Mumbai: Since 2014, the average percentage of votes the Indian National Congress has drawn in six of the seven northeastern states--Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur--has dropped 13.4 percentage points from 38.1% to 24.7%. The average number of seats it has won has nearly halved from 34.8 to 19.5, an IndiaSpend analysis shows.

Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, its average vote share in the northeast has grown 23.1 percentage points from 3.9% to 27%. From winning an average of 1.5 seats in the six states’ elections between 2009 and 2014, the BJP has won an average of 23.5 seats here since 2014.

In the February 2018 elections, although the BJP’s vote share of 27% has been only a few percentage points higher than the Congress’ 24.7%, the BJP, with more seats and by swiftly forming coalitions with regional parties, is now part of the government in all six states.

Since the two national parties are yet to contest in Mizoram, which is set to go to the polls later this year when its 2013 assembly term ends, the state has not been included in our analysis.

Average Vote Share And Seats Of Congress And BJP, Before & After 2014
BJP Congress
Average Vote Share (%) Average Seats Won Average Vote Share (%) Average Seats Won
Pre-2014 3.9 1.5 Pre-2014 38.1 34.8
Post-2014 27 23.5 Post-2014 24.7 19.5
Rise 23.1 22 Drop 13.4 15.3

Source: Election Commission of India

A year before 2014, Congress vote share was between 24% and 36%

Until a year prior to the BJP’s win in the 2014 national elections, the Congress had enjoyed a considerably larger vote share--ranging between 24% and 36%--while the BJP’s had been below 2%.

In the 2013 elections in Meghalaya, where the Congress had been in power through one alliance or another since 1976, it had polled more than one-third (34.8%) of the votes. This is now down 6.3 percentage points to 28.5%.

Although the Congress has emerged as the single largest party in the February 2018 election, the BJP with two seats (it had none in 2013) has forged an alliance with the National People’s Party (NPP), United Democratic Party, Hill State People’s Democratic Party and the People’s Democratic Front to form the government in the Meghalaya. Its vote share has grown 8.3 percentage points from 1.27% to 9.6%.

In Tripura, where the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) had been in power for 25 years, the Congress’ vote share of 36.5% had been the second-largest in the 2013 elections. Last week’s results saw the party’s vote share plummet 34.7 percentage points to 1.8%. In 2013, the party had won 10 seats; this year it has won none.

The BJP’s vote share in Tripura in 2013 was even lower, 1.3%, but has now grown 41.7 percentage points to 43%, more than that of the CPM’s 42.6%, allowing the party to form the government with 35 seats (it had none in 2013) and in alliance with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (which has won eight).

In Nagaland, the BJP had already been in power through an alliance with the Naga Peoples’ Front (NPF) since 2003, but the Congress had enjoyed a larger vote share in state elections until now.

In the 2013 elections, the Congress had been the second largest party, recording a vote share of 24.9%. This has now fallen 22.8 percentage points to 2.1%.

The BJP, in winning 12 seats, has won 15.3% of the votes--a 13.5-percentage-point increase from 2013 when its vote share was 1.8%. The party has now re-joined the NPF, after briefly breaking away over a seat-sharing dispute before the February 2018 election, to form the ruling alliance in Nagaland.

A Year Before 2014: Vote Share And Seats, Congress Vs BJP
Vote Share (In %)
State Post 2014 Pre-2014
Year Congress BJP Year Congress BJP
Tripura 2018 1.8 43% 2013 36.5 1.50%
Meghalaya 2018 28.5 9.60% 2013 34.8 1.30%
Nagaland 2018 2.1 15.30% 2013 24.9 1.80%
Seats Won
State Post 2014 Pre-2014
Year Congress BJP Year Congress BJP
Tripura 2018 0 35 2013 10 0
Meghalaya 2018 21 2 2013 29 0
Nagaland 2018 0 12 2013 8 1

Source: Election Commission of India

2014 onwards, BJP vote share climbed 18-34 percentage points

April 2014, when Arunachal Pradesh had its last state election--a month before the Lok Sabha elections--was the first time a shift in power in the region had become apparent.

While the Congress had won 42 seats and gained a vote share of 49.5%, it had failed to form the government as the BJP with 11 seats and a 31% vote share had quickly formed alliances with the People’s Party of Arunachal and independents to wrest control.

Although the Congress’ vote share had declined by just 0.9 percentage points from 50.4% in 2009 to 49.5% in 2014, the BJP’s had risen 20.6 percentage points from 5.2% to 25.8%.

Two years later, in 2016, in the next state election held in neighbouring Assam, the Congress party had seen a 8.4-percentage-point decline in its vote share from 39.4% in 2011 to 31% in 2016. The number of seats it had won was down by 52 from 78 in 2011 to 26 in 2016.

The BJP’s vote share, meanwhile, had risen by 18 percentage points from 11.5% in 2011 to 29.5% in 2016. From winning a handful of seats (five) in the previous election, the national ruling party had now secured 60 seats, firmly establishing itself in India’s largest northeastern state.

In the Manipur election of 2017, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party, winning 28 seats--seven more than the BJP’s 21--but its vote share had actually fallen 7.3 percentage points from 42.4% in 2012 to 35.1% in 2017.

The BJP’s vote share had risen 34.2 percentage points from 2.1% to 36.3% during this time.

The Congress had lost 14 seats from 2012; the BJP had only gained since it had had no seats in the previous assembly.

Yet again, despite the Congress winning more seats, the BJP had swiftly mobilised an alliance with the National People’s Party, Naga People's Front, Lok Janshakti Party, Trinamool Congress and one defecting Congress MLA to form the government.

2014 Onwards: Vote Share And Seats Of Congress And BJP
Vote Share (In %)
State Post 2014 Pre-2014
Year Congress BJP Year Congress BJP
Arunachal Pradesh 2014 49.5 31 2009 50.4 5.2
Assam 2016 31 29.5 2011 39.4 11.5
Manipur 2017 35.1 36.3 2012 42.4 2.1
Seats Won
State Post 2014 Pre-2014
Year Congress BJP Year Congress BJP
Arunachal Pradesh 2014 42 11 2009 42 3
Assam 2016 26 60 2011 78 5
Manipur 2017 28 21 2012 42 0

Source: Election Commission of India

(Saldanha is an assistant editor with IndiaSpend.)

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