Is the ‘Modi factor’ declining in state elections?

Amitabh Tiwari
·5 min read

A lot has been talked about the ‘Modi factor’ in elections in India. It is commonly accepted that the said Modi factor helps the Bharatiya Janata Party win elections.

What is the Modi factor?

The boost the BJP gets from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal political capital, which took the party past the finish line in elections over the last few years, has often been referred to as the ‘Modi factor’.”

How much influence has the Modi factor had on elections in India?

The CSDS-Lokniti post poll surveys of 2014 and 2019 general elections attempt to quantify this Modi factor. In 2014 general elections, 27% of respondents stated that they would not have voted for the BJP if Modi was not the prime ministerial candidate. This number increased to 32% in the 2019 general elections.

The National Democratic Alliance got 5.5 crore votes in the 2014 general elections on account of the Modi factor. This increased to 8.5 crore votes in 2019.

The Modi factor accounted for 63% of NDA’s lead over UPA in 2014 general elections. This increased to 77% in 2019.

Does the Modi factor work in state elections?

While state elections are contested on local issues rather than national issues, the Modi factor has helped BJP and its allies (NDA) win state after state since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

How is Modi factor calculated for state elections?

For example, in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP recorded 42.2% vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Out of this 27%, 11.4% was on account of the Modi factor. Removing this from Lok Sabha vote share, we arrive at 30.8% vote share. This is the base vote share of BJP in UP state polls without the Modi factor.

BJP achieved 40% vote share in 2017 state elections in UP. This shows it received 9.2% vote share in addition to its base vote share.

This bump in its vote share is the votes it received on account of the Modi factor. So 23% (9.2% divided by 40.0%) was the Modi factor in state elections in UP.

Likewise an average of Modi factor calculated for all elections after 2014 general elections till 2019 general elections points to a Modi factor of 20.4% in state elections.

Compared to a 27% Modi factor in 2014 general elections, 20.4% Modi factor in state elections is lower considering that state elections have a local character to the polls.

To note, only the vote share of BJP has been considered for this analysis; votes of allies have not been taken into account.

What was the Modi factor in incumbent states versus Opposition states?

In the period 2014 to 2019, the BJP formed governments in 11 states, while it lost power in 4 states. In 9 out of the 11 states, it was in the Opposition. In most of these states the party didn’t declare its chief ministerial candidate.

The party made these battles into a Modi versus the incumbent chief minister battle, positioning him as the harbinger of change and growth under whose guardianship the state would prosper. Modi was literally the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP in these state polls.

In 9 states, where the BJP was in opposition and won, the Modi factor was very high at 41.8% (+14.8% compared to 2014 general elections). The Modi factor propelled BJP and its allies to victory in these states.

In the 11 states, where BJP won including where it was the incumbent, the Modi factor was 32.6% (+15.6% vis-a-vis 2014 general elections).

In 6 states, the NDA was the incumbent (MP, Goa, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab). BJP lost 4 of these states, retained power in only Gujarat, while it managed to form government in Goa despite the Congress being the single largest party. The Modi factor was 15% in Gujarat.

In the five other states, of which the BJP lost 3 states in 2018 just before the general elections, the Modi factor was negligible as voters took the performance of governments into account while casting their ballot.

These states already had chief ministers in place with a baggage of anti-incumbency. It wasn’t a Modi versus chief ministerial candidate of the Opposition.

What has been the Modi factor in state elections post 2019 general elections?

After the 2019 general elections, there have been 5 state elections. In all of them the BJP and its allies were in power, except in Delhi. The Modi factor in these state elections was just 4%.

Naturally, and in line with the trend of 2018 where it lost three states, the Modi factor couldn’t propel the BJP to power in these states. It wasn’t enough to tide over the performance track record of incumbent chief ministers.

To sum up:

  1. Modi factor was 20% in state elections from 2014-2019

  2. It was even higher than 2014 Lok Sabha elections at 41.8% where the BJP was the incumbent and won

  3. It is significantly lower at 4% in 2019 to state elections till date as BJP has now turned incumbent rather than being the principal challenger

PS: Simultaneous elections have not been considered for this analysis.


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