High turnout not necessarily a negative referendum on ruling party

Monday, 2 December 2013 - 12:50pm IST | Place: Jaipur | Agency: DNA
It is still a political myth that high polling always goes against ruling party; for the same logic BJP should be losing in MP and Chhattisgarh.

Generally higher polling turnout is construed as a massive loss for the ruling party. Not surprisingly, the BJP is jumping with joy while the Congress despite putting up a brave face may be a bit circumspect, as the state has recorded the highest ever polling 72.87%, which is an increase of 6.47% from last elections.

However, it would be wise to apply caution before making a judgment. It is still at best a political myth that high turnout always goes against the ruling party because if that is the case then the BJP should be losing in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. 

Actually, there is little evidence to suggest that there is a linkage between the two. There are states where the ruling party has retained power despite higher polling and drop in its vote share while in some other states high polling went against the ruling party.

Last year there was 12% jump in polling in Gujarat. The Congress vote share increased (+0.9%), while the BJP’s reduced (-1.12%), still the latter increased its seats because the BJP had overall lead of 9% votes over the Congress.

Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh in 2008, the BJP despite drop in vote share and seats got comfortable  majority but in Chhattisgarh both the Congress (+2%) and the BJP (+1%) increased their vote share, however the Congress added just one more seat but the BJP got same number of seats (50) as in 2003. In Rajasthan, the Congress increased its votes by just 0.8% in 2008 but since the BJP’s vote share dropped almost 5%, the Congress got 40 more seats and the BJP lost 42 seats compared to 2003.

So the fact is that the opposition needs a bigger swing in its favour at the same time vote share of the ruling party has to decrease considerably.

Although, it is true that in Rajasthan traditionally high polling leads to loss for the ruling party and coupled with another trend of voters replacing the party in power every five years, it is the safest thing to predict that after Sunday’s record polling, the Congress is on its way out.

However, the experts say that the BJP needed a swing of 2.5% while the Congress needed only 0.5%  swing in its favour to reach the half way mark. Since, there is an increase of 6.47% votes, the BJP would now require a much higher vote swing in its favour and hope that either the Congress’ vote share remains stagnant or decreases. An equal split of increased vote share between them may give the Congress advantage.

Also, the higher vote share doesn’t necessarily mean more seats. Let’s understand it with Monsoon analogy. Ever thought that even when many states face drought the country still records normal Monsoon this is because a few states may have received floods. Similarly, it is possible majority of votes may not translate in more seats for a party.

For example, the Congress with 33.6% votes got only 50 seats in 1990 while the BJP with 25.3% votes got 85 seats and Janata Dal got 55 seats despite 21.6% votes. In 1985, the Congress got 46.6% votes and 113 seats whereas in 1998 it got 153 seats with 45% votes.

Interestingly, in 1993 the difference between the Congress and the BJP was 0.3% but the BJP got 96 seats compared to 76 to the Congress. On the contrary in 2008, the vote difference between the Congress and the BJP was 2.5% but the seat difference was same –Congress (96) and the BJP (78).

So, the consequences of higher polling in the state would depend on what led to the higher turnout because it could be a confluence of many different things, which may not necessarily be anti-incumbency factor or the so-called Modi wave.

Sanjay Bohra
Chief of Bureau, dna, Jaipur

Jump to comments

Around the web