Lok Sabha Election 2024 Forecast

Venu Gopal Narayanan

May 31, 2024, 09:42 PM | Updated 10:40 PM IST

Forecasting is a tough job when you are honest with yourself and the numbers.
Forecasting is a tough job when you are honest with yourself and the numbers.
  • There is a good probability that the BJP will win 325 of the 440 seats it is contesting, with 41 per cent vote share.
  • Six months ago, when festive New Year cheer filled the air and campaigning for the 2024 Indian general election was set to commence, this writer’s twin assessment was that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would cross the halfway mark of 272 seats for a third time and that the Congress party would struggle to win 40 seats.

    The number 272 is vital for the BJP because no matter how strong its coalition may seem on date, if the party were to dip even one seat below the halfway mark, readers can rest assured that all these allies would junk their loyalty in a desperate scramble to form a government with the rest of the opposition.

    The number 40 is important for the Congress because it reflects just how heavily dependent the party is on the identity vote. That is the only way it can win. Consequently, how the Congress fares becomes a measure of the extent to which vote banking still flourishes in those states where the party retains some relevance.

    In 2024, the two parties are contesting against each other in 285 seats. In these seats, the BJP won 197 in 2019 and the Congress, 44. The inference is that the principal fortunes of both parties will be decided in these bilateral contests.

    Coming to the coalitions, we see that the Congress is a junior partner in all the states where it has a functional pre-poll alliance (Gujarat doesn’t count, as the Aam Aadmi Party or AAP is still very much a fringe player there), while the BJP is the primary component in all its alliance states save one — Andhra Pradesh.

    Then, there are the third forces in multiple large states, such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal (its alliance with the Congress at the national level, like that of the Communists in Kerala, exists only on paper, and not even that really), the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh, and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in Telangana.

    Their very presence in the fray as solo entities shows how low the prevailing index of opposition unity is. The resultant advantages accrue primarily to the BJP.

    Blurring the view slightly is the growth of the BJP in areas where it was earlier weak, the impact of that growth on outcomes for other parties even if the BJP doesn’t win, and the possibility that the BJP’s performance could improve in its traditional core areas.

    Another important aspect is internal dissent. All political parties suffer from it to varying degrees, and because the reasons are usually intensely local, often even restricted to one or two key assembly segments, it is an extremely difficult factor to quantify.

    A good thumb rule is to assume that rebelliousness will manifest itself in a quarter of the seats which a party contests. In 2024, this problem is peculiar to the BJP because more aspirants want to ride the Modi wave than the BJP can accommodate. In that sense, it is a good problem to have, but it is also a headache because it will do some damage in the process, as well as distort assessments.

    And finally, there is the matter of fresh pre-poll alliances having been fashioned by the BJP in crucial states. The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) is back with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, Nitish Kumar and Upendra Kushwaha have returned to the fold in Bihar, the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) is an ally in Karnataka, and the situation in Maharashtra has changed so much, so surreally, that the Sun now rises in the west.

    As a result, there is greater clarity on potential outcomes in some areas, and haziness in others. For example, it is not easy to precisely gauge how the BJP’s allies may fare in Bihar, even while it is expected that the BJP will do well there. For these reasons, it has been decided that this forecast should focus on just two parties — the BJP and the Congress.

    The methodology adopted is thus: a detailed analysis of the past three general election results (many of the findings have been published in Swarajya over the past 18 months), inputs from nearly 75 ground reports filed by Swarajya correspondents, and frames of reference offered by opinion poll surveys (a tricky thing, as most of these surveys tend to be rather biased, and thus misleading).

    Margins of error have been factored in at plus or minus two to three seats (for medium-sized and large states) and 2-3 per cent of the vote share.

    Vote shares are a function of the number of seats contested by a party in a state. Readers should note that the vote share figures may appear disproportionately low in states where a party has alliance partners and is hence contesting in only some of the seats.

    The results should be treated as a base forecast, bearing in mind that the term ‘base’ means something different for the BJP in different states.

    To explain: If, for example, the BJP is predicted to win zero to three seats in Tamil Nadu, but goes on to win more, the correct interpretation is that the party performed better than expected.

    Similarly, if the BJP is projected to win 24 out of 25 seats in Rajasthan, but eventually wins 23, the right approach is to admit that the forecast failed to properly assess the extent to which infighting had raised its head (a very real issue which this writer faced during the 2023 Karnataka assembly election, as a result of which his predictions were well off the mark).

    Forecasting is a tough job when you are honest with yourself and the numbers.

    The Forecast Results

    There is a good probability that the BJP will win 325 of the 440 seats it is contesting, with 41 per cent vote share, and that the Congress party will win 45 of the 327 seats it is contesting, with 16 per cent of the vote share.

    Assam: A recent delimitation has taken away one portion of the vote bank advantage which the Congress benefited from for decades. Fairness has returned to the field. It is, therefore, possible that senior party dynast Gaurav Gogoi could lose.

    Bihar: Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is spiritedly taking the fight to the opposite camp as best as he can, along with the Maoists and the Congress.

    The BJP has collected Kumar, Kushwaha, and Jitan Ram Manjhi back, though Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) faced enough internal turbulence to require personal hand-holding by the Prime Minister. Still, it is a net gain for the BJP.

    Chhattisgarh: Former Congress chief minister Bhupesh Baghel could prevent the BJP from making a clean sweep of all eleven seats, even as the BJP’s vote share goes up.

    Gujarat: Although there has been some dissatisfaction over ticket distribution within the BJP, it will be very surprising if it does not sweep the state for a third time in a row.

    Haryana: The BJP had to institute a leadership change in what has traditionally been a tough state to run, with chief minister M L Khattar stepping down and accepting a Lok Sabha ticket. It also has ally issues.

    Nonetheless, it is difficult to see the Congress winning much more than solitary Rohtak, even if that at all.

    Himachal Pradesh: The BJP’s sweep, in all probability, should be as magnificent as a view of the mountains from Chail.

    Jammu and Kashmir (including Ladakh): The Congress could win Ladakh if it is once again a messy four-way contest like the past two editions. But if there is even a slight shift towards triangularity, and it is possible that it might be, then the advantage will shift to the BJP.

    Neither the Congress nor the BJP is contesting in the valley, and the BJP is expected to win both seats in Jammu.

    Jharkhand: Babulal Marandi is back with the BJP, and in form too. Former chief minister and Congress ally Hemant Soren is in jail on charges of corruption. His sister-in-law Sita Soren has joined the BJP and is contesting from Dumka. Sitting Congress Member of Parliament (MP) for Singhbhum, Geeta Koda, is now the BJP’s candidate for that seat.

    Can the BJP win all 14 seats? Possibly.

    Karnataka: While the Muslim vote is now almost fully consolidated with the Congress, the JD(S) has allied with the BJP and is contesting in four seats (one on a BJP ticket).

    The BJP continues to experience some infighting due to bad blood over last year’s loss in the assembly election. This has been compounded in a few seats by anger over ticket distribution. However, the majority of the Dalit vote should go to the BJP, and the Modi factor will be in play.

    So, even if it does lose a few seats, the BJP could win the Congress bastion of Bangalore Rural.

    Kerala: This is the most important state for the Congress in all of India. It has 15 of its 52 seats from here.

    The left, which was nearly routed in 2019, is enjoying a healthy resurgence, thanks to a novel alliance with the Christians’ Kerala Congress and disaffection among Muslim youth, to the extent that the Muslim League, a key Congress ally, could lose its prized redoubt of Ponnani.

    The BJP is finally starting to attract votes from the left, and could win zero to three seats while coming in second in as many as five. This may lead to the Congress winning the odd seat that it should otherwise have lost to the left.

    Madhya Pradesh: The BJP’s position has improved after Jyotiraditya Scindia left the Congress and joined the BJP in 2020. There is a good chance that they could win the last remaining Congress stronghold in the state, Chhindwara, making it 29 on 29.

    Maharashtra: The confusing contortions of the past five years have befuddled voters, pollsters, and politicians. But now that the dust has settled, these radical changes can be treated as a net gain for the BJP.

    The Congress is contesting 17 seats (down from 25 in 2019), some after a gap of decades. In 15 seats, they are in a direct contest with the BJP, many of whose candidates are big hitters like Navneet Rana and Nitin Gadkari.

    While the BJP and its allies will do very well, the Congress will be hard-pressed to win a single seat in the state.

    Manipur: In spite of everything that was engineered, amplified by narratives, and the left withdrawing from the fray to aid the Congress, the BJP should win the plains, and its ally, the hills.

    National Capital Region of Delhi: Although the Congress and the AAP are allies, their combined vote share will, in most probability, still not be enough to prevent the BJP from sweeping all seven seats.

    Odisha: Bipolarity has been steadily on the increase here, between a growing BJP and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). As a result, the Congress’ vote share is being carved up, and it is expected to shrink to single digits in 2024. The BJP should win at least 12 seats out of 21, with a possibility of this figure going up to 15.

    Punjab: This is the toughest state to predict in 2024 because of a quadrangular fight between the AAP, the Congress, the BJP, and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). We are at the mercy of opinion polls.

    Rajasthan: The BJP ought to win all 25 seats, but there are a few discordant rumblings in a few seats, including Nagaur, where Congress ally Hanuman Beniwal poses a stiff challenge, and Churu.

    Tamil Nadu: The heart says the BJP could win three seats, the mind says one, and some recent polls say none.

    The temple state is witnessing triangular contests in many seats after the BJP chose to part ways with its old ally, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). On paper, that gives the advantage to the Congress and its senior, principal ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), as the index of opposition unity goes down.

    But the Congress is in a straight fight with the BJP in seven of the nine seats it is contesting (Coimbatore is not on that list), and the BJP under Annamalai, along with selected allies, has put up the fight of the century, so…

    Telangana: Both the BJP and the Congress are expected to make gains at the cost of the BRS. Yet, many of the contests will be tightly triangular.

    Uttar Pradesh: The BJP secured a fillip in India’s largest and politically most important state when the RLD and O P Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) jointed its alliance.

    The index of opposition unity also stands further reduced, as the BSP is contesting on its own; it is now little more than the Samajwadi Party plus the Congress in a few scattered pockets.

    There is a school of thought that believes Congress leader Rahul Gandhi ought to win both Rae Bareli and Wayanad, as the cleft stick situation of having to give up one seat would cause untold damage to his party.

    The BJP is contesting in 75 seats and is expected to improve its tally.

    Uttarakhand: The probability of voting patterns changing drastically in Devbhoomi is very low.

    West Bengal: The BJP is expected to improve its tally this time by further breaching the TMC’s potent Dalit-Muslim axis. The Congress and its Communist allies could end up winning nil seats, unless the fluke of triangular contests throws them a scrap. It is possible that the BJP could be the single largest party in the state by virtue of both vote share and seats.

    The 2024 forecast
    The 2024 forecast

    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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