The 2019 Lok Sabha verdict delivered on Thursday has been historic in more ways than one. Narendra Modi is set to become the first non-Congress person to be India’s Prime Minister for two consecutive five-year terms.

The Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears set to win a comfortable majority on its own in these elections (the final tally will be available on Friday). After the successive victories of the Congress in 1980 and 1984, this will be the first time any party has won absolute majorities on its own in two successive Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP victory in 2019 has been driven by a sharp spike in its vote share. With roughly 38% of the total votes polled, the BJP’s vote share is only marginally lower than that of the Congress in 1989 (39.5%), the last time any party reached close to 40% vote share nationally.

The ruling party’s victory has been broad-based, gaining seats in most parts of the country, and across the rural-urban divide, cementing its pole position in Indian politics.

Ever since the advent of the coalition era in Indian politics since the late 1980s, the median win margins (median vote share difference between winning candidates and second-best candidates) had been on a secular decline across constituencies.

The BJP reversed that trend in 2014, driving up median margins across the country, and has continued to drive it upwards in the 2019 elections. From 16 percentage points in 2014, BJP’s median victory margin has jumped to 20 percentage points in 2019.

Overall victory margins (across parties) has widened from 14 percentage points in 2014 to 16 percentage points in 2019, driven primarily by BJP’s rising margins.


The BJP’s ability to secure ever-bigger victories seems to be linked to its ability to get more people out to vote. The 2019 elections saw the highest turnout on record, and that does not seem to have harmed the ruling party on aggregate.

Higher turnouts have sometimes—though not always—meant trouble for the incumbents in the past. But this time, at least in some parts, this may have worked for the ruling party.

The latest results also suggest that voters have made a clear distinction between local (or state-level) politics and national politics this time. One example is Odisha, where the assembly results differ considerably from the Lok Sabha results.

The other examples are from states which had swung towards the Congress in the most recent state assembly elections—Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

After losing these three Hindi heartland states to the Congress six months ago, the BJP has swept all three states now.

And its losses in Uttar Pradesh seem to have been more than compensated for by gains elsewhere, particularly in the eastern parts of the country, where Modi held a large number of his rallies .

Overall, the BJP’s appeal seems to transcend the divides of caste, education, and affluence, data suggests. But there are some differences—with the BJP less successful in more educated constituencies.

In constituencies with high presence of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SCs/STs), the BJP is more popular than other parties, but in constituencies with high presence of Muslims, it is less popular. The BJP’s 2019 record is also more impressive in poorer constituencies than in the richer ones.

Overall, the BJP’s appeal seems to transcend the divides of caste, education, and affluence, data suggests. But there are some differences—with the BJP less successful in more educated constituencies.

In constituencies with high presence of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SCs/STs), the BJP is more popular than other parties, but in constituencies with high presence of Muslims, it is less popular. The BJP’s 2019 record is also more impressive in poorer constituencies than in the richer ones.

Notwithstanding these differences, the BJP’s remarkable victory appears to have been based on a broad-based Hindu social alliance cutting across caste and class.

In his 1970 book, Politics in India, the renowned political scientist Rajni Kothari had coined the term ‘Congress system’ to describe the party’s ability to assimilate diverse social groups and even dissidents within its fold.

We may be witnessing the rise of a new ‘BJP system’ in Indian politics today.

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