Narendra Modi holding up the peace sign
File photo of Narendra Modi | Photo by Getty Images
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The BJP has not shown any signs of improving its tally in its weak large states such as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

There is a sudden flurry of articles from commentators and pundits across the ideological spectrum about how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seemingly sure second term is now in jeopardy. The very same commentators, just three years back, waxed eloquent over the “invincibility of Mr Modi”. So, what has changed? Is a sudden wave of disenchantment with the Prime Minister sweeping the nation, or were the commentators just plain fooled in 2014?

The answer is a combination of both. But perhaps the more important answer is in the numbers that most commentators routinely fail to understand before spouting opinions and predictions about Indian elections.

I wrote an article on 21 May 2014 (five days after the results were announced) in the Business Standard titled ‘The Black Swan election’, where I argued that the 2014 electoral outcome is a complete outlier and unrepeatable. The phrase ‘Black Swan’ was popularised by mathematician Nassim Taleb to characterise extreme one-off events — “tail events” in mathematical terminology.

In 1697, a Dutch explorer in Australia discovered a black swan which crushed the prevailing notion that all swans are white. But the chances of finding a black swan again are very rare.

The BJP victory in 2014 was a “90 per cent of 60 per cent” performance. It won an unprecedented 90 per cent of all seats on offer in just 11 states that account for nearly 60 per cent of all seats in the Lok Sabha. In the remaining states that account for 40 per cent, it won a mere one-fifth.

Put another way, even if the BJP had only contested in 11 states in the 2014 elections, it would have still won an outright majority. The gap in the BJP’s victory rate of 90 per cent in its core 11 states and a mere 20 per cent in the remaining states is the widest such gap in India’s seven-decade electoral history.

Even in the 1977 post-Emergency elections, the Janata Party’s reliance on these core states to come to power was not as large as the BJP’s in 2014. It is very rare that a political party wins 90 per cent of all seats in a handful of states to come to power. It was a true “Black Swan” event.

That 90 per cent number was bound to drop in the next election. Only the steepness of the drop was in question. Regardless of the levels to which it will drop, it was clear that the 2014 victory was a one-off, unrepeatable event.

An inevitable “reversion to normality” would have meant that the BJP was in danger of losing its dominance in its core states and had to compensate for it in its non-core states. But the BJP has not shown any signs of improving its tally in its traditionally weak large states, such as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Anyone who understood this extreme skew in the BJP’s 2014 victory could have easily sensed the difficulty of a second term for Modi with an outright majority.

Instead, our pundits got carried away with the scale of the BJP’s victory in 2014 and unabashedly prophesised two or three terms for Modi. And now suddenly, after the Gujarat state elections and Rajasthan by-elections, it seems to have dawned on them that the 2014 BJP performance in these states was an outlier.

Just a correction of the mathematical abnormality of the 2014 elections would have sufficed for the BJP to not be able to repeat its 2014 performance. Added to it now is the rapidly rising voter disenchantment and feeling of deceit with Modi and his promises, as witnessed in recent state elections.

So, a mathematical “reversion to mean” and added disillusionment is likely be a double whammy for Modi. To this list of woes, add the BJP’s trouble with its alliance partners, and its inability to establish itself in its weaker states, and Modi is certainly increasingly looking like a one-term Prime Minister.

The author is chairman of the Data Analytics department of the Congress party.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Remember this article was written in February 18. Subsequent election results vouch more of it’s prophecy. Nation doesn’t want a vision less divisive dictator. 2019 will show the door to him.

  2. Nothing great. What can you expect from a paid employee of Congress Party? By the way, what is the other option?

  3. Congress is very weak in all the States and with a weak and an immature leader like Rahul Gandhi its seat in Lok
    Sabha will be less than fifty. Other anti-Modi regional parties except Mamta will also lose badly. Though BJP could not perform well in Gujrat assembly election and may even lose Rajasthan assembly election due to arrogance of its CM, Modi’s own personal popularity remains the same as it was in 2014 in Gujarat, Maharashtra as well as in all the Hindi speaking States and with no alternative of Modi in sight and no other leader of his calibre is available among his opponens, his performance of 2014 will again be repeated in 2019 also. People have seen unstable,flickering, quarrelsome and corrupt coalition governments in the past and they will prefer a majority government at the centre.

  4. I don’t understand which math you are talking but I know the primary standard math for subtraction and addition. Congress is loosing state after state and soon there will be no state left for Congress in India. And at the top of it Congress is full of negativety mired in corruption, dynasty worship, anti national policies. The people of this country are wise enough to understand this simple mathematics.

  5. Wishful thinking.
    To convince yourself, just draw out a list of members of the cabinet that will replace NDA in case it loses.

  6. CONG ALSO NOT HAVING STRONGHOLD IN THE ABOVE MENTIONED STATES, COMPARE TO RAGUL, MODI IS MUCH BETTER PM FOR INDIA

  7. Modi has now become to represent North Indian states predominantly Hindi speaking states. His obsession with Gujarat has not waned and he takes all world leaders to Sabarmati and runs a bullet train to there. What he has given to southern states from where majority of tax share comes, is next to nothing compared what he is giving to North. He has given a royal ditch to only partner in South,Chandrababu in 4 years and he wants to pull out.

  8. Whatever PM Modiji’s future in 2019 may be; he has touched a few areas that no other PMs could dare like exposing the pseudo-secularism; exposing monopoly in corruption & exposing the route of black money; the octopus like growth of corruption in so called sacred institutions like judiciary & press., while himself not using any emergency tool putting a weak congress to go more on backfoot. At least people think in terms of if not in congress mukt it must be family mukt for healthy democracy.

  9. “The author is chairman of the Data Analytics department of the Congress party”— No wonder. Only Congressmen are endowed with such powers of dreaming utter nonsense !!!

  10. This man has dona a wonderful job for his post in Congress, playing so well for the galleries. Bull shit , doesn’t he realise that Modiji’s presence has practically deflated the opposition balloon and reduced them to a weak opposition. So ,even if , BJP has to show a poor performance , in the face of a weaker opposition which have been stripped off their sting , BJP will still garner more seats than oppositionand thus forming Govts at most states. Regarding TN, Kerala , West Bengal and Telengana which took birth recently because of separate state euphoria created by Rao , have traditionally remained RegionalParty centric and they are expected to remain so. So , in every way BJP has made its inroad in all these states with authority and will continue the streak , if not with such an authority , but at least with an authority that is sufficient to form Govts. However , by then BJP should be able to demonstrate its nationalistic intentions clear and hopefully by then certain amount of sensibility would have dawned on the people and these two factors put together , bring back BJP much more strongly and believe me , India would emerge as one of the best nations which is enjoying the ffuits of getting rid of Congress. Hail Modiji. Hail BJP.

  11. Arguments are logically sound but apprehension is that this take us to hotchpotch coalition Govt.at center since in south states W.B regional parties are dominant and therefore it is prudent for voters in other states to decide between BJP Cong for one party governance or again we have ineffective inefficient scams prone coalition regime.

  12. यह इस देश का भाग्य है कि 2014 में श्री नरेंद्र मोदी देश के प्रधानमंत्री बने अन्यथा कांग्रेस ने देश को बर्बाद करने में कोई कसर नहीं छोड़ी थी भयंकर सांप्रदायिकता का तांडव हमने देखा था जहां कांग्रेसी सरकार का मुखिया और देश का प्रधानमंत्री खुलेआम यह कहता था कि इस देश के संसाधनों पर पहला हक मुसलमानों का है सैन्य क्षेत्र में देश को बिल्कुल बर्बाद कर दिया गया था आने वाले चुनाव में ही नहीं 2024 के चुनाव में भी मोदी ही जीतेंगे और इतने भारी बहुमत से जीतेंगे कि लेखक को कहीं दिल का दौरा ना पड़ जाए

  13. It is difficult to predict any outcome before and in India. Sadly, the we the people have not developed into pure democratic thinkers. In fact we don’t think or analysis politics on a daily not even yearly basis. We judge the candidate not on merits but caste, the biggest drawback. Plus, voters gets swayed away easily by rhetorics. Majority of Indian voters make up his or her mind in last 24 hours. So to predict even a month ago is too premature. All the critics will get baffled when the elections will be around the corner, as ruling party has a history of invoking sentiments of the people at large on sensitive issues and people buy into that in the absence of strong political alternative and most importantly lack of charismatic personality to take on present head of the government.

  14. Lot can change by election time. However treating public this way by Congress as a statistical mass shows sick mentality of the party.

  15. Whether its one term or he wins again, he loses and Congress wins, its bad for the country….the promises of acche din transformed into nightmare with demonetisation….Hindutva madness and fringe violence is on a all time high….if Congress wins, corruption will be the core value in this country and we’ll get our version of Donald Trump….so for the nation and its citizens, its a loss-loss situation

  16. Author is the head of the Data analytics department of the Congress party. You should have put that on the top of the article itself, so I wouldn’t have wasted even 2 minutes on reading this kind of drivel.

  17. What can you expect from someone from the Congress?? They’ve got the big job of legitimising Pappu’s candidacy!!

  18. I mean seriously…how has Congress fallen…it now has to hope that the performance of the opponent is a ‘ black swan’ event so that it might have any chance in 2019 ….this is the lowest point for Congress..I hope Mr. Chakravorty is providing some other more meaning ful input to RG rather than this tripe alone…. No action plan for self , no focus areas, just hoping that someone else might do their work for them….this is height of entitlement as felt by Congress today….

  19. While the numbers tell a very interesting story and point to a reduction in the number of seats that the BJP may win in 2019, the analysis doesn’t take into account new allies who may support the BJP and form a larger NDA covertly. Greed, corruption and excesses of erstwhile regional satraps like Mayawati and Jaganmohan Reddy will ensure that they have no choice but to split the anti BJP vote and assist the party they claim to oppose. The new political scenario in Tamil Nadu with AIADMK and Rajni looking like proxies of the BJP may ensure further support. Higher tallies from the North East where a combination of hook and crook has succeeded may further contain the damage of the fall anticipated in the core North Indian belt. It would take a black swan of a performance from INC to stop the NDA in 2019.

    • No other party can stop BJP. It will do it on its own. The strong aversion to dissent of any kind is surest way to alienate people. And BJP is doing it with gusto. Even a simple act of reducing GST from already low of 3% to O.5% is making people wonder whether diamonds are items for consumption of poor. The list is endless.

  20. The author of this will definitely be proved wrong with a thumping victory of 300+ for NDA led by Narendra Modi

  21. It takes a lot to squander the majority that BJP got in 2014. And it seems the ruling party is precisely going to do it come 2019.Of course the other parties have not done anything to achieve this .

  22. One cannot argue with the columnist’s psephological argument. Certainly, the 71 seats the BJP won in UP would be almost impossible to replicate, especially if the SP and the BSP forge a genuine coalition. The fifty odd seats the allies had won provided a safety cushion, which could have been augmented by reaching out to some other regional parties. The more critical determinant for a second term would be the government’s performance, especially in reviving economic growth and creating jobs. Why the economy has received so little creative mentorship remains a mystery. There have been some odd CM choices as well. Even if the party failed to add significantly to its own numbers in the South, east and north east, a government that was living up to its promises of 2014 would have been spoilt for choice in agglomerating new friends to its bandwagon. I personally feel the enormous investment in foreign policy has also yielded little in practical terms. To complete the scholarly analysis, one would say the media ought to have been treated with genuine respect, as a legitimate stakeholder in governance.

  23. Looks comic . Many such ” Armchair ” have also gone before . This is no different . Elections are still one year away and the wishful thinking seems to pervades the minds of certain sections ?

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