What a post-poll survey says about the preferences of Indian voters

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By P.K.Balachandran/Daily News

Colombo, June 11: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the largest political party in the world with 235 million members. It is also the richest in India. It has been in power since 2014. And yet, to the utter surprise of most Indians, it failed to get a simple majority on its own in the just concluded parliamentary elections. As many as 20 of its ministers were defeated.

The BJP won 240 seats, down from 303 that it got in the last elections in 2019. It fell short of the 272-mark to get a simple majority on its own, in the House of 543 seats. It had to depend on its partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to form a government which it did on June 9.  

The opposition “INDIA” alliance, led by Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party did way better than it did in 2019. “INDIA” got 232 seats, with the Congress itself getting 99 seats, up from 52 in 2019.

Factors Behind Voting Patters

A detailed post-poll survey conducted by the Delhi-based Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (LCSDS) brought out facets of voter behaviour that would be an eye-opener for both BJP/NDA and Congress/INDIA.

The survey was done between April 21 to June 3. It covered 19,663 respondents across 23 States of India and 772 Polling Stations in 191 Parliamentary Constituencies (PC).

The survey punctured the myth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma alone would ensure an overwhelming victory for the BJP/NDA. With this frame of mind, campaigners for BJP/NDA sidestepped Modi’s economic and foreign policy achievements and tried to sell the “persona of Modi” instead. But Lokniti-CSDS data indicates that while Modi was in the lead as the voters’ choice with 41% preferring him, there had been an eight percentage point decline in his rating as compared to the 2019 elections. In the 2014 elections, the gap between Modi and Rahul had been wider at 22 percentage points. By 2024, Modi’s popularity had declined and Rahul’s increased.

The leader’s charisma was of greater importance among BJP/NDA supporters than among Congress/INDIA supporters.

60% of BJP’s voters said that the leader was a decisive factor. Only 50% of Congress voters said leadership was a key factor. Clearly, the Congress voter was more party-oriented than the BJP voter.  

Campaign Style

The survey showed that the style of campaigning was also a deciding factor. There was a difference between the campaign styles of BJP/NDA and Congress/INDIA. While the Congress/NDA contacted more voters by door-to-door visits or through the social media using mobile phones, the BJP/NDA group preferred huge public meetings and grand road shows. It relied heavily on the corporate-owned mainstream media most of which were allied to it.  

A comparatively smaller proportion of respondents said that they were contacted by the BJP directly. On the other hand, more Congress/INDIA supporters said that they were contacted through social media and door-to-door visits. 51% of the total respondents in the survey were contacted by Congress, and 54% by its allies, as against 44% in the case of BJP/NDA.

The campaigning style was important in as much as 41% of the respondents decided whom to vote for on the basis of the campaigning style. Only 28% had decided their vote before the campaign began. These were the “committed” voters who would be indifferent to the campaign as such. These were in a minority.

28% of the respondents said that they had decided a day or two before voting. These were “fence-sitters” who were swayed by campaign content and style.

Rich-Poor Divide

In the 2014 and 2019 elections, more of the rich and middle-class had voted for the BJP and its allies as compared to the Congress and its allies. But in 2024, the gap had narrowed significantly. There had been a rise in the poor man’s vote for the BJP/NDA, with the allies bringing more of the poor to the tally.

Therefore, contrary to the general impression, the Congress is not “the” party of the poor and the BJP a party of the middle and well-off classes mainly. The survey found that the Modi government’s welfare schemes for the poor, such as some free rations for 800 million poor, had swung the latter to the BJP/NDA’s side.  Though the Congress promised many welfare schemes, it did not acquire any additional support compared to earlier elections.

The BJP continued to have the upper classes in its bag, with 41% support, though compared to 2019, there was a dip of 3 points. There was a similar decline in support from the middle class also. These could be attributed to a decline of the economy, in entrepreneurial opportunities and also to jobless growth under Modi’s watch.

The Congress, on the other hand, enjoyed more support among women than men but 37% men and 36% women voted for the BJP as in past elections.

The BJP had managed to preserve its carefully nurtured constituencies such as the upper caste Hindus, Backward Classes,  Tribals and Dalits though on a somewhat lower scale. However, a slight movement of these social groups away from the BJP/NDA, damaged its performance in some key States like Uttar Pradesh (UP). In UP, the BJP’s tally came down from 62 to 33, sending shock waves through the party.

Dalit voters played a crucial role in this election. The BJP received 31% of Dalit votes at the all-India level. However, the Dalits also voted for the Congress and its allies in significant numbers in key areas like UP. The BJP’s aiming at 400 plus seats to change the Indian Constitution frightened Dalits who feared that the BJP would stop the affirmative policies enshrined in it. The Congress/INDIA on the other hand, openly propagated affirmative action and the rights of the lower castes.


As expected, the religious minorities, namely, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs, did not vote BJP. The BJP was openly anti-Muslim though over 200 million Indians are Muslim.  The BJP also called those agitating for minority rights “anti-national”. The Congress was dubbed a Muslim party. No wonder, 65% of Muslim voters supported the Congress/INDA. The BJP secured 8% of the Muslim votes, 10% of the Sikh and 14% of the Christian votes.

The Congress manifesto had projected the protection of the Constitution as a major electoral plank. The Constitution-centric politics of the Congress sensitized a good segment of Dalit voters. The BJP’s attempt to stress non-Caste Hindu consolidation failed to attract many Dalit votes.

Yogendra Yadav, an Indian activist and politician, who accurately predicted the outcome of the elections, told The Guardian that while there was no widespread anger against Modi, “a sense of tiredness and frustration that the BJP had become arrogant and cut off from the people and their issues,” was discernible.  

Yadav said that the significant losses suffered by the BJP in States that were previously its bastion, were mostly due to frustrations over chronic unemployment and inflation and perceptions that the Modi government was against farmers.

Harsh Mander, a human rights and peace activist, told The Guardian said it was encouraging that an “intoxication of majoritarian hate politics” had not shaped the outcome, referring to Modi’s apparent attempts to stir up religious animosity on the campaign trail as he referred to Muslims as “infiltrators” and “those who have more children”.

Post-poll Reorientation

Post-poll, Modi seems to be revising his stand on contentious issues. He publicly worshiped the constitution by bowing to a copy of it and holding it against hid forehead in submission. He also said that he would “do everything” to eradicate corruption and poverty. “Empowering the poor and middle class is our priority,” he said to correct the impression that he was pro-rich.

Assuring that he would not attack Muslims, he told his NDA partners that he is “committed to the principle of sarva panth sambhava (religious equality).


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