The Election Game

Build your own coalition, add swings, to see the effect on the likely result

By Aditya Jain

Published May 3rd 2019

Though framed by the BJP and the Big Media as ‘Modi vs Who’, the 2019 Lok Sabha election is better described as a fight between coalitions.

  • Led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the National Democratic Alliance comprises 20 parties, the most prominent of which are the BJP, Shiv Sena, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Janata Dal (United), Akali Dal, Pattali Makkal Katchi and Lok Janshakti Party.
  • The United Progressive has more than 20 constituents, including the Congress, the DMK, NCP, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (Secular).
  • The 2019 election is unique because there is this time a third coalition too – the Mahagathbandhan – primarily comprising the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal who have a seat sharing agreement in Uttar Pradesh but with the support of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Unattached regional parties which are hoping to win seats in double digits include the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the YSR Congress of Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra, the Biju Janata Dal and the Left parties.

The composition and nature of these coalitions matter a great deal both at the constituency and national levels, especially if they lead to seat sharing and the pooling of votes.

For example, a recent article in The Wire tries to assess the possible impact of the Mahagathbandhan in the upcoming election by using data from the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 assembly elections in the Uttar Pradesh. With 80 seats, UP is likely to have a significant impact on the upcoming 2019 General Elections.
The researchers pursue two methods of assessing the impact of the grand coalition. In the first method, they aggregate results from assembly constituencies (each of which belongs to a particular parliamentary constituency) to create a faux General Election result. The highest vote getter, coalitions also considered, in such a faux Parliamentary constituency is declared to be a winner. In the second method, results from the 2014 general election are recalculated such that the vote shares of all parties in the grand coalition are added together in order to determine a winner. Both methods assume a vote transfer of 100% and no swing against (or for) the BJP.
Their analysis indicates that even without a negative swing the BJP faces an uphill battle in its quest to repeat its landslide 2014 victory in UP, where the party won 71 out of 80 seats (excluding 2 seats that were won by its ally, Apna Dal).
In order to let readers see how coalitions can change electoral outcomes, The Wire has developed an interactive tool with a number of options. The tool below allows you to make your own coalitions and assess the impacts of such would-be coalitions. In addition, it also lets you specify vote swings – that are likely to be a big factor in this election considering the anti-incumbency factor against the BJP/NDA.
The Rules of the Game
  1. Parties belonging to the same coalition have their 2014 General Election votes consolidated under the banner of their respective coalitions
  2. Parties that don’t belong to a coalition compete independently and are known as ‘Non-Aligned Parties’
  3. All votes are adjusted according to the current national/statewide percentage vote swings before declaring a winner
  4. Consistent with first-past-the-post voting, the coalition or independent party with the highest number of votes in each constituency is declared to be the winner for that constituency
  5. Seat gains are visually represented by crosshatched hexagons that are color coded according to their coalitions (see legend below)
The interactive facilitates the visual representation of many overarching themes in modern Indian politics the starkest of which is the ascendancy of regional parties and the simultaneous decline of the Indian National Congress. For such regional parties, however, a bigger vote share hasn’t necessarily translated into electoral victories but it does mean that we have witnessed a fragmentation of the electorate, in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi among many others, that chiefly benefits national parties like the BJP as it did in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.


The discerning reader will surely notice the reductive nature of the methodology here. As the authors of the article on Uttar Pradesh acknowledge, a chief cause of concern amongst the leaders of the Mahagathbandan today is whether they will leak any of their combined vote shares to the BJP. Our model assumes that all votes will transfer 100% when a party joins a coalition, which is surely over-optimistic.