The recent trend in election results has shown a distinctive pattern in terms of the loss of power of BJP among several states in India. The significant decline in its nation-wide footprint can be observed by comparing with last year’s coverage. In 2018, the BJP was ruling about 71% of the country and was also in power at the centre. However, this figure has dropped to around 40% in 2019. Looking at this trend, there is a major point and a relatively recent phenomenon to note- in the state elections for the year 2019, if we look at the party-wise trend, we can observe that neither the INC is winning nor the BJP is losing, but the BJP is exhausting near the finish line i.e. it is losing the state elections by a small margin. This is a peculiar trend which is an indication of the increasing power of the BJP at the centre and its decreasing power in the states.
To see this, take as an example the recent elections in Jharkhand, where the BJP has won around 33% of the seats and the INC has won around 13% of the seats. The INC-JMM alliance has scored a majority with 46 seats, as compared to 25 seats won by the BJP. Therefore, although the BJP has won a greater number of seats as compared to the INC and has emerged as the single largest party, it has not scored a winning majority.
The pattern has been similar for the states of Maharashtra and Haryana. After coming to power at the centre by winning a clear majority in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in Haryana elections in 2019 with 40 seats but still failed to cross the halfway mark, which is in contrast to 2014 elections where it was able to form a majority with 47 seats. The party has formed a government in alliance with Jannayak Janta Party. In case of Maharashtra elections of 2019, the BJP and Shiv Sena alliance scored a majority. However, due to differences between the two parties, the alliance between the BJP and Shiv Sena broke down. The government in Maharashtra was finally formed by Shiv Sena in alliance with NCP and INC.
A comparison with the election results of 2014 for all the three states shows that the number of seats won by the BJP has decreased from 2014 to 2019 while it has increased for the INC, as shown below, though it remains the single largest party in terms of votes received. In 2014, the BJP was in power in 7 states, which has gradually increased over the years reaching 21 in 2018. However, the trend seems to be declining again in 2019, with the BJP losing in most of the states individually inspite of coming to power at the centre in 2019.
|Maharashtra state election 2014 and 2019 (Total seats=288)|
|Haryana state elections 2014 and 2019(Total seats=90)|
|Jharkhand state elections 2014 and 2019(Total seats=81)|
Now, the question is what has changed in these years? In other words, what are the causes behind this decrease in power and why is it that the BJP, though winning the central election by the majority, is unable to form the majority in individual states?
First and the foremost difference observed from the 2014 elections is that in that year, the BJP government was not ruling in most of the states in India. Therefore, along with Modi’s growing popularity and anti-incumbency being against INC, the support of people started shifting towards the BJP as the party came into power at the centre. As compared to this, in 2019, the anti-incumbency is working against BJP, which has resulted in lesser votes for the party.
In addition to this, the BJP has been getting increasing votes by the majority of people since 2014 primarily because of Modi. The popularity and leadership qualities of Modi has helped the party to achieve a clear majority in central elections. However, people have started to differentiate between centre and states, and the over-dependence of the party on Modi has backed in the form of fewer votes. In other words, the other representatives of the BJP government in different states lack the popularity and trust that people attach with Modi. Therefore, the party has been receiving lesser votes than before at the state level.
Another important reason can be the recent Citizenship Amendment Bill and the National Register of Citizens by the government. This nation-level step of the BJP government which has been campaigned in the states is in contrast to the various state-level and local issues that should be campaigned for such as unemployment, delivery of public goods, land for tribals etc.
Inspite of these aspects, we can observe that BJP has a lead over other parties in many states, though it does not have a majority. However, there are lessons for the BJP in the recent defeats in state elections. The small margin by which BJP has been losing the state’s election is an early wake-up call for the party in terms of the need to address the local issues more closely which it has remained relatively ignorant to and also a rebuilding of trust among the people to regain its power.