis of the 22 Assembly elections since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls by The Indian Express shows that voters have shown faith in major political parties who have a better chance at forming government, squeezing out smaller and less relevant ones. As per the report, this holds true for every state. And the BJP is clearly making gains.

According to Election Commission (EC) statistics, BJP has gained over 11.5 per cent across the 22 state assemblies that went to polls after 2014 general elections which Narendra Modi-led saffron party had won with a historic mandate. Prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP had a vote share of 15 per cent in these 22 states in assembly elections. However, that has jumped to 26.5 per cent. In terms of Assembly seats, BJP has 1,000 in its kitty at present from 500 before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

However, there is a silver lining for the Opposition parties as voters seem to have gone for parties which are likely to form governments. If we take a look at politically crucial states that will have a major bearing on the outcome of the next year’s big general elections, we find that to garner favourable mandate, parties need to remain in contention for forming the government.

Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, were held last year and BJP managed to sweep the polling. The vote consolidation for BJP and other main rose from 89.97 per cent from 81.69 per cent with an increase of 8.28 per cent. This rise in vote consolidation for the bigger parties meant that regional ones like Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Peace party were squeezed out.

Maharashtra assembly elections took place in the second half of 2014, months after the Lok Sabha polls. This state saw a whopping increase of 14.69 per cent in vote consolidation. The figure, which stood at 67.66 per cent prior to the Lok Sabha polls, rose to 82.35 per cent. Parties like Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Independents bore the brunt in the state which offers 48 Lok Sabha seats. Notably BJP, Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP had fought the elections separately.

In West Bengal, BJP continues to rise as the main opposition party to challenge the might of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. The state, which always witnessed high vote consolidation, saw an increase of 1.48 per cent from 92.2 per cent to 93.68 per cent. 42 Lok Sabha constituencies will go to polls in 2019.

Probably the most volatile political state in the country, Bihar saw a marginal rise of 2.9 per cent from 73.02 per cent to 75.92 per cent. Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats which can change the dynamics of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Tamil Nadu, like West Bengal, traditionally sees high vote consolidation. In the 2016 Assembly polls, the state witnessed 0.54 per cent increase in vote consolidation as the figure rose from 90.34 per cent to 90.88 per cent. The vote consolidation generally tilts towards the strong Dravidian parties.

These trends show that if a party is not in the game to form a government, voters are increasingly lukewarm to it. If the opposition can stitch an alliance like it did during Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha by-polls, the opposition might end up getting more seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha seats, denting PM Modi’s chance of retaining the chair.

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