BJP's Defeat: Not Just Opposition Unity, But Big Swing Away


The defeat of the BJP was enabled – 66% due to a united opposition and 33% due to a swing in their favour

The UP and Bihar by-elections have given the BJP a gigantic blow – so big that if this trend continues, the BJP is facing defeat in the 2019 general election.

The key worry for the BJP is not just the coming together of their opposition – Mayawati’s BSP and Akhilesh Yadav’s SP – but the shock of the massive swing in votes away from them in UP – and the massive swing in favour of the opposition in both Bihar and UP.

In UP, the vote for the SP – supported by the BSP – is a huge positive swing of 9% to 10% higher than their combined vote in 2014.

vote for sp and bsp

And the swing against the BJP was even more significant – especially as this swing against the BJP is in its strongest seats – including the Chief Minister’s own seat – held for nearly 30 years by the BJP.

vote for bjp

While the swing in votes is crucially important, the unity of the opposition was a key factor too.

In a nutshell, the defeat of the BJP was enabled – 66% due to a united opposition and 33% due to a swing in their favour.

factors contributing to the sp and bsp victory

Consequently – the BJP would not have been defeated by only the swing in votes, or only the greater unity of the opposition. The victory was created by a combination of a swing away with the declining popularity of the BJP as well as the unity of the opposition. The opposition needed both hands to clap – swing and unity.

Surprisingly, in some ways, the Bihar loss for the BJP and Nitish’s JDU will be even more worrying to the ruling party. They would have hoped that the alliance between the BJP and their former bitter critic Nitish Kumar should have virtually guaranteed them an easy victory, coupled with the attack on Lalu Yadav.

Democracy is full of strange surprises – the voters of Bihar dismissed BJP and Nitish’s tactics – and instead handed a huge 8% swing in favour of Lalu’s party, the RJD.

bihar votes in araria

The two basic lessons from these major by-elections are this. First, it seems the tide is beginning to turn against the BJP. The swing away in Modi’s own territory, Gujarat, was the first indicator – and these by-elections seem to confirm the Gujarat trend. Secondly, if the opposition wants to achieve victory in 2019, it cannot just rely on the swing away and the drop in popularity of the BJP; the only way the opposition will win in 2019 is if they form a united front – which is a huge ask given all their differences and the historical baggage.

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