Column: Why the BJP loves AAP

Dec 11 2013, 10:08 IST
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SummaryHeadline May 2014: AAP and Congress split the vote and Bharatiya Janata Party obtains a majority.

by the BJP in Rajasthan was 32 in 1980.)

Did the people vote in such overwhelming numbers for the BJP in Rajasthan in 2013 because they did not have an AAP alternative? I doubt it. Proceeding to Madhya Pradesh where the BJP chief minister overcame a double anti-incumbency to record a third consecutive win of 165 seats, 22 more than in 2008. In the outlier Digvijay Singh lost election of 2003, the BJP obtained 173 seats to the Congress’s 38. That record may never be breached, but in his third term, Mr Chouhan has come close by “granting” the Congress only 58 seats.

Still no Modi wave? Then let us look at Chhattisgarh. In the 1977 Emergency election when Chhattisgarh was part of Madhya Pradesh (data for Chhattisgarh prior to 2004 from the India Today-Oxus election dataset), the Congress obtained 36 seats; in 2013, despite a battle for a third term and the horrific elimination of Congress leaders by the Maoists in Bastar, the Congress obtained only 39 seats, only 1 more than in 2008. Still no Modi wave?

What implications for the 2014 election? Each party’s interests are different. The Congress has to attempt to become relevant; a course change is difficult, but not impossible. The AAP needs to mature into a responsible establishment outfit. And the BJP needs to pray that the AAP gets financing to make Election 2014 into a three cornered contest. It knows that only 6 out of every 100 BJP voters voted for the AAP, but 6 times as many (36 out of 100) Congress voters did so. The math of the first-past-the-post system is well known to the BJP. If the AAP is almost the new Congress, as seems likely, then the BJP can be realistically ambitious about winning 2014 by a near absolute majority.

Surjit S Bhalla is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory firm, and a senior advisor to Zyfin, a leading financial information company. He can be followed on Twitter, @surjitbhalla

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