Grand Coalition vs NDA 2019: Who will win the crown?

Grand Coalition vs NDA 2019: Who will win the crown?

Our projection of 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the event of a Grand coalition vs NDA battle

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party president and the presumptive prime ministerial candidate from the Congress, recently declared that if a grand coalition were to come together for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, then even PM Narendra Modi would lose his seat. These are bold words indeed – equivalent to the declaration of outright war (electoral war) against the NDA. What is the substance behind these words? Is this a hollow statement or/and just an attempt to motivate and galvanise the opposition or is this really likely to happen?


Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party president

The answer to this question can only be gleaned through deep data analysis – analysis of voting patterns in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Till now, supporters of the grand coalition concept have only talked about one basic data point – that the BJP had just 31.3% vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Ergo, these people say that a notional grand coalition of all major non-NDA parties would easily pip the BJP to the post in the 2019 elections.

But, in reality, coalitions have only had limited success in actual elections. In the last UP assembly elections for example, the SP-Congress combine could not prevent NDA from winning nearly 80% of the seats. On the other hand, a grand coalition did succeed in defeating NDA and winning the last Bihar state assembly elections. So, what would be the fate of a notional anti-NDA grand coalition in 2019?

A superficial analysis of data often throws up false pictures. To get an accurate picture, it is critical to delve deeper into statistics. This is the first rule of statistical analysis – the one rule that any data analysis expert would swear by. In this article, we present our expert team’s projection of the likely results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the event of a Grand Coalition vs NDA battle. This projection is based on a deeper analysis of 2014 Lok Sabha election voting patterns, vote shares in more recent state elections, and projections regarding voting patterns in the 2019 elections. As you will see, the results of this analysis are quite interesting and complex.

Our projections are based on three levels of analysis – these three levels were necessary in order to make sense of the complex Indian electoral battleground. We look at three factors in this analysis:

  1. Voting patterns in 2014 LS elections
  2. Leakage of votes from Grand Coalition
  3. Expected change in voting patterns from 2014 to 2019 LS elections

1. First level: Direct analysis of voting patterns in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections

31.3% – the vote share of BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections is one of the most well known figures in debates and discussions about the next Lok Sabha polls. But, this number ignores the fact that the BJP had put up candidates for just 428 out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. In fact, the NDA as a whole had secured approximately 38.5% votes in these polls. Furthermore, in the 336 seats that the NDA had won (out of 543), their vote share was slightly more than 45% on average.

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi

This does not mean that a grand coalition would automatically secure the remaining 55% of votes on these 336 seats on average. The notional grand coalition being talked about today comprises around 46 parties. But, in the 2014 polls, a total of 8251 candidates, representing 6 national parties, 39 state parties, 419 smaller parties, and independents, had stood for elections. What then would be the likely vote share of non-NDA and non-grand coalition parties and independents in 2019?

In the 2015 Bihar legislative assembly elections, the Mahagathbandhan (grand coalition) had secured 41.9% of votes while NDA had secured 34.1% votes. This means that non-grand coalition and non-NDA parties and independents had secured 24% of votes – grand coalition and NDA had together secured only 76% of votes.

Similarly, in the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections, the BJP secured 49.1% votes while Congress secured 41.4% votes. This means that non-Congress and non-BJP parties and independents secured 9.5% votes.

Looking at the results of these two assembly elections, our experts conclude that non-grand coalition and non-NDA parties and independents are likely to secure between 15% to 20% of votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Hence, if NDA again secures the same 45% of votes on the 336 seats that it won in 2014, then on these 336 seats, the grand coalition can at most hope to secure between 40% to 35% of votes on average.

Note that this assumes that all of the major non-NDA parties would be part of the grand coalition, i.e. this assumes that the 46 party grand coalition indeed comes to fruition. If some significant parties stay out of the grand coalition, then this vote share could reduce substantially. For example, Trinamool Congress had secured 3.8% vote share in the 2014 elections. If Trinamool Congress stays out of the grand coalition, then this coalition can at most hope to secure between 36% to 31% of votes on average on these 336 seats.

Similarly, Congress had secured 19.5% vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. So, if Congress is not a part of the grand coalition, then the coalition can at most hope to secure between 21% to 16% of votes on average on these 336 seats. Thus, if all of the major non-NDA parties indeed join the grand coalition, then such a coalition can at most hope to secure between 40% to 35% of votes on average on these 336 seats.

This, of course, is average vote share across the 336 seats that the NDA had won in 2014. There will be some constituency-wise variation in these average vote shares. Thus, experts conclude that a grand coalition might be able to secure more votes than NDA on roughly 5% to 10% of these 336 seats, if voting patterns in 2019 remain the same as in 2014. This means that a grand coalition would indeed be able to reduce NDA’s tally successfully by about 17 to 34 seats in this case.

Of course, this analysis is based on average vote shares on the 336 seats that the NDA won in 2014. A constituency wise analysis would reveal exactly which of these 336 seats would definitely go to the grand coalition and which of these seats would have marginal results (where the difference in grand coalition vote share and NDA vote share would be extremely small).

2. Second level: Leakage of votes from the grand coalition

In the 2015 Bihar assembly elections, the grand coalition had secured 41.9% votes (RJD – 18.4%, JDU – 16.8%, Congress – 6.7%). But, in the 2010 Bihar assembly elections, these three parties taken together had secured 49.8% of votes (RJD – 18.8% votes, JDU – 22.6%, Congress – 8.4%). Thus, when these three parties came together in 2015, they lost a whopping 7.9% of their individual vote shares from the previous elections.

Nitish Kumar, the Bihar Chief Minister

This leakage of votes is another problem that any large grand coalition would have to contend with. Consider the state of West Bengal. A TMC vote or a Congress vote in West Bengal is often a vote against the Communist parties and vice versa. If TMC, Congress, and Communist parties come together under one grand coalition, then some anti-TMC voters and some anti-Communist voters may drift away and look for other alternatives. This alternative may be the NDA for some voters and for others, it may be non-grand coalition and non-NDA parties and independents.

Similarly, consider the state of UP. Here, the BSP gets a lot of support from Dalits while Yadavs are seen as SP supporters. But, in many parts of the state, there are allegations of massive harassment of dalits by yadavs during the previous state government. In this case again, if SP and BSP come together under one grand coalition, on those constituencies where the SP puts up a common coalition candidate, large sections of dalit voters may not vote for the grand coalition candidate and may instead opt for other parties or independents.

Considering these factors, experts project that a grand coalition would lose at least between 10% to 15% of the sum of the vote shares of the individual parties on average. This means that, after accounting for potential leakage of votes, on the 336 seats that the NDA won in 2014, a grand coalition can at most hope for a 36% to 32% vote share on average.

3. Third level: 2014 voting patterns vs likely 2019 voting patterns

Till this point, we have only looked at 2014 Lok Sabha election vote shares and have analysed the results of a grand coalition vs NDA battle with these vote shares. In the final level of analysis, we need to project likely changes in vote shares across the 2014 and the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

At the time of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP-NDA governed 7 states. Today, they govern 20 states, after TDP withdrew from the NDA. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had secured 5.7% vote share in Tripura. But, in the 2018 Tripura assembly elections, BJP secured 43% votes while its alliance partner IPFT secured 7.5% votes. Similarly, in West Bengal and in Orissa, BJP is rapidly gaining and appears set to become the prime opposition party, pushing other opposition parties lower down the order. In most state elections and other local elections post 2014, BJP-NDA has indeed increased its vote share.

Amit Shah, BJP party president

Keeping these results in mind, experts project that the NDA vote share in 2019 is likely to be around 42% to 44% pan India, up from 38.5% in 2014. This implies that it would be even more difficult for a grand coalition to secure victory in 2019. Thus, our experts project that NDA would secure between 325 to 355 seats in 2019, even in the face of a concerted challenge by a grand coalition. This number may increase by 15 to 35 seats if a grand coalition is not formed or if some major opposition parties stay away from the grand coalition.

So, what does this imply for a grand coalition? Should a grand coalition be formed at all?

We believe that a grand coalition should indeed be formed. There are two reasons for this – one, some individual non-NDA parties would definitely benefit from such a coalition and second, it will probably be better for India if such a coalition is indeed formed. Let us understand both these reasons clearly.

Consider a party like the BSP. In the 2014 elections, BSP secured 4.18% of votes nation wide. Still, it ended up with no Lok Sabha seats at all. In the 2017 UP assembly elections, BSP secured 22.2% votes. But, it was able to win only 19 seats out of the 403 assembly seats available. A party like the BSP could be in serious danger of losing credibility if it fights the 2019 elections alone and again fails to win any seat in the Lok Sabha. Such parties would have better chances of winning at least a few Lok Sabha seats if they fought as part of a grand coalition.

Mayawati, BSP party president

Secondly, in the last few years, we have seen many sections of the media and the polity questioning the legitimacy of the union government on the basis that the BJP had won less than one-third of the votes cast. Correspondingly, at times, even violent protests have occurred in several parts of the country on flimsy grounds.

The recent dalit protests, for example, are centered on the allegation that the central government is diluting the SC/ST Atrocities Act. The truth though is completely different – it is the Honourable Supreme Court that took note of the misuse of this act and directed procedural changes in the application of this act. The central government has not changed anything at all – in fact, the government has filed a petition in the court asking that no changes should be made in the application of this act.

Such protests, which often lead to loss of lives and damage to property, are certainly undesirable in any civilized country. Hopefully, after a grand coalition vs NDA battle in 2019, there will be no questions raised about the legitimacy of the union government, irrespective of who wins these elections. Thus, a grand coalition should be better for India in the longer run.

Finally, we must end this article with two disclaimers.

1. We have not projected grand coalition likely seats in this article since at this point in time, we do not know who the constituents of this coalition would be and who would not be part of this coalition. The bulk of NDA constituents are known and hence, it is possible to project their vote shares in 2019.

2. The 2019 elections are still about a year away. In the interim, several important state elections are set to be held. The results of these elections would reveal more about likely vote shares of different parties and groups in 2019. The projection presented here is based on the situation on the ground today. But, keep in mind that a lot can change in one year.

– From the Daily News 60 team