Opinion | In Numbers: How 'Stronghold' Seats Saved The Day For BJP

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The Modi 3.0 Cabinet has been sworn in and it is business as usual for the Prime Minister, who is currently in Italy for the G-7 summit. But many layers of the 2024 election mandate are still unravelling. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 293 seats, the Congress-led INDIA bloc bagged 232 in an unexpectedly tight election this time. The BJP was reduced to 240 seats from 303 in 2019, and the Congress almost doubled its tally from 52 to 99.  

The 2024 Math

In 2019, the BJP had won 175 of the 190 direct contests with the Congress with a strike rate of 92%. In contrast, the Congress could win only 15 such seats, with a strike rate of 8%. This year, the two parties faced off against each other in 215 seats. Of these, the BJP won 153 (a drop of 22 from last time) and the Congress 62 (an increase of 47), with strike rates of 71% and 29%, respectively. 

As for regional parties, in 2019, the direct contests with the BJP had totalled 185, of which the BJP won 128, with a strike rate of 69%. Regional players could win 57, with a strike rate of 31%. This year, the total number of such seats was reduced to 178. Of these, the BJP won 87 (a drop of 41) and regional parties 91 (a rise of 34), with strike rates of 49% and 51%, respectively.

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Also, of the 63 seats lost by the BJP in 2024, as many as 22 were bagged by the Congress and 41 by regional parties. 

The seats contested by both parties this time can broadly be divided into three categories based on how many times they've been won in the three elections since 2009: stronghold seats (won twice or thrice), battleground or 'moderate' seats (won just once), and difficult or 'weak' seats (ones that have never been won by a party). 

Stronghold Seats Formed A Majority of BJP's Tally

  • The BJP had 262 stronghold seats this time, of which it managed to retain 184, a success rate of 70%. The Congress won 36 and other parties won seven.
  • In the 82 battleground or 'moderate' seats, the BJP had a success rate of 37%, winning 30 seats. The Congress won 14 and other parties won 38.
  • Of the 199 difficult or 'weak' seats, including those that were contested by allies, the BJP won 26. The Congress won 49 and other parties won 124.

Thus, the 184 wins in stronghold seats account for three-quarters of the BJP's total tally of 240. They were what saved the party.

Stronghold Seats A Third Of Congress Tally 

  • The Congress this time, in contrast, had 51 stronghold seats, of which it could retain 34, a success rate of 67%. The BJP won 10, while other parties won seven.
  • Of its 183 battleground seats, the party won 41 this time. Its success rate here was 22%. The BJP, meanwhile, won 93 and other parties won 49 seats.
  • Of the 309 seats that were 'difficult' for the party - including seats that were contested by its allies - the Congress won 24. The BJP won 137 of the rest, while other parties got 148.

Thus, the 34 wins in stronghold seats account for a third of the Congress's total tally, though the party made gains in moderate and difficult seats too. 

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The most fascinating aspect of this election is that the Congress, which was routed in most direct contests with the BJP in 2019, has come out strong in these seats this time, winning almost 30% of them in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Telangana, among others. The party's showing has shattered the 'invincible' image of the BJP and also challenged the notion that only regional parties can defeat it.

Stronghold Seats of Both Congress & BJP Have Declined

With these results, the overall classification of seats stands altered. Stronghold seats (those that have been won three to four times since 2009) of the BJP have declined from 262 to 199, while the Congress's have dropped from 51 to 38. The battleground seats (won twice) stand at 93 and 54 for the BJP and the Congress, respectively, while difficult seats (won just once) are 78 and 166. 

Finally, there are 173 seats for the BJP and 285 for the Congress that can be considered weak, that is, they have never been won since 2009. Most of them were allocated to allies in the latest election. 

(Amitabh Tiwari is a political strategist and commentator. In his earlier avatar, he was a corporate and investment banker.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author