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Congress beat NDA at its own game

Source: PTI
May 14, 2004 18:39 IST
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Beating the National Democratic Alliance at its own game, Sonia Gandhi cobbled together alliances in various states that worked magic for the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. Her party got 145 seats despite its vote share coming down by 1.5 per cent from the last elections in 1999.

The Congress, which improved substantially on its 1999 tally, handed out a stunning defeat to the BJP-led coalition with help from its allies even though the saffron party and its allies managed to get 35.31 per cent of the votes, 0.12 per cent more than the coalition led by Gandhi.

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The final tally

The BJP, which with 182 seats was the single largest party in the dissolved House, suffered a negative swing of 1.68 per cent that cost the party heavily bringing its tally down to 138.

This happened because both the principal parties hammered out pre-poll pacts due to which their vote share in the overall kitty was bound to go down but their tally in terms of seats went up as they fielded candidates only in those constituencies where they were strong, according to Naveen Surapaneni of Centre for Media Studies.

In the last elections, the BJP had entered into alliances with several regional parties but got only 23.75% of the vote share for its tally of 182 seats. But the Congress, which had trudged a lonely path, got just 114 seats with a vote share of 28.3%.

Year 2004 saw the BJP drastically losing alliance partners much to the benefit of the Congress, which, for the first time in its history, forged electoral tie-ups at the national level.

The result was that the saffron party suffered a negative vote swing of 1.68% to get 22.07% of the votes in 2004.

Another highlight of the 2004 polls, which demolished the projections and predictions of all the pollsters, is the strength of 'others', which included the Communist Party of India-Marxist, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India and Janata Dal (Secular).

The Left parties, ideologically opposed to the BJP, helped the Congress gain strength as they contested in tandem with secular parties in select states except in their own strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala.

Fighting under a separate umbrella, the CPI-M gained substantially registering 43 wins, a gain of 14 seats while the CPI gained ten seats, an increase of seven over 1999.

Interestingly, the vote share of the CPI-M rose by 0.37% from 5.4 to 5.77% while that of the CPI saw a decline of 0.6 per cent from 1.48 to 1.42% in 1999.

Samajwadi Party and the BSP, arch rivals in Uttar Pradesh politics, came out with their best performance winning 36 and 19 seats respectively, dealing a body blow to the BJP and dashing all hopes for a second term at the Centre.

Ironically, the BSP's vote share rose by 1.04% from 4.16 to 5.2% though it got fewer seats as compared to the Samajwadi Party.

The SP, on the other hand, increased it vote percentage from 3.76 to 4.16%, just 0.4%, but reaped rich dividends.

A reason for this contradiction could be that the BSP had put up more number of candidates than the SP.

Another reason for the SP's good performance was its tie-up with Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal in western Uttar Pradesh.

Ajit Singh's party, which won only three seats, saw a positive swing of 0.22%, taking its vote share to 0.59%, but did wonders for the SP, fighting its toughest battle as it helped sew up a Jat-Thakur-Muslim combination in western UP and Yadav-Muslim-Thakur formulation elsewhere in the state.

The JD(S) led by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, similarly, sprang a surprise in Karnataka with a 0.66% positive swing, which saw its vote share rising from 0.91 to 1.57%.

The political environment has become very dynamic and a lot of region-specific factors are coming into play, which are getting reflected in the final results, says Surapaneni.
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