TNN | May 19, 2014, 02.07 AM IST

BJP's 31% lowest vote share of any party to win majority
It is because the vote is so fragmented that the BJP was able to win 282 seats with just 31% of the votes.
The fact that the BJP has won a majority on its own in the 16th Lok Sabha has, inevitably, drawn comparisons with previous elections in which parties have won a majority of seats on their own. What has not quite figured in most of these comparisons is the fact that no party has ever before won more than half the seats with a vote share of just 31%. Indeed, the previous lowest vote share for a single-party majority was in 1967, when the Congress won 283 out of 520 seats with 40.8% of the total valid votes polled.

This statistical fact points to an important aspect of the latest ‘wave’. Far from spelling the end of a fractured polity, the 2014 results show just how fragmented the vote is. It is precisely because the vote is so fragmented that the BJP was able to win 282 seats with just 31% of the votes.

Simply put, less than four out of every 10 votes opted for NDA candidates and not even one in three chose somebody from the BJP to represent them. Those who picked the Congress or its allies were even fewer, less than one in five for the Congress with a 19.3% vote share (which incidentally is higher than the BJP’s 18.5% in 2009) and less than one in every four for the UPA. Unfortunately for the Congress, its 19.3% votes only translated into 44 seats while BJP’s 18.5% had fetched it 116 seats.

With the combined vote share of the BJP and Congress – the two major national parties – adding up to just over 50%, almost half of all those who voted in these elections voted for some other party. Even if we add up the vote tallies of the allies of these two parties, it still leaves a very large chunk out. The NDA’s combined vote share was 38.5% and the UPA’s was just under 23%. That leaves out nearly 39% — or a chunk roughly equal to the NDA’s — for all others.

Is the 38.5% vote share for the NDA the lowest any ruling coalition has ever obtained? Not quite. The parties that constituted UPA-1 had just 35.9% of votes polled and the Congress won just 38.2% of the votes in 1991, when it ran a minority government under P V Narasimha Rao. But, except in 1991, they had to depend on outside support to keep the government afloat, which meant that the total vote share of those in the government or supporting it was higher.

In 1989, the National Front, consisting of the Janata Dal, DMK, TDP and Congress (S) won 146 seats and a vote share of 23.8%. To this was added the 85 seats and 11.4% of the BJP and the 52 seats and 10.2% of the Left, taking the total including those supporting from outside to 283 seats and 45.3% of the votes.

In 2004, parties in the pre-poll alliance stitched up by the Congress had 220 seats and just under 36% of the votes. But the UPA then got outside support from the Left, SP and PDP, which between them had 100 seats and about 11.2% vote share. Thus, UPA-1 was formed with the support of 320 MPs and about 47% of votes.

The NDA does not need any outside support to form the government. Indeed, the BJP can form it even on its own. But unless it in others, it will become the government