Regional parties: punching above their weight

May 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

BJP’s performance in the 2014 General Election is strong beyond most expectations. What is most remarkable is how successful it was in converting its votes into seats. Even with only 31% vote share, it was able to get almost 52% seats in the parliament. Remarkably, unlike that individual stat, when you look at the vote-seats relationship of all the parties that won at least one seat, there is a strong correlation between the two metrics. This gives an impression that perhaps, when aggregated, the number of seats are dependent on number of votes won. This is deceiving though, but more on that in a minute.


Consider the regression line as the average performance, you can see that BJP did a remarkably good job of converting its votes to seats. Congress, while not far behind in getting votes, was much worse at conversion. This can be attributed to a few obvious points:

  1. Congress had candidates in large number of seats, which meant wider vote gathering in comparison to regional parties. In a lot of these places, it might also be coming second to the BJP candidates, indicating poor conversion
  2. There is a traditional sense that Congress’ appeal to rural voters could mean more votes. This graph by Scroll however shows that this changed a bit in this election.

Outside of BJP and Congress, the regional parties have really low in terms of national vote share. With Trinamool Congress as the third largest party in seats, they clearly did a much stronger job of in votes to seat conversion. This requires a more deeper view of the above graph.


First off, the correlation we were looking at aggregate level goes out when you remove Congress and BJP. When compared at regional level, there really is disproportionate opportunity of converting votes to share. It eventually comes down to how well a regional party can take advantage of its local focus to get maximum out its limited scope

The winners

SS’ outperformance is perhaps least interesting. It’s a long standing ally of BJP in a state where BJP itself is quite strong. Plus the Congress-NCP alliance in the state government is going through the similar problem that the national government was going through. It is all but likely to be replaced in the state election coming later this year.

The rest three, however, showcase the performance that a regional party should aspire to. AIADMK, AITC and BJD are also have current state governments, so they have a weight on the shoulder that most regional parties dread these days: incumbency. Despite this, they have showed ruthlessness in overpowering their admittedly weak opponents (Communist parties in West Bengal and DMK in Tamil Nadu). BJD’s success more down to absolute state performance; Naveen Patnaik clearly one of the best regional leaders we have at the moment.

The losers

CPM struggle goes beyond its complacency in its core state of West Bengal. It is looking at complete loss of relevance with the public. SP, on the other hand, can’t seem to handle its time in state government and suffering from too many communal issues while missing on providing any development to the state. They also suffered from BJP’s clear and determined intention of target Uttar Pradesh as one of the key states to its national success.
It was BSP be though who is the bigger loser here without even making it on the graph. It had national vote share higher than SP of 4.2%, but failed to win a single seat. (Unlike SP, BSP does contest elections outside UP)

The ultimate loser
2.1% national vote share, and yet only four seats. And this despite contesting in more than 400 seats and giving a impression of a faux national party. From the early winter in 2012 when it was constituted, AAP in on its way to complete a sinusoidal wave, from the crest of Delhi State elections to this General Election. Its “diversification” plan: going from a focused, issue based party to a pan-India, multi-solution, gladiator-style party, which quite simply did not have the resources (monetary or otherwise) to take up a national project this soon.

AAP could do well to learn from the regional parties. And instead of appealing to regional coteries like those parties, it could pick up real local issues that plague the people. It’s obvious that if you have limited resources, you are better off focusing your efforts.


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