New Delhi: The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lost substantial ground in urban Lok Sabha constituencies, a sign that it has failed to stay in step with changing voter preferences in the cities, according to analysts.
In the 15th general election, the party failed to win a single seat from Mumbai and Delhi, while its vote share was considerably eroded even in smaller cities such as Lucknow, Bhopal, Indore, Panaji, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Raipur and Pune.
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Party strategists attribute the reversals to changing demographics and the BJP’s failure to factor them into its election preparations. “Demography has changed and the fact was not reflected in our candidate selection,” conceded party strategist Sudheendra Kulkarni. “The change in configuration of the cities has also resulted in a shift of public aspiration in these areas.” The delimitation exercise completed in 2007, meanwhile, redrew the boundaries of many constituencies and gave them an urban complexion. The number of parliamentary seats in urban areas has increased to 100, or almost one in every five parliamentary seats.
An internal study by the BJP showed that the Congress party’s vote share in Delhi Lok Sabha polls had increased by around 28% from the 2007 municipal polls while the BJP’s vote share remained almost stagnant. “Our study says that the vote share of Congress has gone up from 29% in municipal polls and 41% in last year’s assembly polls to 57% in the recent Lok Sabha elections,” said Vijay Kumar Malhotra, chairman of the BJP’s Delhi election management committee.
The BJP has “more or less retained its vote share”, he said. Its vote share was 36% in the municipal elections, 37% in the assembly election and 35% in the Lok Sabha polls from Delhi.
Analysts link the erosion of of the BJP’s vote share in the cities to the fading appeal of identity-based politics championed by the party that has been associated with Hindutva. “People in urban areas now look for economic possibilities,” and the power of identity-based appeals to voters has dimmed, “a fact that was not captured by the BJP strategists”, said Rajeev Gowda, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
Some analysts attribute the loss of BJP’s vote share in the cities also to the urban reforms introduced by the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first innings. Such programmes include the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) that is aimed at improving civic infrastructure and quality of life in the cities.
“The urban gentry today is upwardly mobile and mostly reform oriented,” said Delhi-based political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan. “Fresh responses of the UPA government like the JNNURM and association of private bodies and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in urban development has seen its reflection in the Congress vote share.”
Graphics by Sandeep Bhatnagar / Mint