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Friday, January 27, 2023

What contributed to the BJP’s massive victory in Gujarat?

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president J.P. Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are felicitated at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi after the BJP’s historic win in Gujarat.
| Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

The voters of Gujarat have created electoral history in the State by delivering a historic mandate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) post-election survey shows the possible factors that contributed to the electoral success of the BJP. First, this was a clear vote for the party and not for the candidates. Second, a mere three percentage point increase in votes as compared to 2017 led to a massive increase in the share of seats, largely because of the emergence of a three-cornered contest in the State. Third, the reasonably high levels of satisfaction with the BJP-led Central and State governments could also have contributed to the result. Finally, in spite of highlighting issues such as price rise and unemployment, the people of Gujarat continued to place trust in Prime Minister Narendra Modi to find a solution to these issues.

An analysis of aggregate data indicates that the BJP’s impressive performance was the by-product of an increase in vote share from 2017 by a mere three percentage points. The Congress vote share fell by a sharp 14 percentage points and the vote share of other parties fell by around two percentage points (Table 1). The beneficiary (other than the BJP) was the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which saw a 12 percentage point rise in its vote share. This indicates the collapse of the bipolar competition in the State. Such a development was bound to have considerable impact on the electoral outcome in terms of seats.

The importance of the party as against individual candidates in determining vote choice varied across party supporters. Seven of every 10 of the BJP’s voters focused on the party when deciding their vote choice (Table 2). Two-third of the AAP’s supporters and six of every 10 of the Congress’s supporters focused on the party when deciding their vote choice.

Four of every 10 Congress voters focused on the candidate while voting. One-third of the AAP’s voters gave importance to the candidate when voting, while one-fourth of the BJP voters kept this factor in mind. The primacy of the party was clearly visible in the case of the BJP supporters.

The impact of the election campaign in making this choice was visible in the case of the BJP. Half of those who voted for the BJP stressed that they made their decision at the last minute (Table 3). This sentiment was also common among those who voted for the AAP and for the Congress, but this was much less intense as compared to those who said that they voted for the BJP. It is also important to note that close to one-fourth of those who voted for the BJP (22%) said that they decided who to vote for well before the campaign started. This percentage of committed voters was marginally less among those who voted for the Congress and the AAP. Thus, the BJP had an advantage among both groups — the committed party voters and the last-minute choosers.

The battle for power in Gujarat was truly fought in the regions. The combined vote share of the Congress and the AAP was not very different than that of the BJP in Saurashtra, though the ruling party was ahead. In north and central Gujarat, the BJP was way ahead of the combined strength of the two key rivals. The implication is clear: the division of the non-BJP vote between the Congress and AAP did help the BJP in some regions. A combined opposition may have only reduced the intensity of the victory and not prevented it (Table 4).

The BJP garnered support across demographic groups though there were variations in intensity. It performed better among the younger voters (less than 35 years) and the middle-aged voters (46-55 years) as compared to other age groups. The Congress and AAP drew more or less uniform support across age categories. While the BJP’s vote share increased among people with more access to education, the reverse was true of the Congress. The BJP performed better as the economic status of the respondents improved, and secured a higher percentage of vote in urban areas as compared to rural. The BJP increased its vote share among the upper castes, Patidars, Other Backward Classes, Dalits and Adivasis. As compared to 2017, its vote share among Muslims fell from 27% to 14%, while the Congress garnered close to two-third of the Muslim vote (64%) and the AAP secured one in every 10 of this vote.

The mandate for the BJP in Gujarat and its scale are truly unprecedented. This was categorically a vote in the name of Narendra Modi and on the basis of the endorsement of the performance of both the Central and State government. A divided opposition clearly increased the intensity of the BJP’s victory.

Sandeep Shastri is Vice Chancellor at Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal, and National Co-ordinator of the Lokniti network; Suhas Palshikar taught political science and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics; and Sanjay Kumar is Professor and Co-director Lokniti-CSDS



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