‘Modi has lost this election’: Ashish Ranjan

‘Modi has lost this election’: Ashish Ranjan
Election researcher Ashish Ranjan says that the comeback of social justice parties like SP and RJD is one of the Lok Sabha election’s significant takeaways. | Video Credit: Interview by Saba Naqvi; Camera by Dipesh Arora; Production Assistant: Vedaant Lakhera; Editing by Samson Ronald K.; Supervising Producer: Jinoy Jose P.

The election researcher says that the comeback of social justice parties like SP and RJD is one of the Lok Sabha election’s significant takeaways.

Published : Jun 18, 2024 07:38 IST - 9 MINS READ

On June 4, India delivered a historic verdict for the 2024 Lok Sabha election. While the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed a government with more than 290 seats, the opposition INDIA bloc can take much encouragement from their performance as they won over 230 seats. The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will now run a coalition government for the next five years.

Ashish Ranjan, a data scientist and election analyst who has worked with organisations like the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the Centre for Policy Research, and Ashoka University’s Trivedi Centre for Political Data, has examined the science of election analysis and election polling and currently runs an outfit of his own. In this conversation with senior journalist and Frontline columnist Saba Naqvi, he discusses the general election results and major takeaways for all the parties. Excerpts:

Has Narendra Modi lost this election?

The answer is yes. In terms of numbers, the BJP is 32 seats behind the majority mark. However, we know that Nitish Kumar, Chandrababu Naidu, and a few others are the alliance partners and we have seen the autocratic nature of the current regime.

BJP might be a leading party with more than 240 seats. However, what happened in 2019 in Maharashtra can happen again, when BJP could not form the government despite being the leading party. Modi has lost this election because this election was completely on his name.

Has the BJP lost vote share and has the opposition picked it up?

BJP is still with 37 per cent vote share which is more or less similar to what they got in 2019. The alliance partner also got some significant vote share but the important thing is that Congress, after two elections, has been able to gain 4 per cent vote share. So the party has more than 23 per cent vote share now.

More significantly, the Congress gained vote share in double digits in Uttar Pradesh, a State where the Congress has been consistently declining. What is interesting this time is that the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party [SP] has been losing elections in 2017 [Assembly], 2019 [Lok Sabha], and 2022 [Assembly] but they got more seats now than the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

Election researcher Ashish Ranjan said that in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, people realised what the Constitution is and what needs to be done for the same.

Election researcher Ashish Ranjan said that in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, people realised what the Constitution is and what needs to be done for the same. | Photo Credit: Dipesh Arora

In the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, the SP had a very healthy vote share. So, can we see a translation of that vote share to the Lok Sabha this time?

Even in the 2022 Assembly election, the SP alliance had around 37 per cent vote share which was historic for the party as well. But the BJP did not lose their vote share and there was around 4-5 per cent vote share gap which was why they had won the majority.

What is significant in UP is not that the BJP got fewer seats than the SP, it is the resurgence of the social justice parties. Even in Bihar, the party [Rashtriya Janata Dal] is leading in terms of vote share.

In north India, during the 1990s, mandal parties like the RJD in Bihar and the SP in Uttar Pradesh were continuously growing, but they hit their lowest point in 2014. After a decade, they are resurgent. In Bihar, even though RJD is not leading in terms of seats, they vote share is increasing.

Are we seeing that besides the SP itself, the Congress is also reviving on its own? Is it possible to measure it since they were in alliance?

Yes, of course. When I went to Uttar Pradesh, I met some people from the Pasi category (a Dalit group in Uttar Pradesh) who have been voting for the BSP for a long time. After a long era, they are shifting to the Congress-SP alliance. They said, “We never voted for SP but we are voting for them as Congress is our party.” Also, many people from lower castes, especially Dalits, thought that BSP is losing their hold and now they need to come back to their original party, the Congress. Thus, Congress gained back its support from marginalised caste groups after a long time.

The Congress has Mallikarjun Kharge, a Dalit, as their party president, and with the decline of Mayawati, can we sort of see a Congress revival all across India?

This election is not at all about the personality cult. Each and everyone has their role and we should respect that. It is not that I defeated someone or someone defeated me. It is a collective achievement, and that is why no single party is going to reach the majority mark after a long time.

Also Read | Jan ki baat: How voters humbled Modi by rejecting authoritarianism and embracing inclusive politics

Bihar has less savarnas [privileged caste individuals] but they could not defeat the BJP coalition. Can you just expand on the reasons for this?

In Bihar, the JD(U) [Janata Dal (United)], a mandal party, was leading in terms of seats compared to BJP and other parties. Bihar gave the mandate most of the time to the NDA party, with the alignment of JD(U) and BJP, except in 2014, when JD(U) was not in the fray and there was a triangular contest. In fact, it is the only State where BJP has not been able to rule in the Hindi belt.

What has happened in Maharashtra?

I visited Maharashtra as well, and we found that the people from Maharashtra have realised that they have been cheated because their original party, the NCP and Shiv Sena, has been broken for the power struggle. Of course, in terms of vote share, BJP is the leading party because the party was contesting more seats than the other ones.

However, the OBCs and the Marathas, especially [those affected by] the Maratha reservation, hurt the INDIA bloc the most. The people also thought that [Eknath] Shinde or the Ajit Pawar-led NCP almost cheated them. Also, in this election, the electoral bonds scam and political tactics of Ajit Pawar-Shinde hurt people from Maharashtra quite badly.

There doesn’t seem to be any sympathy for the two Chief Ministers who were arrested from Delhi and Jharkhand. Is it difficult to measure or is it the State difference?

State is different. In the Assembly election, you will see some reflection. With the demography, the Assembly election and parliamentary election is different. Although Jharkhand has 26-27 per cent tribal population, they are concentrated in some areas and are not spread out. In Delhi, it is mostly middle class.

“This is the first time in 24 years Modi has lost an election after becoming Chief Minister in Gujarat. This is the beauty of democracy: that despite you being a powerful leader, people can defeat you.”

The Prime Minister suggested that he could have divine powers and went and meditated at Vivekananda Rock. People said that this is the final breakthrough in south India. But ideologically, it was actually about Tamil Nadu because the ideology that dominates the politics of Tamil Nadu is the DMK with its Dravidian ideology. The sanatana dharmabecame a huge issue because of Tamil Nadu politics and they seem to have not done very much in Tamil Nadu. Am I right?

Yes, you are right. BJP did not get the vote share they were expecting from Tamil Nadu. But even with the little vote share, concentrated in some areas like that of the State president K. Annamalai, many believed that he could win.

The growth of any political party is based on two things, organic and inorganic growth. For example, BJP’s growth in West Bengal is inorganic, not organic.

Why is it inorganic?

Because it is an outsider party. When you grow with the BJP in northern India, especially in west India, it’s an organic party. They have a cadre, they have their ideological base. In West Bengal, you will see most of their leaders either from the Left parties or Trinamool.

In Tamil Nadu, even when the BJP got 10 per cent, it was a loss. It was just the gain of an anti-incumbency vote and they contested more seats this time. So, the party will have to go for a long time. They will have to build the organisation and produce more leaders, not just one.

Also Read | ‘The trend in Uttar Pradesh shows the beginning of the BJP’s end has begun’: Javed Ali Khan

In this age of funding, when such big money is going to political parties, CPI(ML) has been raising with Rs.20 donations. So, if they win even one seat, it is of great symbolic importance.

Yes, of course. That is the actual electoral politics where, as a party member, you go to the voter or citizen, saying these are our promises, candidates and manifesto.

I would be very happy to see any contest where a candidate is going to the people, collecting money from them and then contesting, because I think electoral bonds and all have shown us what rotten political finance has made our democracy. And maybe the people of India are giving us a way out of this.

Yes. I think in social media, I came across something wherein the Congress candidates in Madhya Pradesh were going to the voters.

But please remember, this is the first time in 24 years Modi has lost an election after becoming Chief Minister in Gujarat. This is the beauty of democracy: despite you being a powerful leader, people can defeat you.

But do you think highlighting the questions of EVM, Form 17C, electoral roles, etc. has made the contesting people vigilant?

Yes. There was some viral video of the BJP candidates saying we need 400 seats to change something. And it was Aakash Anand from the BSP, during the first phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh, who clearly said, “Ye chaar sau seats kyu chahte hain, samvidhan badalna chahte hain.Ye samvidhan badhal denge, hamara arakshan khatam kar denge [Why do they want 400 seats? They want to change the Constitution, they want to end reservation]”.

When I was doing my fieldwork in Saharsa in Bihar in 2015, this person, belonging to the SC community, said that he will not vote for BJP as [RSS chief] Mohan Bhagwat said that he will end reservation. Although no one from his family could get the benefits of reservation, he strongly believes that the opportunity should not be taken away from the future generations.

What happened in Rajasthan?

In Rajasthan, it is a Jat farmer politics. The Jat farmers from the belt that include some parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana were unhappy with the BJP.

YSRCP and Naveen Patnaik neither collaborated nor opposed the BJP or Modi. They were considered very smart but they have lost now.

In binary politics, you have to pick a side. You can’t be both.

People have fought for the Constitution of India. Would you say that?

Yes. The beauty of this election is that people realised what the Constitution is and what needs to be done for the same. The people in UP said that we will fight for the Constitution. 

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