By getting 303 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become the first non-Congress party to get re-elected with a clear majority. In a first-past-the-post system (FPTP), it is often argued that majority of seats in the Lok Sabha need not capture a higher popular support for the party. This is because a party just needs to finish ahead of others rather than get majority of votes polled. Does this point hold for the BJP’s 2019 victory?

The BJP has increased its allIndia vote share to 37%, an increase of six percentage points from 2014. Since it contested only 436 seats, it is unfair to compare BJP’s vote share with that of the Congress, as the Congress used to contest a much bigger number of seats. The contested vote share of the BJP in 2019 is 46.3% compared to 39.6% in 2014. So, the BJP has significantly increased its popular support between 2014 and 2019.

Another way to measure the BJP’s popularity can be to look at its victory margins. Because number of votes vary across parliamentary constituencies (PCs) and time (one election to another), it is good to look at victory margins as a percentage of total votes polled.

Out of the 542 PCs polled in the 2019 elections, BJP’s seat share increases with a rise in victory margins. It won 45% of PCs which were decided by up to 10% of votes polled, while winning a whopping 88% of the PCs where the victory margin was greater than 40%. (See Chart 1)

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Another statistic can put this in perspective. The median victory margin of the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha is 19.7% of the total votes polled, three percentage points more than the BJP’s 2014 median victory margin. This figure is just 11.6% for non-BJP parties including the NDA allies.

While these statistics capture the growing support for the BJP in the country, India has seen bigger levels of consolidation behind a political party in the past. The biggest median victory margin for a party which has got a majority in the Lok Sabha, came in the 1977 elections when the Janata Party decimated the Congress after the Emergency. The BJP’s median victory margin in 2019 is the fifth highest among eight elections (1962, 1967, 1971, 1977, 1980, 1984, 2014 and 2019). What is worth taking note of is the fact that BJP’s back to back victories in 2014 and 2019 have altered the falling trend of declining victory margins in Indian Lok Sabha elections. (See Chart 2).

First Published:
Jun 03, 2019 07:12 IST

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