Opinion | Rahul's Rise, Ticket Troubles: 5 Reasons BJP Missed The Majority Mark

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The many layers of this year's Lok Sabha verdict are still unravelling. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to secure a simple majority of its own, falling short by 32 seats. It lost 63 seats on a net basis, with its tally down from 303 in 2019 to 240 this time. However, its vote share remained almost flat at 36.6%, just around one percentage point less than the previous election. 

In Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Manipur, and Rajasthan, where the BJP registered most of its seat losses, its drop in votes was at least five percentage points. In Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, it saw a rise in its vote shares, though this climb couldn't compensate for the losses suffered elsewhere.  

There are five key reasons the BJP failed to touch the majority mark.

1) BJP's Presidential Style Election Didn't Help

Like the last two elections, the BJP sought votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi this time as well, with slogans like "Modi ka Bharosa", "Modi ki Guarantee", "Phir ek baar Modi Sarkar" becoming its clarion calls. However, the absence of a national narrative and the interplay of local factors in various states queered the party's pitch. The number of people voting for the BJP in the name of PM Modi declined from 17% in 2019 to 10% this time, according to post-poll data collected by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). At the same time, the number of people voting in the name of local candidates rose from 31% to 36%.

2) Rahul Closes Leadership Gap With Modi 

In 2019, as many as 47% of respondents wanted to see Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, while only 23% favoured Rahul Gandhi. This year, Modi's rating in that regard dropped to 41%, while Rahul's improved to 27%. Modi's lead thus narrowed to 14 percentage points. 

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The improvement in Rahul's scores could be attributed to his two Bharat Jodo Yatras, where he mingled with voters covering thousands of kilometres. Meanwhile, the decline in Modi's ratings could be due to fatigue, overexposure, as well as natural anti-incumbency after a 10-year tenure. 

3) Modi Premium Reverts To 2014 Levels 

In 2019, nearly a third of BJP voters in the CSDS post-poll survey said they would not have voted for the party had Modi not been its prime ministerial candidate. Considering that the BJP's vote share that year was 37%, it can be construed that the Modi factor alone accounted for about 12% of the party's votes. In 2024, this premium declined to one-fourth, reverting to 2014 levels. So, even though the BJP received a similar vote share this year, only about 9% of the votes can be attributed to the Modi factor, a decline of three percentage points. 

4) Congress Forged Stronger Alliances 

The Congress formed strategic alliances in many states, in addition to the alliances made in 2019, mainly in Bihar and Tamil Nadu. Newer friendships comprised alliances with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Haryana, Goa, Delhi, Gujarat and Chandigarh, the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), the Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP) and Left parties in Rajasthan, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, and the National Conference in Jammu & Kashmir. 

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For 205 seats, the Congress had stronger alliances compared to 2019. Back then, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) could win just 17 of these seats. In contrast, this year, the INDIA bloc managed to bag 94 of these seats, a gain of 77. Meanwhile, the BJP, which won 157 of these seats in 2019, had to contend with a truncated tally of 92 this year.

5) Ticket Discontent

The BJP replaced 132 of its 303 MPs who had won in 2019 - a replacement ratio of 43%. The MPs replaced had a better strike rate of 72% against the 66% rate for the MPs retained. 

However, turncoats were a bigger factor; of the 441 seats the BJP vied for, 110 were contested by turncoat candidates. Of them, only 41 could win, a strike rate of 37%. That's almost half the strike rate of the MPs replaced. The BJP organisation clearly didn't wholeheartedly support these candidates. 

Further, the BJP dropped only 26% of its candidates in Uttar Pradesh, which turned the elections local and diluted the Ram Mandir and the Modi-Yogi factors. On the other hand, it dropped 15 of its MPs in Rajasthan. Here as well, it led to a lot of complications and heartburn. 

All of this, coupled with Opposition-driven fears that the BJP would change the Constitution and end reservations, damaged the party's prospects in 156 seats where the Scheduled Caste population is significant. Here, while the INDIA bloc gained 53 seats, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) lost 34, and others 19. 

(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