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The 2019 Lok Sabha Verdict

Sandeep Shastri (sshastri48@gmail.com) is Pro Vice Chancellor, JAIN and National Coordinator, Lokniti Network. Ashutosh Kumar (ashutoshchd@gmail.com) teaches political science at Punjab University, Chandigarh. Yatindra Singh Sisodia (yatindra15@yahoo.com) is director, Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Sciences, Ujjain.

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The 2019 electoral mandate is historic, in several ways. While taken nationally, it is a vote for a second term for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. It also indicates that alliance arithmetic by itself does not guarantee a victory. In an important way, understanding the 2019 verdict requires one to focus on the different regions of India and the distinct differences across states within a region (Shastri et al 2019). In keeping with past trends, any analysis of a Lok Sabha election results requires one to look at the trends in each state (Kumar and Sisodia 2018; Kumar 2017; Shastri 2009).

This verdict points out to a clear difference in the intensity of the BJP victory. In North, West and Central India (save Punjab), the election clearly saw an entrenched BJP that swept the region. Especially where it was in a direct contest with the Congress it did exceptionally well. Eastern and north-eastern India saw an expanding BJP, with the party asserting its key role in the North East and emerging as the key competitor to the state ruling party in West Bengal and Odisha. The South (save Karnataka) continued to elude the BJP. The battle for claiming the lead opposition space in Telangana is on with both the BJP and the Congress having halted the progress of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Tamil Nadu saw the domination of state-based parties, as did Andhra Pradesh. Kerala continued to witness a straight bipolar fight with the BJP pushed to a distant third position.

The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)–Lokniti post-poll survey had provided enough indication of voters wishing to accord the ruling party and its alliance a second term. This election was clearly about the central government. This explains the rout of the Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where it was voted to power last December. The vote last year was for a change of guard at the state level. The vote this time is an unequivocal endorsement of the claims of the BJP for another term in office. Even in the South, the inability of the BJP to make serious inroads in key states can be explained in terms of the visible unpopularity of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the centre.

Much was made in this election of extrapolating the electoral arithmetic of alliance partners from previous polls. It was argued by many that the alliances formed against the BJP/NDA in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Jharkhand would pose a stiff challenge to the BJP as the combined votes of the alliance were much higher in the previous Lok Sabha poll. One needs to concede that this simplistic electoral arithmetic does not work for three reasons. First, the caste calculus could undergo dramatic shifts as in the case of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Second, much political water would have flown below the political bridge resulting in new sets of issues influencing the minds of voters, as happened in all the three states mentioned above. Finally, while leaders may have come together to form an alliance, the chemistry among the workers and party supporters may not always be positive, resulting in a shaky alliance on the ground and limited vote transfer. The analysis contained in the state-specific papers outlines this fact in greater detail.

This election was testimony to the NDA’s success in stitching together an alliance that worked on the ground. The BJP bent over backwards to accommodate its allies in Bihar by agreeing to contest less seats than what it won in 2014. In spite of its serious differences with the Shiv Sena it was able to form an alliance in Maharashtra. For the BJP, winning 2019 was a clear goal and if alliances needed to be formed to achieve this, nothing else mattered. On the other hand, the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) failure (save in Tamil Nadu) to ensure that the anti-incumbency vote does not split among different parties appears to have cost them dearly. The UPA and the state-based parties opposed to the BJP seemed unclear whether their primary focus was to defeat the BJP or protect their own political/electoral spaces.

Finally, the leadership factor. It is clear that in the leadership sweep stakes,
the BJP/NDA did much better than the UPA and the state-based parties. The CSDS–Lokniti post-poll data indicates that the NDA led over the UPA among voters who wanted a decisive Prime Minister. The Rahul Gandhi campaign in 2019 was around the Rafale Deal and the charge that Chowkidar chor hai. Both seem to have had a limited impact on the voter.

At the end of the day, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saw the BJP strategy of retaining its strongholds and expanding to newer domains contributing to its electoral success. The UPA and the other state-based parties appeared unable to get their collective act together. It was clearly a victory of a more effective and well-planned electoral strategy by the BJP and its NDA which produced rich electoral dividends. A state by state analysis of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections clearly endorses this trend.

A Note on the Methodology

The analysis contained in these articles is based on the Lokniti–CSDS National Election Study 2019. It involved two rounds: a pre-election survey and a post-poll survey (Table 1).

The fieldwork for the pre-poll survey was done between 24 and 31 March 2019. Across 19 states 10,010 respondents were interviewed. The survey was done in 101 assembly constituencies (ACs) spread across 101 parliamentary constituencies (PCs). The sampling design was multi-stage random sampling. Within each sampled AC, four polling stations were selected. The respondents in each polling station were selected by the systematic random method, drawing the names from the most updated electoral rolls.

The fieldwork for the post-poll survey was conducted in 26 states after each phase of voting. A total of 24,236 respondents were interviewed across 211 parliamentary constituencies. The sample size for each state was determined on the basis of the state’s share of the national electorate. A selective adjustment was done to ensure that the small states did have a big enough sample to make state level projections. Having a target of 100 interviews per PC, the number of PCs in each state was decided. Within each PC, two ACs were sampled by systematic random sampling (SRS) procedure. If the state had only one PC, then eight ACs were sampled. States with only two PCs saw four ACs being sampled. Within each AC, three polling stations were selected by SRS procedure. The respondents in each polling station were selected by the SRS method, drawing the names from the most updated electoral rolls.

All interviews (pre-poll and post-poll) were face-to-face undertaken by trained field investigators A standardised semi-structured interview schedule was used and each interview took between 40 and 50 minutes. The interview schedules were translated and administered in the local languages.

The achieved raw sample was weighed by gender, locality, religion, and caste group based on the 2011 Census.

The pre- and post-poll surveys were designed by a team at Lokniti, CSDS and coordinated by scholars from the Lokniti nework in each of the states.

References

Kumar, Ashutosh (2017): Rethinking State Politics in India: Region within Regions, Delhi: Routledge.

Kumar, Ashutosh and Yatindra Singh Sisodia (2018): How India Votes: A State-by-State Look, New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan.

Shastri, Sandeep (2009): “Leadership at the State Level Mattered,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 64, No 39, pp 88–91.

Shastri, Sandeep, Suhas Palshikar and Sanjay Kumar (2019): “Explaining the Modi Sweep across Regions,” Hindu, 26 May.

Updated On : 9th Aug, 2019

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