We in India shall soon be hearing the talking-heads on TV, mostly in New Delhi, jabbering away about “swings” and “anti-incumbency” and “mandates” and “fractured mandates” etc. Most of it will be waffle without any basis in hard facts because nobody wants to actually do any of the work necessary to acquire a serious opinion.
Just as you cannot win at cricket unless you bowl out the other side and you cannot win at soccer unless you score more goals than the other side, you are not going to win a General Election in India unless you win more Assembly Segments of Parliamentary Constituencies than your competitors.
It is not logically impossible but it is factually unlikely that you can lose, say, five out of six Assembly Segments and still win the Parliamentary Constituency by winning the sixth with a sufficiently large margin. Raw votes generally translate into winning Assembly Segments and winning Assembly Segments generally translate into winning Lok Sabha seats.
In 2004, the top five winners were as follows, where the first number is raw votes won, the second the number of Assembly Segments won, and the third the number of Lok Sabha seats won:
INC 103,118,475 1,157 145
BJP 86,181,116 1,076 138
CPM 22,065,283 322 43
BSP 21,037,968 107 17
SP 16,822,902 167 39
Notice the BSP won some 4 million more raw votes than the SP but fewer Assembly Segments and fewer Lok Sabha Seats. And the CPM won barely a million more raw votes than did the BSP but 215 more Assembly Segments and 26 more Lok Sabha seats. Clearly Uttar Pradesh voting patterns need a lot more detailed analysis — my ex ante hypothesis would be that the BSP’s results are affected by the policy of some constituencies being “reserved”.
More significantly, at the head of the race, notice that the BJP lost the raw vote to the Indian National Congress by a margin of almost 17 million votes which translated into winning 81 Assembly Segments fewer than the INC which translated into winning 7 fewer Lok Sabha seats — and hence ended up sitting in the Opposition in the Lok Sabha for five years.
A central question is whether the BJP has or has not done enough over the last five years to get in its favour a net change in the raw vote — and that too by a sufficient amount to change the number of Assembly Segments won in its favour.
Putting it differently, has the INC done enough to at least maintain its share of the raw-vote and its leading position, and hence be likely to win the largest number of Assembly Segments and Lok Sabha seats again?
Here is the overall picture:
And yes, of course, there have been demographic changes over five years so those changed parameters shall have affected the new outcome too (notice the INC’s emphasis on the “youth vote”).
This is original research which could come to be published in a scientific journal if I find the time to send it, so please try not to steal and instead acknowledge its source properly if you want to discuss it elsewhere.
Subroto Roy, Kolkata