Modi's mandate is larger than you think: more like 40%

The BJP's vote share of 31 percent looks small, but if you consider that the party contested only 428 seats, its actual vote share is much higher - 40 percent. This is actually an unprecedented mandate in post-Rajiv India.

R Jagannathan May 23, 2014 16:16:58 IST
Modi's mandate is larger than you think: more like 40%

Ever since Gopalkrishna Gandhi tried to pretend that Narendra Modi"s mandate was smaller than imagined, given that the BJP received only 31 percent of the popular vote, his flawed views have been widely criticised. While some have pointed out that the 31 percent figure excludes the votes of his NDA partners who fought under his leadership (the NDA got 38.2 percent overall), others have said that in multi-party systems in the west no party usually crosses a 40 percent vote share; as for the gold standard of mandates – a 50-percent-plus vote – it happens only in two-party races.

Raju Limbachiya, a Modi supporter, has done some painstaking number-crunching to prove that Modi's direct vote share is actually far higher than his 31 percent suggests - and possibly closer to 40 percent overall. Reason: the 31 percent relates to BJP votes in the whole country, when it actually fought only 428 seats. If we take the BJP’s vote share in the seats it contested, the party’s figure is closer to 40 percent on an average. That’s as good a mandate as you can get anywhere in the world.

Modis mandate is larger than you think more like 40

Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi after victory. AP

My own numbers (drawn from the Election Commission website) show that Modi got more than 50 percent of the vote in six states (Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal, Uttarakhand, and Goa), 50 percent (along with allies) in one more state (Maharashtra), over 40 percent in five states (UP, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, and Karnataka), and over (or near) 30 percent in four states (Bihar, Haryana, Assam, and – yes – even Jammu & Kashmir).

Outside the tiny states, the BJP scored below par in only Andhra Pradesh (where ally TDP did the honours), Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala. It may surprise people to know that the BJP is the party with the biggest vote share even in J&K with 32.4 percent, though one must admit that this is because the vote in Jammu was far higher than in the Kashmir Valley.

Raju Limbachiya’s numbers are more telling. They show (see table 2) how strong the BJP’s mandate has been in the seats it won, especially since the party contested only 428 seats.

In 29 seats (see table 1), the BJP simply overwhelmed its rivals by winning 60 percent of the vote. In 139 seats (including the 29 above), it was a clear voter choice winning 50 percent or more of the vote. In 251 constituencies, it got more than 40 percent – a benchmark in most multi-party democracies. The interesting point is that even with 40 percent, the BJP lost 10 seats.

In seats where the BJP got 30 percent or more, the BJP won 282 (its final seat tally) – and lost 36 seats.

In high polling constituencies, where more than 10 lakh votes were polled, the BJP won 153 seats of the 242 seats (see Table 2). In medium polling seats (total votes of 5-10 lakh votes), the BJP won 121 of 172 seats contested.  In other words, the BJP won a larger share in a larger voter base.

The conclusion is clear: in the seats it contested, the BJP polled around 40 percent of the vote, and the 31 percent final number for the BJP seems relatively low – but higher than any other party’s achievement in 30 years - because of the 115 seats it did not contest.

It is unlikely that any party could have got this kind of mandate to rule. The mandate is for Modi and the BJP, and less for its allies.

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