Swing seats hold the keys to fortunes of BJP & Congress in Gujarat


Campaigning for the second and last phase of keenly contested Gujarat elections ended today. Both star campaigners Modi and Rahul held rallies and tried their best to muster in the extra votes which would help them cross the halfway mark. Voting for Phase 1 was held on Saturday for 89 seats of Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat. Turnout for 54 seats in Saurashtra & Kutch was down 5.4% and South Gujarat down 3.1% despite a high pitched campaign.Campaigning for the second and last phase of keenly contested Gujarat elections ended today. Both star campaigners Modi and Rahul held rallies and tried their best to muster in the extra votes which would help them cross the halfway mark. Voting for Phase 1 was held on Saturday for 89 seats of Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat. Turnout for 54 seats in Saurashtra & Kutch was down 5.4% and South Gujarat down 3.1% despite a high pitched campaign.

BJP has significant pockets of stronghold in Gujarat

There are 50 assembly seats which BJP has won in each of the past 4 elections in 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012. 20 of these seats are in North Gujarat, 15 in Saurashtra & Kutch, 10 in South and 5 in Central Gujarat. These strong holds are one of the prime reasons for continued dominance in past 2 decades in Gujarat. They make up on an average 42% of seat tally of BJP in each elections and 54% of seats required for a simple majority. In contrast, there are only 4 seats which Congress has bagged in each of these 4 elections. 3 of them are reserved seats, where traditionally Congress has fared better than BJP.

BJP’s retention ratio is on a decline

Retention ratio is defined as number of seats a party is able to keep hold of in the next elections. BJP has been able to retain 87 and 88 seats in 2002 and 2007 elections. This came down to 74 in 2012. 50 stronghold seats discussed above help achieve this high ratio. Congress on the other hand is able to retain on an average 20 odd seats in each elections.

However, BJP’s retention ration is continuously on a decline path from 74% in 2002 to 63% in 2012. Resultantly, the percentage of seats it is losing in each election has been rising steadily from 26% to 37% during the same period. In contrast, Congress’s retention ratio doesn’t depict a clear trend, it increased in 2007 and then dipped in 2012. Its loss ratio is of course higher than BJP.

The number of swing seats have witnessed an increasing trend

The last 4-5 elections in Gujarat since 1995 have seemingly borne striking similarities.

• BJP seat tally in range of 115-125
• Congress seat tally in range of 55-60
• BJP maintaining a lead of 10% vote share over Congress

However, the elections are also characterized by a significant number of swing seats, seats which have been changing hands in each elections compared to previous elections. In 2002, 76 seats had different winners compared to 1998. This number has increased to 88 seats in 2012. In 88 seats, voters threw out the incumbent MLA of 2007 and voted for the other major party. Both Congress and BJP won 41 of these seats each. 48 of these seats are in rural while 40 in urban areas. This depicts anti-incumbency at constituency level. There are 26 strong swing seats which have voted alternately for BJP and Congress in each of the past 4 elections of 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012. BJP won half of such seats in 2012 while Congress / Others the balance half.

Swing Seats & Winning Party 

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Swing seats hold the keys to results in 2017

The number of swing seats is likely to register an increase in these elections, as retentions are likely to reduce further. (To note, in 2012, 94 seats were retained by BJP and Congress combined while 88 seats changed hands.) BJP is facing Patidar wrath in 20 out of its 50 strong hold seats as they are based in Saurasthra, Kutch and Central Gujarat, hub of reservation agitation. On 10 strong hold seats in South Gujarat it is facing traders ire due to demonetization and GST. BJP’s performance in the swing seats is likely to determine its tally in the 2017 polls.

The article was first published here.

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