Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters sit in an auto rickshaw during a campaign rally in Maslandapur, West Bengal. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Popularity No Gauge for Winning Seats in India’s Elections

(Bloomberg) --

In the cut-throat election contest in India, political parties are focused on turning votes into winning seats. The reason -- history shows that a party can form a government by garnering support from just a quarter of the total electorate.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and Rahul Gandhi’s main opposition Congress party are trying to raise vote shares -- the percentage of total votes polled -- in their favor as the country’s election moves into its final phase.

In India’s first-past-the-post system, with a large number of contenders for each seat, the winner just needs to get enough votes to win. The person doesn’t need to get most of the popular votes. For instance in 2014, Bhujan Samaj Party garnered 4.2% of the votes but failed to win a single constituency, while the Communist Party of India lured 0.79% of the votes and managed to wrest 1 seat. The BJP with 31.3% vote share won 282.

Popularity No Gauge for Winning Seats in India’s Elections

One crucial factor that affects winning elections is number of candidates in the fray in a constituency and how the votes are distributed among them, said N. Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, a New Delhi-based think tank.

The number of votes polled for a party might be a barometer for its popularity, but what ultimately matters are seats -- a single party or allied group of parties needs 272 in the lower house of the parliament to beat others to form the government.

Popularity No Gauge for Winning Seats in India’s Elections

In Madhya Pradesh state assembly polls in December, the Congress and BJP’s vote share was almost equal, but Congress won five more seats than its rival and formed the government. Similarly in Rajasthan, the difference in votes between BJP and Congress was just 0.5%, but Congress wrested power from BJP by winning in 16 more seats.

Popularity No Gauge for Winning Seats in India’s Elections

WHAT TO WATCH:

  • Modi to address rallies in Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab
  • Rahul Gandhi to address public meetings in Punjab

IN THE MEDIA:

  • Ghosts of ‘Hindu Vahini’ Past Haunt UP Chief Minister, BloombergQuint Says
  • Modi’s Party to Scrap Law Giving Special Powers to Kashmir, PTI Reports
  • Time calls Modi India’s Divider in Chief
  • Modi Pledges Wide-Ranging Reforms if He Is Re-elected: Indian Express

ELECTION & MARKETS:

  • Election spending helped some Hindi-language newspapers. Print advertisement revenue at HT Media and Hindustan Media Ventures rose about 9% in the March quarter, according to Batlivala & Karani
  • A jump in investment after the elections will help boost Shriram Transport Finance’s asset under management by as much as 20% next year, Edelweiss Broking Ltd. said
  • Bond yields eased in May but the future “trajectory” will depend on election outcome, oil prices and U.S.-China trade talks, Bank of Baroda said in a note to clients
  • The rupee may appreciate to 67-68 level to the dollar over the next three months should the elections return a stable government, Yes Bank Ltd. said in a report to clients

LATEST COMMENTS:

  • "Please do not shed crocodile tears. If you are serious, why don’t you withdraw support to the Congress government in Rajasthan,” said Modi in election meetings over the gang rape of a Dalit girl in Alwar, referring to Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, a leader of underprivileged group
  • “In the wake of this (Alwar) incident, Modi is doing dirty politics,” Mayawati said in a press note. "The BSP will take a required political decision soon, but why is the prime minister not taking moral responsibility for the incidents in the past, such as Una flogging incident, Rohith Vemula case or other cases pertaining to Dalit atrocities? Why is he not resigning?"

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ECONOMY:

  • India’s Central Bank Chief Seen as Safe No Matter Who Wins Vote
  • Slackening Consumer Demand Reins in Animal Spirits in India
  • India Jobless Rate Doubles Since 2011 Amid World-Beating Growth
  • RBI Inflation Goals Need to Be Reviewed, India PM’s Adviser Says
  • History Suggests India Rupee Is Set for a Post-Election Hangover

EARLIER STORIES:

  • Finally! World’s Worst Air Emerges as an Election Issue in India
  • Private Jets Booked Up Across India to Give Modi Campaign Edge
  • Cash, Booze and Gold: India Seizures Surge Compared to 2014 Vote
  • Modi vs Who? India’s Ruling Party Pushes Presidential Election
  • Young, Angry and ‘Untouchable’: India’s Low-Caste Threat to Modi
  • Tackling Rising Hate Speech in the World’s Biggest Election
  • India’s Gen Z Voters’ Call for 2019 Election: More Jobs, Please

QUICKTAKE:

  • It’s Started! Your Guide to India’s Marathon Election
  • Why Election Goodies Await India’s Struggling Farmers
  • Why India’s Lower Castes Could Hold Key to Election
  • Why India and Pakistan Keep On Clashing: QuickTake

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