(Photo: Deoband)
(Photo: Deoband)

Elections 2019: How the SP-BSP combine could cut into NDA’s tally

  • The question is not whether BJP will lose some of the 71 seats it won in 2014. The question is how many seats it is likely to lose in the state.
  • The fourth player in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress, is also seeking to do the same, even though it eventually did not join the SP-BSP grouping

NEW DELHI: By all accounts, it is not a question of “whether", but of “how many". In Uttar Pradesh, which elects 80 of the 543 parliamentarians in India, the question is not whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will lose some of the 71 seats it won in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The question is how many seats the BJP is likely to lose in Uttar Pradesh compared to that stunning performance of 2014.

A Mint analysis of the Lok Sabha numbers looked at four possible scenarios. It factored in the results of elections to the Uttar Pradesh state assembly held in early 2017—which too was swept by the BJP, though less emphatically—and an erosion of votes that incumbents generally tend to see over time.

In these four scenarios, the highest number of seats that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is expected to win is 41 and the least is 13, against the 73 seats it won in 2014 (when the BJP contested in alliance with the Apna Dal, which won two seats, in the state).

The big reason for this considerable drawdown is the coming together of erstwhile rivals, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), after the successive drubbings of 2014 and 2017. They have one mission: to beat the BJP in 2019.

The fourth player in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress, is also seeking to do the same, even though it eventually did not join the SP-BSP grouping.

The first of our four scenarios is the “no change scenario": what happens if the current alliances existed in 2014? If 2014 was a four-way fight in Uttar Pradesh, 2019 is a three-cornered contest.

In 2014, in 57 of the 80 seats, either the SP or the BSP, or its third partner in Uttar Pradesh, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, finished both second and third. If there is a straight transfer of votes—and that is always a big if—it would take the SP-BSP tally to 41 seats and bring down the NDA tally to 37 (Map 1).

Our second scenario is the “base change scenario", where we use the numbers from the subsequent assembly elections and factor in anti-incumbency. For Uttar Pradesh, we have used the difference (or swing) between the 2014 Lok Sabha vote shares and the 2017 assembly vote shares to arrive at the likely state-wise swing for each party.

Further, we have assumed an anti-incumbency rate of 1 percentage point per annum. So, the anti-incumbency factor for the BJP in the state, according to our calculations, was -3.97 percentage points.

To estimate the constituency-level results, we allocate the losses (or gains) in votes for the incumbent party, the BJP, equally to the two closest contenders in each seat (as seen before, the SP and the BSP in most cases) to arrive at the final results. In this scenario, the SP-BSP tally is projected at 48 seats and that of the NDA at 29 seats (Map 2).

One factor that could challenge this is Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has held steadfast to his billing as the most popular politician in India, even as the opposition parties have not been able to come together as one force.

In our third scenario, to our base case scenario, we have added a 5 percentage point vote swing in favour of the NDA, with the SP-BSP combine and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) losing 2.5 percentage points each. In this scenario, the NDA seat count is projected at 41 and the SP-BSP at 37 (Map 3).

Our final scenario looks at an SP-BSP wave: to our base case scenario, we add a 5 percentage point swing in favour of the SP-BSP, with the NDA and the UPA losing 2.5 percentage points each. If that were to happen, it would translate into a sweep for the SP-BSP combine, with 64 seats—and, conversely, a BJP rout (Map 4).

Whichever the scenario, the key is how effectively the SP and the BSP are able to transfer their sizeable votes in Uttar Pradesh to each other. And this can also have a bearing on the national government-formation picture.

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