Before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) now, the last time a political grouping was in control of 18 states was 24 years ago. But there are differences.
When it wrested Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) from the Grand Alliance—a coalition of parties in Bihar against the BJP—and propped him to form a new government in the state, the BJP effectively annexed state number 18. Today, either the BJP or one of its 48 partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are in control of 18 of the 30 states in India.
The last time a political grouping enjoyed this kind of spread was 24 years ago, in 1993. Back then, it was the Congress, then the dominant party in Indian politics. In December 1993, when there were 26 states where elections were held, the Congress controlled 15 states by itself and one via an alliance. Two others were held by CPI (M), which was providing outside support to the Congress government at the Centre then.
Yet, there are differences between the groupings of 1993 and 2017.
One, today, we are firmly in the era of coalitions and alliances, typified by the BJP-led NDA (formed in 1998) and the Congress-led UPA (formed in 2004). But in 1993, broad alliances at the national level were yet to become the norm. It’s on the strength of such alliances that the Congress and its partners have come close to the 18-state mark a couple of times since, notably in 2006, when the UPA had 17 states.
Two, seen through the prism of national politics, the BJP spread of 2017 appears more potent than the 1993 spread of the Congress. The 18 BJP/partner states—many of which are the large states in the heartland—of 2017 sent 66% of MPs to the Lok Sabha in 2014, against the 48% the Congress’ 18 states sent in the 1991 national elections. Further, 68% of India’s population (as per Census 2011) resides in the 18 states controlled by the BJP and its partners against 45% for the Congress’ 1993 spread (as per Census 1991).
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Source: Election Commission of India