Lok Sabha election 2014: Big margins show voters were decisive
On 76 seats, the victory margin was less than 15,000 votes (0-5k in 25 seats, 5-10k in 24 seats, 10-15k in 27 seats). Congress won 34 (runner up 23) and BJP 22 (runner up 26) in these close battles.
Two key things pointed to an even closer contest in 2014
(i) High fever campaign: It was a high-tech campaign, extravagant spending by parties. Lots at stake. Campaign touched low levels with personal attacks on top leaders and allegations of black money being used in elections. The country was polarized between pro-Modi and anti-Modi camps and each ensuring that they vote to defeat the other. Rise in voting percentage was witness to this fact.
(ii) Multi-cornered contest: A lot of States were facing 3 / 4 cornered contests. This was either due to emergence of new parties or Modi who ran a relentless campaign to increase BJP presence even in its non-traditional vote-bank regions.
(a) West Bengal (42 seats)
It faced a 4-cornered contest. Traditionally it has been a Congress vs Left battle, Congress position replaced by TMC more than a decade ago. In 2009, Mamata and Congress had an alliance, so a direct fight was between UPA and Left. This time Mamata and Congress parted ways. The Modi wave resulted in a TMC vs Left vs Congress vs BJP contest.
(b) Tamil Nadu (39 seats)
It has traditionally been a DMK vs AIADMK battle. National parties like Congress / BJP usually align with any of these. Last time Congress plus DMK took on AIADMK. This time DMK was not with Congress. Besides, BJP stitched together a grand alliance of smaller parties (DMDK, MDMK, PMK). Hence it was a 4-cornered contest.
(c) Uttar Pradesh (80 seats)
Even in 2009 it was a 4-cornered contest (BJP vs BSP vs SP vs Congress). Severe polarisation was expected as Muslims feared the BJP. Muzaffarnagar riots added fuel to the fire. Majority of the seats were expected to witness very close contests.
(d) Andhra Pradesh (42 seats)
In 2009 it was essentially a Congress vs (TDP + TRS) fight. With bifurcation, stakes were high. Telengana was witnessing a 3 cornered contest (TRS vs Congress vs NDA) with Rao refusing to align with Congress post announcement of a separate state, a promise he made earlier. Its partner of last elections Naidu was with BJP this time. All three alliances were claiming credit for creation of Telangana.
In Seemandhra, Jagan Reddy’s newly formed party (YSR Congress) emerged as strong contender. TDP and BJP were giving it a tough fight. Though Congress was decimated, it was expected to garner support of some of its traditional vote-bank and cause a split of votes.
(e) Delhi (7 seats)
Delhi has always been a Congress vs BJP fight. Emergence of AAP made this fight triangular. AAP formed Government early this year with outside support of Congress but resigned in 49 days on the issue of Lokpal. They seem to have lost some support due to this, but Delhi is their karmabhoomi and they were expected to make a dent into both Congress and BJP vote share.
(f) Odisha (21 seats)
In 2009, Odisha witnessed a triangular contest (Congress vs BJP vs BJD), but BJP after separation from BJD has been weakened. It got nil seats in 2009. Modi magic was expected to make it an intense battle.
This made a total of 231 seats (43 per cent of Lok Sabha strength) where the contest was multi-cornered and victory margins were expected to be less. AAP also positioned itself as a contender and caught the imagination of voters. It was expected to make an impact in 53 predominantly urban constituencies.
Results were the opposite! Candidates romped home with huge margins
Despite things pointing to a photo finish, BJP won landslide victory winning 282 seats and majority on its own.
In 2009, 404 seats were decided on a victory margin of less than or equal to 1 lakh votes. In 2014 this number declined by 47 per cent and only 190 seats were decided by less than 1 lakh votes. The number of seats with lesser margins reduced while number of seats with higher margins increased manifold.
BJP won 206 / 282 seats (73 per cent) with a victory margin of greater than 1 lakh votes. NDA won 237 such seats out of its total tally of 336. TMC, AIADMK and BJD won 74 seats with greater than1 lakh margin.
So why did victory margins increase compared to 2009?
(i) Voting percentages increased from 58.2 per cent to 66.38 per cent. Usually, high turnouts imply bad news for incumbent Governments.
(ii) Hindus, who comprise of 80 per cent of the national population on an average, polarized their voting in favor of BJP.
(iii) There were 100 million new and 23.1 million or 2.7 per cent of the total eligible voters were aged 18–19 years. These people are educated and are impacted by social media where BJP had considerable presence.
(iv) 10 years of UPA misrule, high persistent inflation, corruption scandals and low job creation led to massive anti-incumbency wave against Congress. This anti-establishment vote in most States went to BJP except for Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal.
“The little children( young democracy of India) shall lead them.)”