LOT HAS CHANGED IN HINDI BELT SINCE 2014 POLL

Some marked changes have occurred in the political map of India in the recent past which are sure to have a bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Assembly elections held in December 2018 have broken the BJP’s North India hegemony.

The three Hindi heartland States where the BJP was in power a few months ago are now with the Congress.

For 15 years on the trot the saffron party had ruled Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In the 2018 Assembly polls it lost both to the Congress along with Rajasthan. All the three States were with the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and helped it to come to power at the Centre with a clear majority. The BJP had won 62 of the total 65 Lok Sabha seats from there.

Just more than a year ago the saffron party lost its grip on Punjab, conceding ground to the Congress. Observers feel that it was the Gujarat Assembly elections that changed the way people and political parties looked and perceived Narendra Bhai and his party. The BJP did win those elections and formed the government once again, but it did got a scare of its life.

Its tally in the House of 182 decreased sharply from 115 to 99, just seven past the majority mark. The Congress did exceptionally well, raising its seats in the Assembly from 61 to 81. New players, such as Patidar leader Hardik Patel, emerged on the scene, who have become formidable forces in their own right.

In Gujarat, there was a clear rural urban divide in the voting pattern with the BJP holding on to its urban citadels and the Congress giving it a formidable challenge in rural areas. The cotton and groundnut growing belt in Saurashtra is where the BJP suffered the most damage, suggesting farmers’ anger. Rural distress is also said to have played its part in BJP’s electoral reverses in the Hindi heartland as the party suffered heavier blows in rural constituencies and agriculture-dominated areas. Its popularity, however, also dropped across various demographics and urban areas too.

In Rajasthan, the BJP, which had won 163 of the total 200 Assembly seats in 2013, saw its number shrink to 63 in 2018, while the Congress’ seat share jumped from 23 to 101. The saffron party’s vote share decreased from 46.79 per cent to 39.39 per cent, while that of the Congress rose from 34.2 per cent to 39.39 per cent.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP’s seat share fell from 165 to 109 and its vote share from 44.9 per cent to 41 per cent, whereas the Congress’ seat share rose from 58 to 114 and its vote share from 36.4 per cent to 40.8 per cent. A strange phenomenon was seen here. Though BJP’s vote share was more than the Congress in 2018, it won lesser seats compared to the grand old party.

In Chhattisgarh, BJP saw its vote share slide sharply from 41.4 per cent to 33 per cent and the number of seats from 49 to 15, whereas the vote share of the Congress rose marginally from 40.71 per cent to 43 per cent, but its seats share shot up from 39 to 68, a massive gain of 29 seats.

The rural-urban divide in the Hindi hearland was quite apparent. The BJP suffered a 6 per cent point loss in the urban vote share but just 3 per cent in rural vote share. In contrast, its rural losses were significantly bigger in neighbouring Chhattisgarh where it lost 8 percentage points of the rural vote share.

In Punjab, the Congress increased its seat tally from 46 to 77, returning back to power after 10 years but its vote share declined by 1.61 per cent from 38.5 per cent to 40.1 per cent. The BJP’s vote share slid by 9.45 per cent from 34.75 per cent to 25.3 per cent. The decline in the vote share of these parties was taken by a new entrant, the Aam Aadmi Party which polled 23.7 per cent of the total votes. It won 20 seats.

Just as Mayawati’s BSP was a spoiler in the HIndi belt in 2018, so was Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP in Punjab in 2017. Karnataka had given the BJP 17 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The saffron party sure has a challenge this time in Karnataka from a combined Congress-JD (S) which won the Assembly polls held last year. The BJP, though got more seats than the Congress in the Assembly polls, the alliance of the Congress and the JD (S) would ensure that their votes don’t get divided this
time.

YASHWARDHAN JOSHI IS A JOURNALIST OF LONG STANDING AND COMMENTATOR ON ISSUES OF ADMINISTRATION AND SOCIAL ISSUES.

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