In Numbers: Where RLD Stands In 19 Seats Allocated To It In The First List

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - Jan 23, 2022 04:38 PM +05:30 IST
In Numbers: Where RLD Stands In 19 Seats Allocated To It In The First List Jayant Chaudhary and Akhilesh Yadav (Facebook)
Snapshot
  • Realistically, what are RLD's chances in the 19 seats that were allotted to it in the first list released by the SP alliance?

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and its ally, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), released their first list of 28 candidates earlier in the week, for the forthcoming provincial elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP).

They are concentrated in Western UP, and mainly cover the election’s first phase to be held on 10 February 2022. Seven of the seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC), and the balance 21 are general seats.

Nine of the names on the list are from the SP, and 19 from the RLD. Of the RLD’s 19, six are SC seats, and 13, general. 17 seats will be polled in the first phase, and two in subsequent ones. This is their geographical distribution:

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Awarding 19 seats to the RLD, in just a first list alone, seems an intriguing decision, considering that the party hasn’t registered any material victories, whether aligned with others, or on its own, in the past three elections. And yet, there are those who continue to believe that Chaudhry Charan Singh’s scion still maintain a mythical hold over the Jat vote in Western UP.

What is the truth, and what are the prospects of the RLD’s first 19 candidacies announced?

Here is the history of these 19 seats (called ‘segments’ in general elections):

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In the 2014 general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all 19 segments. In the 2017 assembly elections, when the RLD was on its own, the BJP won 18; Sadabad went to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

In the 2019 general elections, the BJP’s tally was a resolute 16 of 19, even in the face of a formidable alliance consisting of the SP, BSP and RLD. The RLD contested 6 of these 19 segments in 2019 (a function of which Lok Sabha seat they were allocated by their alliance), and lost all six rather tepidly.

Thus, in the past three elections, the RLD have not won even one of the 19 seats they have been currently allotted. It is with this sterling electoral record in the background that the RLD now embarks upon a fresh challenge.

The BJP, on the other hand, has only gone from strength to strength, post their 2012 nadir. Here is the 2017 vote share table for the 19 seats:

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The first point to be noted is that the BJP’s average vote share in these 19 seats was 44 per cent – three points above their 2017 figure of 41 per cent for the state as a whole.

Second, the principal adversary to the BJP in these seats was the BSP, who averaged 26 per cent. The SP was third with 15 per cent (in alliance with the Congress), and the RLD came last with 12 per cent.

Third, and pertinently, the RLD’s vote share was actually less than the win margin in 15 seats. They were second only in Baldev, behind the BJP, and in Sadabad, which the BSP won.

Fourth, the combined average vote share of the SP, RLD, BSP and Congress (called the MGB, or Mahagathbandhan, vote) was 53 per cent – 9 per cent ahead of the BJP.

In 2019, the four-way split became more bipolar, with the SP, BSP and RLD coming together to take on the BJP. Here are the 2019 segment results:

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The most important point to be noted here is that, although the index of opposition unity went up significantly in 2019, it did not automatically translate into a smooth transfer of votes from one alliance partner to the other. On paper, the SP-Congress alliance, which had 15 per cent of the vote in these seats, went up by 23 points to 38 per cent in 2019, with the addition of the BSP and RLD, and the departure of the Congress

However, this coming together also triggered a massive counter-consolidation in the BJP’s favour, whose average vote share went up 12 per cent to 56. The MGB vote share, which had been 53 per cent in 2017, dropped 15 points to 38 per cent; meaning, that there was a substantial vote shift from MGB to BJP ranks in 2019.

Accounting 12 per cent of this 15 to the BJP, we may assume that the balance 3 per cent represents the Congress retention.

With this electoral history as a backdrop, it is a simple question to be asked in 2022: how might the RLD defeat the BJP in these 19 seats?

In political terms, the solution is simple: make Narendra Modi so unpopular in UP that the BJP’s vote share comes down to well below 40 per cent (Read here, for a detailed SWOT analysis of that option with the SP-RLD, by Arush Tandon).

But in electoral terms, that means attracting a sizeable chunk of votes from the BJP, while dealing with the BSP’s absence.

How does that possibility work out in numerical terms? Let us go step by step.

First, the SP and RLD are without their 2019 partner, the BSP. That means less votes for the alliance in 2022, and a lower index of opposition unity, because the BSP ought to retain at least half of the sizeable 26 per cent it got in these 19 seats.

Second, sans an alliance with the BSP, and with the BSP possibly coming apart at the seams, the ‘risk’ of some BSP Dalit votes shifting to the BJP goes up, thereby hurting the RLD’s chances.

Third, ground reports indicate that the Muslim vote is rallying comprehensively under the SP-RLD umbrella (we can confidently define this as the ‘half’ of the BSP set to move to the SP-RLD).

Fourth, we must accept that the BJP usually registers more votes in national elections than in provincial ones; which means that there are higher chances of its 2022 vote share being closer to the 2017 figure of 41 per cent, than the 2019 figure of 51 per cent.

Fifth, in order to construct a worst case scenario for the BJP, let us assume for working purposes, that the entire 2017 opposition vote (called the MGB vote here) somehow, magically, stays intact under the SP-RLD banner in 2022.

Sixth, the combined 2017 MGB vote is used as a benchmark since it is so much higher than what they actually got in 2019. Any decline would mean a BJP sweep.

And, seventh, let us apply sensitivities to the BJP’s vote base, by running calculations on both their 2017 vote share (which is roughly what some recent surveys expect the BJP to get in 2022), and a high case of 2019 when they got a remarkable 56 per cent in these 19 seats.

With that in mind, here’s some electoral math:

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Columns 4, 5, and 6 give the vote shares for the BJP in 2017, the MGB in 2017, and the BJP in 2019 respectively.

Scenario 1: In column 7, the 2017 BJP vote share is subtracted from the 2017 MGB vote share, to simulate a steep drop in BJP votes, and a very high index of opposition unity. A negative value, marked in red, means that the BJP stays ahead to win, while a positive value means that the MGB (in this case, a supercharged RLD) wins.

In this scenario, we see that the RLD wins 13, and the BJP, six.

Scenario 2: Here, in column 8, the 2019 BJP vote share is subtracted from the 2017 MGB vote share, to simulate a counter-consolidative rise in BJP votes along with a high index of opposition unity.

In this scenario, the RLD wins only eight (three by a whisker), and the BJP, 11.

Scenario 3: Here, in column 9, half the 2017 BSP vote is reduced from the MGB tally, before subtracting the 2019 BJP vote from it. This is done to reflect ground realities.

In this scenario, we see that the RLD wins just three (and those, too, only by a curled lip, as Le Carré might say), and the BJP, 16.

In conclusion, the higher probability is for the BJP to comprehensively best the RLD, and once again win most of these 19 seats.

A comprehensive table of all the data and calculations employed in this piece is placed below for readers’ reference:

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Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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