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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Keen fight on for SC/ST seats, past polls show BJP has the edge over Congress

After the 1998 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress won more seats than the BJP in ST constituencies only in 1998 and 2009.
hemin Joy
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 03:31 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 03:31 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 03:31 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 03:31 IST

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New Delhi: Even as Congress makes a determined bid to reclaim support among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by promising to expand the scope of affirmative action plans, data shows the BJP has outperformed Congress in the reserved Lok Sabha seats, especially in those allocated for the scheduled tribes, since 1998.

In the SC category, BJP has done better than Congress in every Lok Sabha election since 1998 except in 2009 when the UPA returned to power for a second consecutive term under Manmohan Singh.

After the 1998 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress won more seats than the BJP in ST constituencies only in 1998 and 2009.

Data shows when the BJP wins elections to form the government, as in 1999, 2014, and 2019, its performance has been far better than the Congress' in reserved seats. In 2004, though Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost the elections, the party managed to send more Dalit and tribal MPs to the Lok Sabha than the Congress.

The number of SC and ST reserved seats have risen from 79 and 41 respectively in 1998 to 84 and 47 in 2009.

Interestingly, the data showed that the number of parties winning SC seats have declined over the years, especially with BJP numbers rising. While in 1998, 19 parties won SC seats, it rose to a maximum of 22 in the 1999 polls followed by 21 in 2004 and 20 in 2009. In 2014 when the BJP returned to power after a ten-year gap, the number further dropped to 15 and then to 14 in 2019.

However, the number of parties winning ST seats rose marginally from 8 in 1998 to 11 in 2019.

This time, the BJP is hoping to ride on Narendra Modi’s popularity, schemes for beneficiaries, and what the critics call the ‘Hinduisation’ of Dalits and tribals.

“A major thrust by the RSS to work with marginalised sections of the society through Sewa Bharati, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and VHP played a key role in bringing SCs and STs to the BJP fold. The ‘Ramjanambhoomi’ movement further expedited the process of removing fault lines and alienation of SCs and STs from mainstream Hindu society. All this benefitted the BJP,” Arun Anand, Research Director at RSS-linked think-tank ‘Vichar Vinimay Kendra’, told DH.

However, Congress believes that the tide is changing, citing its performance in Assembly elections in Karnataka, Telangana and Himachal Pradesh despite its performance in recent Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh polls not being enthusiastic.

“The tide is changing. You look at the data of Himachal, Karnataka and Telangana. In the Lok Sabha campaign, you can see we were able to touch a chord with Dalits and tribals through our guarantees and Rahul Gandhi’s pitch to save the Constitution and quota regime,” Congress SC Department head Rajesh Lilothia told DH.

Congress sources referred to Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, which covered a number of Dalit and tribal-dominated areas in 2022 and 2024, had set the background for reclaiming a vote-bank that had lost its confidence in the main Opposition party for long.

In the SC-reserved seats, BJP won 24 seats in 1998 as against Congress 14 while a year later, BJP’s rose marginally to 25 while Congress’ halved to 7. In 2004, Congress won 14 SC seats and managed to form the government, upsetting the BJP that, however, won 18 such seats. In 2009, Congress reversed the trend to win 30 SC seats as against BJP’s 12.

But in a Modi wave in 2014, Congress numbers were reduced to a meagre seven while the BJP capitalised on it to win 40 such seats. In 2019, BJP further consolidated it to win 46 seats as against Congress further dip to six.

In tribal seats, BJP won 13 in 1998 as against Congress’ 18 and in 1999, it was 19 and 10 respectively. In 2004, BJP won 15 while Congress was close at 14 while in 2009, it was 14 and 20 respectively. In 2014 and 2019, BJP won 27 and 31 respectively while Congress was reduced to five and four.

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Published 20 May 2024, 03:31 IST

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