It doesn't add up: Tracing the Congress’ Utopian road to 100 Lok Sabha seats

There is a theory that if the Congress wins 100 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP can be kept down to 200 seats, effectively ending its quest for a second term. The theory is complete nonsense.

 |  4-minute read |   13-05-2019
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As the marathon 2019 Lok Sabha election enters its final sprint lap, there are two conflicting undercurrents — the first is a silent Modi wave that could lift the BJP to well over 250 seats on its own, sealing a second consecutive NDA term, while the second undercurrent is one of anger against the NDA government among farmers and Dalits, disillusionment among the urban middle-class and disenchantment among women and first-time voters. This could sink the BJP to below 200 seats, ending the possibility of the NDA retaining power.

We will know 10 days from now which undercurrent prevails.

But first, a look at the latest electoral math.

Can the Congress breach the critical 100-seat mark? That is the minimum number it needs to achieve its primary objective in this election — deny Prime Minister Narendra Modi a second term in office.

There is a theory that if the Congress wins 100 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP can be kept down to 200 seats, effectively ending its quest for a second term. The reasoning: The two national parties have historically won 300 seats collectively in Parliament.

The theory and the reasoning behind it are, of course, complete nonsense.

modi-inside_051219065335.jpgThe Congress' primary objective in this election is to deny Prime Minister Narendra Modi a second term in office. (Photo: Reuters)

Statistics don’t lie and they reveal the following: In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP (282) and Congress (44) won 326 seats between them. In 2009, they won 322 seats collectively (116 and 206 respectively).

But even if 100 Congress Lok Sabha seats is the mythical magic figure to keep the BJP below 200 seats and out of power, what is the Congress’ electoral road to achieve that milestone?

Consider the party’s prospects state-wise.

There are essentially eight states where the Congress has a realistic chance of winning more than five seats. These are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Jharkhand, Punjab and Maharashtra.

Search the electoral map of India — there isn’t a ninth state where the Congress can hope to win more than five seats. Focus, therefore, first, on these eight states.

Consider two scenarios: One, the maximum number of seats the Congress could realistically win in these eight states based on current projections, and two, the likely number it will win based on ground reports of the six phases of polling completed thus far.

table_051019065600.jpg

A rational view would take the midpoint of the two above scenarios as the likely Congress tally in these eight key states: 89 + 63/2 = 76 seats.

Now, turn to a second set of eight states and union territories (UTs) where the Congress could enhance its tally to come closer to the target figure of 100 seats. These states and UTs (with Congress seat projections in brackets) are Haryana (3), Himachal Pradesh (1), Jammu and Kashmir (1), Gujarat (2), Uttarakhand (1), Delhi (0), Goa (1) and Puducherry (1).

These eight states/UTs could therefore collectively deliver 10 seats, with Haryana being the largest contributor, despite the Congress’ triangular fight there with the BJP and the AAP-JJP alliance. None of the other states in this secondary category will likely yield more than the odd seat or two.

The Congress total from these eight states/UTs: 10 seats.

The overall tally in the 16 states/UTs analysed thus far: 76 + 10 = 86 seats.

What about the remaining 20 states and UTs?

The six biggest ones are looking weak for the Congress: Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Bihar. So are the seven states in the Northeast and the remaining six UTs. Tamil Nadu is an outlier and the Congress may ride piggyback on the DMK to pick up a handful of seats.

However, the total of these 20 tertiary states and UTs would probably amount to less than 10 seats.

opposition-unity_051219065125.jpgThe UPA-led Mahagathbandhan could secure a maximum of 230 seats — at the most. (Photo: Reuters)

The final Congress tally: 86 + 10 = 96 seats.

That’s tantalisingly short of the mythical decisive figure of 100 seats even after assuming the Congress wins over 40% of the seats in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and nearly 80% of the seats in Chhattisgarh.

So, what do we have finally? The Congress with 90-odd seats.

The UPA with around 130 seats (DMK being the principal contributor).

And the post-poll Mahagathbandhan with a projected total of about 100 seats (SP, BSP, Left, TDP and TMC being the main contributors).

Can these fronts form a stable coalition government?

The total number of seats of the Congress-led UPA (130) and Mahagathbandhan (100) would, at 230 seats, fall significantly short of an absolute majority.

What about the BJP? It needs 230 seats at minimum to form a government with around 40 seats coming from the five principal NDA allies (JDU, Shiv Sena, LJP, Akalis and AIADMK).

The possible NDA total: 270 seats.

We thus have a likely scenario where the NDA could have 270 seats and the UPA-led Mahagathbandhan 230 seats.

Most of the remaining 45 seats will be with three “neutral” parties: Jagmohan Reddy’s YSRCP, K. Chandrashekar Rao’s TRS and Naveen Patnaik’s BJD.

They could tip the scales either way in the most fiercely contested General Election in decades.

Also read: Do Women Count? For all their purported devotion to women, which political party actually empowered Indian women?

Writer

Minhaz Merchant Minhaz Merchant @minhazmerchant

Biographer of Rajiv Gandhi and Aditya Birla. Ex-TOI & India Today. Media group chairman and editor. Author: The New Clash of Civilizations

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