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Summing Up Key Electoral Outcomes in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017

Ahmedabad| The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) succeeded in coming back to power in Gujarat, which is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. For a party that has ruled the state for 22 years, wining this election was not an easy task. Massive anti-incumbency factor, growing social discontentment [in the form of Patel reservation movement, Dalit agitation and demands from other backward castes], persistent agrarian distress, setbacks to small businesses in the aftermath of demonetization shock and poorly designed and implemented Goods & Services Tax (GST), deteriorating transport and health infrastructure, and losses due to heavy floods in selected areas of the state recently have all been conducive for an environment seeking change. Despite these factors acting against the chance of retaining power while facing stiff competition put forth by a rejuvenated opposition under the leadership of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, BJP crossed the majority marks in the Gujarat Assembly Election 2017. However, this time BJP secured only 99 seats, which is 16 seats less than what it achieved in 2012 and far below the party’s stated target of 150 seats. The Congress party with its alliance partners (Bharatiya Tribal Party and one Independent backed by Congress) secured 80 seats, falling short of 12 seats from 92 seats needed for a majority.

Key results from this intensely contested assembly election could be summarized with following stylized facts:

(1) Except Saurashtra, all other four regions like Central Gujarat, Kachchh, North Gujarat, and South Gujarat stood solidly behind BJP. Congress, notwithstanding aggressive campaigning by Rahul Gandhi, utterly failed in wresting any seats from BJP in Central Gujarat while incumbent ruling party has lost merely 1 seat each in Kachchh, North Gujarat and South Gujarat (Table-1). Only in the case of Saurashtra, BJP lost hugely with 13 seats, which became the largest gain for Congress. It is apparent that BJP has been successful in containing the impact of adverse factors like Patel resentment, problems faced by SMEs, rural distress and dismal job opportunity in all regions except Saurashtra. Even the highest voter turnout of 73.3 percent in North Gujarat, which is the traditional strong hold of Congress and starting point for Patel reservation stir, could not dented the existing seats of the BJP in Gujarat assembly tells that the incumbent has been more than successful in overcoming all the odds to capture the power. In South Gujarat, BJP’s voting share stood 19.2 percentage points higher than Congress while same was 11.2 percentage points in Central Gujarat.

Table-1 Congress and BJP Performance in Different Regions in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017

Regions 2017 2012
Voter Turnout (%) Votes Share (%) No. of Seats Won No. of Seats Won
BJP Congress BJP Congress BJP Congress
Central Gujarat 69.1 50.6 39.4 37 22 37 22
Kachchh 65.8 42.5 45.7 4 2 5 1
North Gujarat 73.3 45.5 44.4 14 17 15 17
Saurashtra 65.8 45.8 45.2 19 29 32 15
South Gujarat 69.7 55.4 36.2 25 7 26 6
Grand Total 69.0 49.1 41.4 99 77 115 61

Source: Author’s calculation based on data from Election Commission of India (2017).

BJP’s loss of 3 seats (2 in Ahmedabad district and 1 in Vadodara district in 2017 as compared to its seats’ strength in 2012) in Central Gujarat was compensated by its gain of 1 seat each in Kheda, Mahisagar and Panchmahal (Table-2). As compared to 2012, within North Gujarat BJP has lost 2 seats in Patan and 1 seat in Banaskantha but it captured 2 new seats in Sabarkantha. BJP has not been successful in wining any seat in Arvalli district of North Gujarat since 2012. In South Gujarat, BJP lost 2 seats (1 each in Bharuch and Tapi district) but added 1 new seat from Valsad.  While Dangs continued to be with Congress since 2012 in South Gujarat, BJP zeroed out in Tapi district as well. The most reversal for incumbent party could be seen in Saurahtra where BJP’s tally got reduced to 19 in 2017 from 32 in 2012. In this region, the combination of Patel disenchantment, rural crisis and anti-incumbency factors turn very effective against BJP. In Amreli, Gir Somnath and Morbi districts, BJP came out empty handed while as compared to its 2012 tally, it lost 3 seats each in Botad and Surendranagar, 2 each in Amreli, Morbi and Porbandar, 1 seat each in Devbhumi Dwarka, Gir Somnath and Jamnagar. The only solace for BJP in Saurahtra came from Bhavnagar where it managed to hold on its 2012 position and added 2 more seats in Rajkot.

Table-2 Vote share and number of seats won by BJP and Congress in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017

District Name 2017 2012
Vote Share (%) No. of Seats Won No. of Seats Won
BJP Congress BJP Congress BJP Congress
Central Gujarat 50.6 39.4 37 22 37 22
Ahmedabad 56.0 36.5 15 6 17 4
Anand 43.7 48.9 2 5 2 4
Chhota Udepur 46.3 44.6 1 2 1 2
Dahod 46.9 45.7 3 3 3 3
Kheda 44.5 44.9 3 3 2 4
Mahisagar 40.0 39.9 1 1 3
Panchmahal 51.0 33.5 4 3 2
Vadodara 54.0 33.7 8 2 9
Kachchh 42.5 45.7 4 2 5 1
North Gujarat 45.5 44.4 14 17 15 17
Arvalli 44.9 49.1 3 3
Banaskantha 44.1 40.5 3 5 4 5
Gandhinagar 51.0 43.4 2 3 2 3
Mahesana 45.6 45.2 5 2 5 2
Patan 41.0 47.9 1 3 3 1
Sabarkantha 46.9 45.9 3 1 1 3
Saurashtra 45.8 45.2 19 29 32 15
Amreli 42.8 50.8 5 2 2
Bhavnagar 50.7 41.0 6 1 6 1
Botad 42.7 35.5 1 2 4
Devbhumi Dwarka 45.1 46.8 1 1 2
Gir Somnath 41.6 53.3 4 1 3
Jamnagar 47.3 45.1 2 3 3 2
Morbi 41.5 48.0 3 2 1
Porbandar 42.4 46.0 2 4 4 1
Rajkot 51.9 42.3 6 2 4 4
Surendranagar 43.9 48.3 1 4 4 1
South Gujarat 55.4 36.2 25 7 26 6
Bharuch 48.6 31.6 3 1 4
Dangs 46.5 47.1 1 1
Navsari 55.1 40.0 3 1 3 1
Surat 59.6 33.1 15 1 15 1
Tapi 40.6 53.8 2 1 1
Valsad 56.8 38.1 4 1 3 2
Grand Total 49.1 41.4 99 77 115 61

Source: Same as Table-1

(2) It is simplistic and exaggeration to say that BJP did well in urban areas while Congress performed good in rural areas in the Gujarat Assembly Election 2017. When the share of urban population ranged from 6.7 percent to 13.3 percent as one moves across districts like Chhota Udepur, Dahod, Tapi, Dangs, Arvalli and Banaskantha, the total number of seats won by Congress led alliance stood at 17 while BJP succeeded in securing only 7 seats (Figure-1). These districts are dominantly rural and Congress led alliance comparatively did well than BJP. However, when urbanization quotient (i.e. share of urban population in total population) increased from 17 percent to 25 percent over districts like Mahisagar, Panchmahal, Sabarkantha, Patan, Kheda and Mahesana, one observed that BJP won a total of 17 seats as compared to 10 seats of Congress led alliance. These districts may also be taken as rural dominated as only 25 percent of their total population lives in urban areas. The performance of Congress led alliance over BJP in terms of seat won increased when one considers districts having urbanization quotient from 26 percent to 32 percent (Amreli, Gir Somnath, Surendranagar, Anand, Navsari, Devbhumi Dwarka and Botad) and Congress came out with 23 seats while BJP with just 8 seats. Thereafter, districts with urban population share ranging from 34 percent to 52 percent, the BJP had captured 23 seats while Congress led alliance won 19 seats, thus, BJP having a narrow edge over this range of urbanization levels. Nevertheless, districts having 60 percent urbanization or more (Rajkot, Vadodara, Surat and Ahmedabad) are found to have provide highest gain to BJP who has secured 44 seats and Congress was contained with 11 seats only. This shows that parties’ comparative electoral advantages are more pronounced at extreme ends of urbanization level: at very low level of urbanization (i.e. very rural areas) Congress’s electoral performance was superior to that of BJP while at very high level or urbanization (exceeding 60%) it is the advantage BJP over Congress. However, in the areas with urbanization levels lying between these two extremes, the performance of BJP and Congress vary depending upon different ranges.

Figure-1: Urbanization level of districts and Electoral Performance of BJP and Congress Led Alliance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Same as Table-1.

(3) BJP has been the dominant winner of unreserved seats as compared to Congress led alliance while in the case of reserved assembly constituencies its electoral performance has been contrasting between SC and ST seats. A total of 83 unserved seats went to BJP as compared to 57 open seats won by Congress in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017.  Out of 13 SC seats, BJP won 7 seats (53.8 percent) as compared to 6 seats won by Congress led alliance (Table-3). BJP’s electoral strategies have been seriously tested in 27 ST assembly seats, where it could manage to win only 9 seats (33.3 percent) while Congress led alliance stood with 17 seats (63.0 percent). In terms of vote share, BJP accounted for half of votes polled for unreserved seats as compared to about 42 per cent vote share of Congress (Table-4). Out of total votes for SC seats, BJP with 48.7 percent share is far ahead of Congress led alliance that had 41 percent share. Clearly, Dalits in Gujarat have stood with BJP despite rising incidents of Dalit atrocities like flogging of Dalits in Una in 2016, attack on Dalits for attending Garba or sporting a moustache in 2017, etc. The division of votes in seats reserved for STs shows that about 45 percent share each went to BJP and Congress led alliance. However, despite polling equal share of tribal votes in reserved ST seats, BJP substantially lagged Congress in number of seats won. Overall these findings suggest that BJP has enjoyed higher preference of voters in unserved assembly seats as well in SC reserved seats but in reserved tribal assembly constituencies, voters have equally preferred BJP and Congress led alliance.

Table-3: Distribution of Open and Reserved Assembly Seats between BJP and Congress Alliance

Region Name Open Seats SC Seats ST Seats
BJP Congress+ BJP Congress+ BJP Congress+
Central Gujarat 31 (64.6) 16 (33.3) 2 (66.7) 1 (33.3) 4 (40.0) 5 (50.0)
Kachchh 3 (60.0) 2 (40.0) 1 (100.0)
North Gujarat 12 (46.2) 14 (53.8) 2 (66.7) 1 (33.3) 3 (100.0)
Saurashtra 18 (41.9) 24 (55.8) 1 (20.0) 4 (80.0) 2 (100.0)
South Gujarat 19 (95.0) 1 (5.0) 1 (100.0) 5 (41.7) 7 (58.3)
Grand Total 83 (58.5) 57 (40.1) 7 (53.8) 6 (46.2) 9 (33.3) 17 (63.0)

Note: Congress+ implies Congress including alliance partner Bharatiya Tribal Party and 1 independent candidate backed by Congress in North Gujarat; Percentage share to total seats is in parenthesis.

Source: Same as Table-1.

Table-4: Votes shares of BJP and Congress Alliance in Open and Reserved Assembly Seats, 2017

Region Name Open Seats SC Seats ST Seats
BJP Congress+ BJP Congress+ BJP Congress+
Central Gujarat 51.4 38.9 55.0 40.5 45.1 43.4
Kachchh 40.5 46.9 52.6 39.2
North Gujarat 45.9 45.5 47.0 46.5 40.9 49.9
Saurashtra 46.4 45.5 43.2 50.9 41.0 49.4
South Gujarat 60.1 34.6 58.6 37.0 47.6 44.6
Grand Total 49.8 41.7 48.7 41.0 45.5 45.2

Note: Congress+ implies Congress including alliance partner Bharatiya Tribal Party and 1 independent candidate backed by Congress in North Gujarat; Percentage share to total seats is in parenthesis.

Source: Same as Table-1

(4) Voters’ dissent through NOTA has been relatively strong in Central Gujarat and North Gujarat while NOTA votes exceeded winning margins of 30 constituencies in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017. Voters in the state of Gujarat have actively used the option of ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) in this 2017 assembly election. A total of 5,51,615 voters exercised their negative voting or expressed their dissent against all the contestants, particularly the political parties. NOTA accounted for 1.8 percent of total votes polled in the Gujarat assembly election 2017 (Figure-2).

The Central Gujarat has accounted for largest share of NOTA votes (36.1%), followed by Saurashtra (23.8%), North Gujarat (20.0%), South Gujarat (15.7%) and lastly Kachchh with the lowest share of 4.5 percent. Among district, the largest share of NOTA lies with Ahmedabad (10.0%) and then comes Banaskantha (6.1%), Surat (5.8%), Vadodara (5.1%), Dahod (4.9%), and Kachchh (4.5%) in that order.

Figure-2: Regional Structure of NOTA in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Same as Table-1

The importance of NOTA in total votes vary across different regions and districts in Gujarat. The NOTA vote share in the case of Kachchh (2.6%), Central Gujarat (2.0%) and North Gujarat (2.0%) exceeded the average NOTA vote share for Gujarat (1.8%). Among districts, the highest NOTA vote share is recorded for Chhota Udepur (3.4%), followed by Dahod (3.1%), Panchmahal (2.6%), Arvalli (2.2%), Tapi (2.2%), Gandhinagar (2.2%) and Sabarkantha (2.2%). All the top three districts with higher NOTA vore shares, namely Chhota Udepur, Dahod and Panchmahal falls in Central Gujarat suggesting that voters in this region were relatively most unhappy with the political class than voters from elsewhere. Voter’s dissent against the political class was second highest in North Gujarat possessing Arvalli, Gandhinagar and Sabarkantha.

It is important to note that voters in reserved constituencies for STs have shown highest NOTA vote shares of 2.5 percent, followed by SC seats (1.9%) and open seats (1.7%) [Table-5]. ST seats in Central Gujarat and North Gujarat with 3.2 and 3.1 percent of NOTA vote shares respectively points to the fact that tribal areas are dissatisfied with the political regime that has given inadequate attention to their developmental and basic needs covering education, health, basic infrastructure and jobs. The prevalence of higher vote share of NOTA in reserved constituencies may not just indicate voters’ disapproval of the state policies and political parties running in the fray but also their resentment for the way these marginalized groups are empowered till now in the present political system.

Table-5 NOTA vote shares by Reserved Constituencies

Region Name NOTA share in total votes (%)
Open Seats SC Seat ST Seats Grand Total
Central Gujarat 1.8 1.6 3.2 2.0
Kachchh 2.7 2.4 2.6
North Gujarat 1.8 2.0 3.1 2.0
Saurashtra 1.7 1.9 1.7 1.7
South Gujarat 1.3 2.3 1.9 1.6
Grand Total 1.7 1.9 2.5 1.8

Source: Same as Table-1

For a total of 30 assembly constituencies, NOTA votes exceeded the winning margins (i.e. difference in number of votes drawn by the winning candidate and that by the next best trailing candidate) indicating that the NOTA played a role in the election results to these constituencies (Table-6). Out of these 30 seats, BJP has won 15 seats, Congress 23 seats and independent succeeded in capturing 2 seats. In the absence of NOTA option, NOTA voters would have voted for contesting candidates leading to changes in the electoral outcomes for rival political parties.

Table-6 Number of Seats where NOTA Votes Exceeded Winning Margins

Region Name No. of Constituencies
BJP Independent Congress Total
Central Gujarat 7 2 3 12
North Gujarat 4 4 8
Saurashtra 3 4 7
South Gujarat 1 2 3
Grand Total 15 2 13 30

Source: Same as Table-1

(5) In the neck and neck fight between the incumbent BJP and opposition Congress led alliance, it is the presence of independent candidates and smaller parties in the fray that have lowered the chance of Congress to reach the majority mark in the Gujarat assembly. Given that incumbent BJP was contesting with 22 years of anti-incumbency, entry of independents and other political parties is expected to harm the chances of main opposition party as they are likely to cause division of votes against the ruling party.  For instance, adding 6 percent of vote shares together accounted by independents (4.3%), Bahujan Samaj Party (0.7%), Aama Admi Party (0.1%), Nationalist Congress Party (0.6%), and All India Hindustan Congress Party (0.3%) to that claimed by Congress (41.4%) would translate into 47.4 percent vote share (Table-7). Further, adding 0.47 percent vote share of Bharatiya Tribal Party would take opposition’s vote share to 48.14 which is quite comparable to the vote share of BJP in the election.

Table-7: Votes Share of Selected Political Parties in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017

Region Name Vote Share (%)
BJP Congress Independent BSP AAP NCP AIHCP
Central Gujarat 50.6 39.4 4.9 0.7 0.1 0.7 0.3
Kachchh 42.5 45.7 6.1 0.9 0.1 0.3 0.1
North Gujarat 45.5 44.4 6.3 0.7 0.0 0.3 0.2
Saurashtra 45.8 45.2 2.9 0.9 0.1 1.0 0.3
South Gujarat 55.4 36.2 2.8 0.4 0.1 0.3 0.2
Grand Total 49.1 41.4 4.3 0.7 0.1 0.6 0.3

Note: BSP- Bahujan Samaj Party, AAP- Aama Admi Party, NCP-Nationalist Congress Party, AIHCP- All India Hindustan Congress Party.

Source: Same as Table-1.

It is a fact that votes drawn by independent candidates together exceeded winning margins for as many as 36 seats while the votes received by BSP exceeded winning margins for 8 seats and same figure for NCP, AIHCP and AAP respectively stood at 6, 4 and 2 seats. Votes received by independents and all these parties taken together exceeded winning margins for a total of 49 seats, which suggest that Congress’ ability to fight ruling BJP has been seriously dented (Table-9). Out of these 49 seats, 24 seats have been won by BJP. Assuming that votes polled by independents and these selected parties were diverted from the pool of voters looking at alternative to ruling BJP, they did make a difference to the electoral performance of Congress at least in the case of 24 seats that were won by BJP.

Table-8: No. of Seats Where Votes Polled by Independent and Selected Political Parties Exceeded Winning Margin in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017

Region Name No. of Seats
Independents BSP AAP NCP AIHCP ALL
Central Gujarat 11 2 1 3 1 16
Kachchh 1 0 0 0 0 1
North Gujarat 11 2 0 2 1 14
Saurashtra 9 4 1 0 0 13
South Gujarat 4 0 0 1 2 5
Grand Total 36 8 2 6 4 49

Note: Excluding 3 seats won by independent, 2 seats by Bharatiya Tribal Party and 1 seat won by NCP.

Source: Same as Table-1.

Table-9: List of constituencies where Votes Polled by Independent and Selected Political Parties Exceeded Winning Margin in Gujarat Assembly Election 2017

Sr. No. Constituency Winning Party Trailing Party Margin (No. of votes) Votes polled if exceeding winning margin equal 1, otherwise 0.
Independents BSP AAP NCP AIHCP ALL
1 Kaprada Congress BJP 170 0 0 0 0 1 1
2 Godhra BJP Congress 258 1 1 0 0 1 1
3 Dholka BJP Congress 327 1 1 0 1 0 1
4 Mansa Congress BJP 524 1 1 0 0 0 1
5 Dangs Congress BJP 768 1 0 0 1 1 1
6 Botad BJP Congress 906 1 1 0 0 0 1
7 Deodar Congress BJP 972 1 0 0 0 0 1
8 Chhota Udaipur Congress BJP 1093 1 0 1 0 0 1
9 Vijapur BJP Congress 1164 1 0 0 0 0 1
10 Wankaner Congress BJP 1361 1 1 1 0 0 1
11 Modasa Congress BJP 1640 1 0 0 1 0 1
12 Himatnagar BJP Congress 1712 0 0 0 0 0 1
13 Talaja Congress BJP 1779 1 0 0 0 0 1
14 Porbandar BJP Congress 1855 1 1 0 0 0 1
15 Gariadhar BJP Congress 1876 1 0 0 0 0 1
16 Umreth BJP Congress 1883 1 0 0 1 0 1
17 Dhanera Congress BJP 2093 0 1 0 0 1 1
18 Rajkot Rural BJP Congress 2179 1 1 0 0 0 1
19 Sojitra Congress BJP 2388 1 0 0 0 0 1
20 Matar BJP Congress 2406 1 0 0 0 0 1
21 Jamjodhpur Congress BJP 2518 1 0 0 0 0 1
22 Prantij BJP Congress 2551 1 0 0 1 0 1
23 Vagra BJP Congress 2628 1 0 0 0 0 1
24 Fatepura BJP Congress 2711 0 0 0 1 0 1
25 Dabhoi BJP Congress 2839 0 0 0 0 0 1
26 Jetpur Congress BJP 3052 1 0 0 0 0 1
27 Bapunagar Congress BJP 3067 0 0 0 0 0 1
28 Morbi Congress BJP 3419 0 0 0 0 0 1
29 Karjan Congress BJP 3564 0 0 0 0 0 1
30 Dasada Congress BJP 3728 0 0 0 0 0 1
31 Una Congress BJP 4928 0 0 0 0 0 1
32 Dwarka BJP Congress 5739 1 0 0 0 0 1
33 Dhandhuka Congress BJP 5920 0 0 0 0 0 1
34 Nandod Congress BJP 6329 0 0 0 0 0 1
35 Jamnagar Rural Congress BJP 6397 1 0 0 0 0 1
36 Jambusar Congress BJP 6412 1 0 0 0 0 1
37 Mahuva BJP Congress 6433 1 0 0 0 0 1
38 Viramgam Congress BJP 6548 1 0 0 0 0 1
39 Mahesana BJP Congress 7137 1 0 0 0 0 1
40 Sanand BJP Congress 7721 1 0 0 0 0 1
41 Kalol Congress BJP 7965 0 0 0 0 0 1
42 Chanasma BJP Congress 8234 1 0 0 0 0 1
43 Mandvi BJP Congress 9046 1 0 0 0 0 1
44 Vaghodia BJP Independent 10315 1 0 0 0 0 1
45 Tharad BJP Congress 11733 1 0 0 0 0 1
46 Deesa BJP Congress 14531 1 0 0 0 0 1
47 Radhanpur Congress BJP 14857 1 0 0 0 0 1
48 Kheralu BJP Independent 21415 1 0 0 0 0 1
49 Kapadvanj Congress BJP 27226 1 0 0 0 0 1

Source: Same as Table-1

Conclusion: The Gujarat Assembly Election 2017 has drawn national attention given its implications for the Central Government under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The electoral performance of BJP has been tested with factors like anti-incumbency, Patel reservation agitation, Dalit movements, rising farm crisis, general dissatisfaction with economic policies like demonetization and poorly implemented GST and setbacks to small businesses. Despite these odds, BJP has been successful to come back to power in the state. BJP’s ascendency to power in 2017 was because of its ability to maintain its previous tally of assembly seats in regions like Central Gujarat, North Gujarat, South Gujarat and Kachchh despite suffering heavily in Saurashtra region, doing exceeding well than opposition alliance in highly urbanized areas, securing comparatively large number of seats in open and SC constituencies, and benefiting from closer multi-party contest in many seats with a proportion of voters opting for NOTA.

The Author: Jaya Prakash Pradhan is Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences, Central University of Gujarat. E-mail: pradhanjayaprakash@gmail.com

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