Which was India’s ultimate 'wave' election?

Last Updated: Sat, May 17, 2014 21:54 hrs

When one talks of wave elections one always highlights 1984, the biggest one of them all. The Congress party got a whopping 414 seats. It seems that it is the ultimate achievement when it comes to waves.

However a few things are left out in the above. For one it was a sympathy wave generated by the tragic assassination of Indira Gandhi. Second, her son Rajiv had zero government experience and just four years party experience.

It may be arguably said that even if his late brother Sanjay had been at the helm, the results would have been similar. The second important point was that there was officially no Opposition party. The Janata Party perished in 1980 and the Janata Dal was created in 1989.



1984 was an in between year when there was virtually no Opposition.

Finally the Congress had won 351 seats in 1980 (374 if you count the alliance). Can the rise of seats from 351 to 414 be called a wave? That’s an increase of 63 seats or just 18%. If you count the alliance figure of 374, then the hike is much more modest.

In fact the 1980 election wave seemed bigger. The Congress more than doubled its seats from 153 to 351. More decisive was the fact that the Janata Party, which claimed 345 seats practically disintegrated and the main Opposition party had just 41 seats.

The 1977 election was also a wave, but then again a cluster of regional parties came together to call themselves the Janata Party. It was in fact a multi-party alliance which took on one party. What was stunning about it was the fact the Congress was out of power for the first time in Independent India.


Then we have the 1971 elections where Indira Gandhi battled against all odds including her own party seniors to take the seat tally from 283 to 352.

Every Jawaharlal Nehru election was a wave election such a towering figure was he, but then again he didn’t have a credible Opposition. Before Independence four major groups of India were: Congress, the Muslim League, the RSS and the CPI.

The Muslim League went to Pakistan, the RSS didn’t contest the elections and the CPI President BT Randive talked of violence to counter the Congress.

What that meant was that Nehru had a clear field for his political life.

That brings us to the 2014 general elections.BJP’s Narendra Modihas scored a landslide victory.Some of his detractors are still not calling it a wave while supporters are calling it a tsunami (TsuNaMo!)

For one the seats of the BJP increased from 116 to 282. That’s a jump of 166 seats. Or almost two-and-a-half times the previous count. It is also about 100 seats more than its all-time high.

What makes this wave all the more creditworthy is the fact that they were against the toughest Opponents of all: The Congress. And the victory was an innings defeat in Test cricketing terms. It was a 282-44 thrashing, meaning for every Congress MP in the Lok Sabha, we have six BJP MPs. That’s unprecedented.

The crash is all the more startling. The Congress went from 206 seats to 44.The NDA also crossed 330 seats for a one-sided Parliamentary contest.

The other thing about the wave is that, the BJP achieved a stranglehold over the North West regions. UP saw an unprecedented 73 out of States 80 seats for the NDA. The BJP also drew a cent per cent strike rate in States like Gujarat and Rajasthan.

It also got 50 odd seats from the South, East and North East where it has drawn a blank in the past. The all-India vote share also saw a substantive jump and the BJP got at least 10% vote share in most of the States.

This is the first time that a single party has got an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha polls other than the Congress.

In fact for the first time, we have a non-Congress party threatening to become the main national party of India. The Congress cannot even officially have a Leader of the Opposition.

Before Modi was declared a PM candidate, Manmohan Singh had lost favour with the masses and Rahul Gandhi hadn’t won them.

Before Modi was declared a PM candidate, all the mega scams had exploded to derail UPA2.

Before Modi was declared a PM candidate, people had lost faith in the economy.

Before Modi was declared a PM candidate, an opinion poll had put the BJP LS vote share at 160 odd.

The final tally was 282.

How much of the difference was an anti-incumbency wave and how much of it was a BJP wave and how much of it was a Modi wave will be debated for some time to come.

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.