Alongside the dominant narrative that the outcome of this general election indicates a comprehensive vote for change and that every class and community of people have voted for Narendra Modi as prime minister, the fine print in the election statistics reveals that the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Modi is is the first to have ever reached the halfway mark with only 31 percent of the votes.
The previous lowest vote share for a party that achieved a simple, single-party majority in the Lok Sabaha was for the Congress in 1967, when the party won 283 out of 520 LS seats, a vote share of 40.8 percent, points out a report in The Times of India.
In an election of extremes -- this poll has seen the highest voter turnout ever, is the most expensive election ever and has been widely pegged as one of the most polarised -- this low-to-middling percentage of the vote share won by the BJP brings to the forefront several new aspects of how India really voted.
Added to the Congress's dismal and lowest ever vote share of 19.3 percent, the BJP and Congress have together won only about 51 percent of the votes polled. So, nearly half of the record-breaking turnout of voters preferred neither national party. And therein lies the rub -- 49 percent of the vote was thoroughly splintered, giving the BJP its highest ever tally and a simple majority on its own, minus allies. Indeed, far from this being a unified vote for Modi as prime minister, perhaps it is the fractured nature of the non-BJP vote that has given the party its 282 MPs.
The TOI report points out that after the PV Narasimha Rao government of 1991 -- a minority government with outside support in which the Congress had won just 38.2 percent of the vote share -- Modi's will be a government with the "lowest popular support in terms of vote share", unless of course the BJP leader reaches out and invites other allies to participate in the government.
Even with its NDA partners, the new government's vote share will be around 38.5 percent, the UPA share is 23 percent -- and all the rest another 38 percent, almost the size of the NDA's share.
BJP leaders have been at pains to claim that all communities, classes and age groups of voters have placed their faith in a Modi government, but with only 31 percent of the vote share, this may be far from the truth. So, who are those who did not vote for the BJP?
The ECI website shows the BSP won 4.1 percent, the Trinamool Congress won 3.8 percent, Samajwadi Party (though it has only five MPs) won 3.4 percent and the AIADMK won 3.3 percent, all indicating that the 2014 outcome continues to reflect a fractured vote, even if there is a clear mandate.
Apart from the millions who voted for the regional parties such as J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK which finished as the third largest party in Lok Sabha, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congressand others, there are minorities who do not seem to have voted for the BJP, despite all the talk about it getting popular support from the Muslim community for the first time . Speaking to The Hindu, Prof Sanjay Kumar of the CSDS says that for the last six elections since 1996, about 33 percent of Muslims have voted for the Congress. This election saw that percentage rise to 44 percent, indicating the anticipated polarisation of the Muslim voters towards the Congress.
"Moreover, in bipolar states like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, where the Muslim vote share for the Congress goes even higher into the 70s, it rose above 90 per cent in this election," the report says.
A report in The Indian Express also points out that this is the very first time that a ruling party with a simple majority does not have a single Muslim MP in the Lok Sabha. Of its 482 candidates who contested the general elections, only seven were Muslim, and none of them won, including Shahnawaz Hussain, a long-time sitting MP who lost from Bhagalpur. Even in Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP has made a startling debut with three MPs, the Muslim candidates did not win.
While there is no doubt about the strength and size of the Modi wave that has carried his party to an astounding and decisive victory, all the pundit hype about how everyone voted for Modi is vastly exaggerated, and not supported by the numbers. We remain a divided electorate in more ways than one.
First Published On : May 19, 2014 11:10 IST