Karnataka’s electoral contest is closer than seat shares suggest
SummaryWhich party achieves power is mostly down to the wire as voting patterns reveal of a state with its very own poll dynamics
As Karnataka goes to vote, it may be worth engaging with its complex electoral data. Few states in India witness such intriguing electoral dynamics. We pose and explain two puzzling observations. First, parties face diverging outcomes even in closely held Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. That is to say, voters in Karnataka are sensitive to whether they are voting for general or assembly elections. For instance, in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got about 64% of the state’s seats, but in the Vidhan Sabha elections held the same year, merely 35% seats. In the 2008 Vidhan Sabha, it got 48% seats, but in the Lok Sabha the year after, some 68% of Karnataka’s 28 seats. The next cycle was even more intensely divided. In the 2013 Vidhan Sabha, the BJP secured only 18% of seats, which went up to 61% in the 2014 Lok Sabha (while the Congress party’s seat share went down from 54% in the 2013 Vidhan Sabha to 32% in the 2014 Lok Sabha). And most recently, again, the BJP’s 46% seats in the 2018 Vidhan Sabha went to 89% of the state’s seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha (as the Congress’s fell from 35% to 4%). At one level, this indicates that the BJP is the preferred party in Karnataka for the Lok Sabha, while not as much during Vidhan Sabha elections. This is not quite true, as we discuss later.