Election results: Much ado about nothing?
Chances are that you spent a considerable part of your Sunday watching the media hyperbole of election results of the four states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi. And a significant reason for this frenzy is this notion that these state elections are a good harbinger for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. Is it?
The 72 Lok Sabha seats that these four states represent are a mere 13% of all seats in the lower house of Parliament and, more importantly, have had negative correlation with the results of the Lok Sabha election over the last 15 years. While it is tempting to succumb to this notion of every state election being important to determine the national outcome, it is abundantly clear that some states matter significantly more than the others. And in that regard, these four states that just finished their elections don’t count for much.
There are 12 states that account for 440 or 81% of all Lok Sabha seats. Of these, the top six states alone account for 54% (291) of all the seats.
It is evident from the table above that of the four states that went to polls recently, only two—Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan—figure in the top 12 states and none in the top six states in terms of Lok Sabha seats. An analysis of the previous three Lok Sabha elections shows that the first six states that account for 54% of all the seats have a much stronger predictive power of determining the national winner than the remaining six states. The table also shows the number of seats won by the eventual national winner in these 12 states.
The table shows that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1999 and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2004 and 2009 won the majority of the seats in the six states that account for 54% of all Lok Sabha seats, and eventually formed the government. However, in the subsequent six states that account for 27% of the Lok Sabha seats, the NDA won a majority in 2004 and 2009 but lost the national elections. Clearly, the first six states have a greater influence in determining the national winner. As for the four states for which results were declared on Sunday, they reveal no more about their ability to determine the national winner than any other combination of states.
The assembly elections to three out of these four states—Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh—also rendered itself very nicely to a Congress vs BJP news headline since all of these contests were two-cornered. This also lent itself very well to the media’s desire to fit national elections into a Modi vs Rahul narrative and hence was termed the “Semi Finals” before the big Finals. As the data shows, not only do these four states not have any statistical significance in being able to determine the national winner but the states that do matter (Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu) are contests that feature dominant regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, the Left and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, and the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh.
Praveen Chakravarty is founding trustee, IndiaSpend, India’s first non-profit, data journalism initiative.