Gujarat polls: Vote trends show little anti-incumbency sentiment against BJP till 2014

By Saumya Tewari

As Gujarat goes to polls in December, an IndiaSpend analysis of election data shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) still appears strong in Gujarat.

Gujarat Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in two phases on 9 December, 2017 and 14 December, 2017, and the results will be declared on 18 December, 2017.

Gujarat polls: Vote trends show little anti-incumbency sentiment against BJP till 2014

Representational image. AFP

Over 50 percent voted for BJP in constituencies it won in 2012 Assembly elections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. He succeeded Keshubhai Patel in October, 2001, after his resignation from the post.

Modi served two and a half successful terms as the chief minister, and the BJP in Gujarat secured a stronger voter-base as its vote share increased five percentage points from 44.8 percent in 1998 to 49.9 percent in the seats contested in the 2002 state Assembly elections.

In the 2012 state Assembly elections, the BJP, with Narendra Modi as its chief ministerial candidate, won 115 out of 182 seats, with an average vote share of 53 percent in these seats.

In 2012, more than half the voters, or a clear majority, in constituencies where the BJP won the Assembly elections voted for the BJP, showing strong support for the party.

Source: Election Commission of India

15 percent increase in BJP votes between 2012 and 2014

IndiaSpend analysed BJP’s vote share in all 115 Assembly constituencies won in the 2012 Gujarat poll, and compared it with the votes the party secured in the 2014 parliamentary elections in these same Assembly segments.

In these seats, between 2012 and 2014, BJP’s votes in Gujarat grew 15 percent–from about 9.1 million to about 10.5 million.

In the Assembly constituencies that the BJP won in 2012, the vote share of the party increased 12 percentage points from 53 percent in 2012 to 65 percent in the 2014 elections.

In 31 of the 115 seats the BJP won in the 2012 Gujarat Assembly polls, they had a margin of less than 10,000 votes–0.5 percent to 8 percent of the total votes cast in the constituency.

In a 'first past the post' system, where there are more than two parties contesting, the candidate who gets the highest number of votes is the winner. A thin margin means a very close contest, and in the following election the runner-ups may only have to pursue a few thousand extra voters to defeat the party that won the previous election.

But in Gujarat, even among the constituencies with the thinnest margin of victory for the BJP (of less than 10,000 votes) in 2012, Assembly segments from 2014 in all but two constituencies showed an increase in votes for the BJP. Only in two constituencies – Nizar in south-west Gujarat and Jamalpur-Khadia located in Ahmedabad district – did the Congress party candidate get more votes than the BJP candidate. This shows that BJP voters in its incumbent constituencies and Assembly segments did not change between 2012 and 2014.

These trends show that though this Gujarat election is different from previous ones – with Narendra Modi no longer leading the BJP in the state – there had been little anti-incumbency against the party until 2014. Still, the BJP in Gujarat has not been stable since Modi became the prime minister. Anandiben Patel succeeded Modi as the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2014 and in August 2016, Vijay Rupani from Rajkot west constituency took over the post.

Source: Election Commission of IndiaNote: *Vote-share in the assembly segment derived from the Lok Sabha constituency

BJP's winning streak in states after the 2014 national victory

Out of 29 states and two union territories (that have Assemblies and appoint chief ministers), 13 have BJP chief ministers at present.

After BJP’s sweeping win in the 2014 general elections, BJP won Maharashtra for the first time in 2014, with Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister. The same year, the BJP also won Haryana and Jharkhand. In 2016, the north-eastern state of Assam also appointed its first BJP chief minister.

In March 2017, the BJP returned to power in Uttar Pradesh after fifteen years, and also won in its sister state of Uttarakhand.

Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh were the most important victories for the BJP as these are the biggest states in India in terms of population, and appoint the maximum number of Members of Parliament (one-fifth of total) to the Council of States, the Rajya Sabha.


In Jammu and Kashmir's 2014 elections, the BJP – which secured the second position both in terms of seats won and vote-share after the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (JKPDP)–formed the state government with the JKPDP.

In 2017, Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar, from the political party Janata Dal United, broke the Mahagatbandhan (grand alliance) with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, and allied with the BJP.

In Gujarat, BJP in power for over two decades, contributes to high vote share

Gujarat is one of the few Indian states that have had long-serving chief ministers and political parties.

A long rule by one chief minister and his party contributes to a majority vote share for the party, state election data show. For instance, in West Bengal, where the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPM] ruled for 34 years, they had a 50.8 percent vote share in 2006, when they last won the state elections under CPM's second chief minister.

Similarly, in Odisha, where the Biju Janata Dal has been in power since 2000, it had a 43.4 percent vote share in the 2014 elections.

Vote Share For Parties Of Long-Serving CMs
State Chief Minister Political Party Last Election Won Contested vote share
West Bengal Budhadeb Bhattacharjee (2000-2011) Communist Party of India (M) 2006 50.8%
Odisha NavinPatniak (Since 2000) Biju Janata Dal 2014 43.4%
Gujarat NarendraModi (2001-2014) Bhartiya Janata Party 2012 48.3%
NCT Delhi Sheila Dixit (1998-2013) Indian National Congress 2008 40.3%
Chhattisgarh Raman Singh (Since 2003) Bhartiya Janata Party 2013 41.2%

Source: Election Commission of India

But over the past decade, two of these states have witnessed strong anti-incumbency against these long-serving governments, with a significant loss in vote share.

In West Bengal, the CPM, lost to the All India Trinamool Congress in the 2011 elections, with the CPM vote share reducing nine percentage points from 50.8 percent to 41.4 percent. The Trinamool Congress gained about 20 percentage points in their share of votes in the seats they contested, data from the two consecutive elections show.

Source: Election Commission of India

Similarly, in New Delhi, the Congress government, which had been in power for 15 years, lost the elections in 2013, resulting in a hung assembly, and its vote share reduced from 40.3 percent to 24.7 percent. In February 2015, after the Congress-Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alliance disbanded, the AAP formed a majority government in New Delhi.

Further, in the 2014 Parliamentary elections, the Congress' vote-share in New Delhi went to the BJP, a January 2015 IndiaSpend analysis of the Assembly segments showed.

Source: Election Commission of IndiaNote: Vote share is the proportion of votes every individual party got in the seats it contested for, it is not the proportion of overall votes the parties got hence it may add up to more than 100%.

(Tewari is a PhD scholar at the School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.)

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Updated Date: Dec 02, 2017 17:06:07 IST

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