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Data Suggest The Congress Is Not Doing As Badly As It Seems

IndiaSpend Team,
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The Indian National Congress’s humiliating defeat in the recent assembly elections, particularly in its home state of Uttar Pradesh and the assembly constituency of its vice-president Rahul Gandhi, are symbolic of the party’s present condition. The Congress is going through one of its worst slumps in its post-Independence history, and many digital bytes have suggested a surgical strike on its leadership and a complete overhaul of the party machinery.


The data, however, suggest a more nuanced picture. In various assembly elections since its defeat in the 2014 general elections, the Congress has actually improved its strike rate in terms of number of seats won per seats contested, although it has contested fewer seats. Not only that, it has also improved its vote share.


What the statistics say


The most appropriate metric for evaluating the performance of a political party and its “CEO” is its win percentage and vote share. Ten states–Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Delhi, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, UP and Punjab–have had a state election since the 2014 general election, not including the smaller ones such as Goa and Manipur.


These 10 states account for nearly 60% (317/543) of all Lok Sabha seats.


During the 2014 general election, the Congress party effectively contested in 1,544 assembly segments–parts of Lok Sabha constituencies equivalent to assembly constituencies–across these 10 states and won a mere 194, a winning percentage of 13%.


In subsequent state elections in these 10 states, the Congress party contested in 1,032 assembly constituencies across these states and won 258–a winning percentage of 25%.


Put simply, the Congress doubled its win rate between the 2014 general election and the subsequent state elections.


In the 2014 election, 20 of every 100 voters (weighted by size of the state) in these 10 states voted for the Congress. Post-2014, 30 out of every 100 voters voted for the Congress, an increase of 10 percentage points in vote share.


Congress’ Electoral Performance
Assembly Constituencies 2014 General Elections State Elections
Contested 1544 1032
Won 194 258
Win % 13% 25%
Vote Share* 20% 30%

Source: IndiaSpend analysis of Election Commission of India data
*Weighted average vote share by size of state


In eight out of these 10 states, the Congress has won more assembly segments post-2014 than it did in the 2014 elections (when considering parliamentary performance in assembly segments to break down voting patterns). Its vote share increased in six out of these 10.


The charts below show the Congress’ vote share and seats won in the 2014 general election and the subsequent assembly election in each state. A triangle inside the box indicates that the Congress improved its performance post-2014 in that state.


Source: IndiaSpend analysis of Election Commission of India data


Arithmetically, it is hard to make the case that the Congress is in worse shape today than it was in 2014. The numbers clearly show that the Congress has doubled its win percentage and improved its vote share by 50% since 2014.


To be sure, the Congress’ improved electoral performance is largely on the back of opportune alliances. But a decision to swallow pride and ally with another party is also a political strategy.


It can also be argued that the party’s performance in 2014 was so miserable that the only way from there was up.


Either way, only time will tell if the Congress needs a new life or a coffin, but arguments on either side should not lose sight of the data.


Correction: In an earlier version of the story, the graph titled ‘Seats Won By The Congress, By Assembly Constituency’ had interchanged the numbers for the state and the national elections. This has now been corrected. We regret the error.


We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.



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  1. Abhijit Reply

    March 25, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Parties rejuvenate, reinvent and come back again. Congress will be no different on that count.

    The argument that the Congress is improving its strike rate may be mathematically correct but is this number different from noise?

    The Congress may have strategised to go with allies but to go as junior partner in West Bengal, Bihar and UP is neither sign of rejuvenation nor growth.

    When Sonia Gandhi fell short of numbers, she cobbled up alliances with smaller parties. Rahul Gandhi knows he will not get the numbers; so he joins a regional party.

    I accept the Congress suffered anti-incumbency in many states but to lose municipal elections after demonetisation suggest that the party cannot convince the voters of its ideas or it has simply read the voter wrong and needs new ideas.

  2. Fasil Reply

    March 25, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    I think that your data is incorrect. Check the case of Kerala. In the 2016 assembly elections, the Congress alliance had only 47 seats but your statistics showing 57 seats.

  3. Vinod Singh Reply

    March 25, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Congress is under scrutiny because of the extent of setbacks in the last two years. Congress-mukt India is no one’s case. Congress itself has made it easier for its opponents by remaining paralysed for almost two years.

    It is only now that the party is showing signs of revival. the victory in Punjab and the performances in Goa and Manipur indicate that the party is far from finished.

    The family dominance argument is ridiculous and unfair, and needs to be dismissed. Nothing is wrong with Rahul Gandhi. He should remain focussed on his mission.

    What he needs to do is bring about structural changes in time for the Gujarat elections. He needs to take charge officially. He should facilitate alliances. There is no reason to believe that 2019 is a lost cause.

    UP was a reaction to decades of neglected administration. Akhilesh tried to set things right. He, along with Rahul, must stay on course.

    Rahul needs to from a solid alliance with Mamata. Rahul should continue supporting Nitish. The south still does not swear by Modi. Nothing is lost forever.

    Avoid media and getting affected by it. Except NDTV, most of the channels, if you go by headlines, look like BJP channels.

    Intensify outreach on social media. Infuse young leadership at every level.

  4. Ayush Jain Reply

    March 25, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Very deep and correct analysis. Hope you continue the job and let people know the reality over fake and paid news by news channels.

    • Jeswin Reply

      March 29, 2017 at 9:27 pm

      Another deluded Congress supporter.

  5. Vikram Goel Reply

    March 27, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    If you are a neutral writer, my humble submission is that elections in India are won by whosoever gets maximum votes; so percentage of votes does not matter.

    Secondly, you yourself shared that Congress these days is going into alliances everywhere, which in itself is a sign of a weak party. Strike rate will always improve in alliances.

    Honestly speaking, your article doesn’t address anything, and I am sure you are definitely not a neutral writer.

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