For the first time, the BJP is contesting more seats than the Congress in a national election. The ruling party has declared 437 candidates for the polls to the 545-member Lok Sabha. This is the highest number of seats the party has ever contested since it debuted in 1980 as a new avatar of its predecessor Jana Sangh.
It is seen as a sign of the BJP’s national growth, especially in the past few years, and a turning point for Indian politics, after decades of the Congress in pole position.
The Congress, however, points out that the number of seats also reflects the position of the parties in alliances with regional entities. For example, the BJP is not in alliance with any party in either Andhra Pradesh or Telangana and has fielded candidates on all 42 Lok Sabha seats of these states. Congress leaders claim the party’s number two position shows its pragmatism in forming alliances.
In 2009, the BJP contested 433 seats across the country and the Congress 440. The BJP ended up with 116 seats. The Congress won 206, and took power along with its alliance partners in the UPA.
The next election in 2014 saw the BJP contesting 428 seats and scooping 282 in a landslide that decimated its main rival Congress. The Congress won just 44 of the 464 seats it contested that year. It was the highest number of seats it had contested since 1996.
In this election, the Congress has fielded 423 candidates. It may announce a few more.
The only other party that has fielded more candidates in the past two elections is Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which aspires to a national footprint and is third-largest in vote share but is seen to have lost ground in its base-state Uttar Pradesh.
In 2014, the BSP didn’t win a single seat though it contested 503. In the previous election in 2009, the party had won 21 of the 500 seats it contested.
Here’s a brief look at the seats contested by the three parties in 2009 and 2014, and contesting in this year’s national election.
BJP – 437 (2019), 428 (2014), 433 (2009)
Congress – 423 (2019), 464 (2014), 440 (2009)
BSP – 139 (2019) partial list, 503 (2014), 500 (2009)