Underlying threads behind BJP’s 2019, 2024 election results | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Underlying threads behind BJP’s 2019, 2024 election results

Jun 02, 2024 01:10 AM IST

Most exit polls have predicted a third term for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Most exit polls have predicted a third term for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Exit polls have been wrong before, although they have been getting better and more accurate over the years. Whether or not they have got it right this time will only be known on June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a rally in Jadavpur on May 28. (BJP)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a rally in Jadavpur on May 28. (BJP)

But how did the BJP win back-to-back majorities in 2014 and 2019. Did voters from specific social and economic categories or gender play a bigger role in the BJP’s victories? While granular polling data is difficult to get in India to build sophisticated models , we do have some summary statistics to help answer this question.

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What does CSDS Lokniti data tell us about the BJP’s social base?

National Election Studies (NES) published by CSDS Lokniti are based on post-poll surveys held after every Lok Sabha elections since 1996. While there are some exit poll surveys which have a significantly larger sample size and much better accuracy than Lokniti numbers, NES’s historical value makes them a useful resource for understanding Indian politics.

What does CSDS Lokniti tell us about the BJP’s rise in India? While all of CSDS Lokniti numbers are not in the public realm, HT has taken some of these from articles and books which have used these numbers.

The biggest long-term story which the Lokniti numbers tell us is how the BJP overcame its disadvantage and gathered support from non-”upper caste” sections of the society. Data shows this clearly. The BJP surged ahead of the Congress in terms of vote share among upper castes in the 1996 elections. But the Congress was ahead of the BJP when it came to support among other backward classes (OBCs), Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) voters. While the magnitude of this social differentiation in support base of the Congress and the BJP varied between 1996 and 2009, the broad pattern of BJP leading among upper castes and the Congress leading among OBC-SC-ST groups did not change. Things changed drastically in the 2014 elections when the BJP surged ahead of the Congress in every social category. In 2019 the BJP’s lead increased further. (See Chart 1)

BJP and Congressvote share
BJP and Congressvote share

The widening of BJP’s social base is not just a story of the party gaining ground vis-à-vis the Congress. It is also a story of the BJP correcting the social imbalance in its own support-base. In 1996, the BJP’s vote share among OBC, SC and ST groups was 54%, 40% and 60% of its support among non SC-ST-OBC voters. These ratios were the highest in 2019 elections if one were to exclude the 2009 numbers. BJP’s relative support – vote share adjusted by BJP’s vote share among upper caste voters – among SC,ST, OBC groups in 2009 is not representative because its support among upper caste voters was the lowest since 1996. It needs to be kept in mind that even a 45% vote share among OBCs can bring much more votes than 90% vote share among upper castes because the former has a much bigger share among overall voters. (See Chart 2)

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Has class played a role in the BJP’s rise?

This can be seen clearly in the 2019 exit poll data published by Axis My India. The support for both the Congress and the BJP is largely stable across various income categories and the BJP leads across the class spectrum. If true, this is a huge counter-intuitive fact about Indian politics despite large-scale economic inequality.

To be sure, Axis My India takes a monthly expense of 31,000 and above as the highest income category in its survey and it is entirely possible that it doesn’t really factor in even the upper middle class sections of the society. This theory appears to be a plausible one if one looks at the CSDS-Lokniti data for class-wise support for the BJP and the Congress where the BJP seems to enjoy a mild advantage among richer sections. (See Chart 3 and 4)

The crux of the opposition’s campaign in these elections has been to erode the BJP’s support among socio-economically backward sections with promises such as the caste census and unprecedented welfare measures. Whether or not they worked is something we’ll come to know only on June 4.

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