A friend asked me why I didn’t do any analysis of MP’s by-election, which may change the government. Madhya Pradesh is voting for 28 seats for the assembly. The MP assembly has 230 MLAs. At present, BJP has 107; Congress has 87, BSP-2, SP-1 and independents hold 4 seats. BJP has a clear majority now with 107 MLAs (102 is the majority mark in 201 present strength) and has got the support of four independent MLAs.
Out of the 28 seats, BJP requires 9 to have a clear majority of its own or at least five seats to have a majority with the support of independents. On the other hand, Congress needs to win 28 seats (28+87 = 115) to stake a claim. At the worse, it requires at least 21 seats so that it can do some negotiation with others to stake a claim. (87+21+4+2+1 =115) (If all non-BJP members unite).
A seat by seat analysis can be done but then, why waste so many energy? The one-point logic is sufficient that state by-election results generally favor the ruling party. I can give a couple of examples of that.
In 2019, a by-election was necessary following the resignation of 15 Congress MLAs. Through this resignation fiasco, also called ‘Operation Kamala-2 sometimes, Yedurappa did a coup in dislodging the Congress-JDS government headed by HD Kumaraswami. Most of the time Karnataka rejected the party changers, but this was about the government, and the BJP had won 12 out of 15 seats. The rule is that the “by-election generally favors the ruling party.”
Let’s now come to Tamil Nadu. In 2019, the parliamentary election and assembly by-election for 24 seats were done simultaneously. Before the by-election, AIDMK had 114 MLAs, and the opposition had 97 MLAs. Thus, the by-election was crucial as the majority number is 118 for a 234-member assembly. That meant AIDMK needed to win at least 5 seats (including the speaker) to retain the government. TN polity is always unique in its mood during the parliamentary elections as one party or alliance always sweeps the results.
This is evident from when DMK swept the Lok Sabha election 2019 by winning 38 out of 39 seats. Thus, the common sense says that DMK should have swept the assembly by-poll in 2019 too! But that didn’t happen. AIDMK was able to win 11 seats (6 seats extra beyond the majority number) and saved its government comfortably—while being routed in the same election for Parliament. The point here, again, is that state by-elections generally favor the ruling party as people don’t want to change the incumbent state government.
I use the term ‘generally favors’ instead of ‘always favors’ for two reasons. First, sometimes there are various reasons such as sympathy wave, public anger for changing the party, and other reasons make opposition win one or a couple of extra seats. The second is that in politics nothing is an absolute law or trend.
Can you believe a Chief Minister losing a by-election? Yes, it happened that too twice in Indian political history. In 1970, the then UP CM, Tribhuwan Narayan Singh lost the by-election and had to resign. In 2009, the then Jharkhand CM Shibu Soren lost the by-poll and subsequently resigned. That’s why I say that in politics, anything can happen.
Having said this, I would say in politics, the ‘generally applicable laws/methods/trends/moods’ can be used to do a reasonable assessment. Thus, according to that general rule, I think the BJP government of MP will win enough seats in this by-election 2020 to maintain a comfortable majority.
The only caveat is that nothing can be said with a guarantee in politics, especially in electoral politics.