As the results of the Assembly elections were announced on Thursday, the Bharatiya Janata Party managed to retain Gujarat but lost control of Himachal Pradesh to the Congress, bringing down its state tally by one.

The party’s loss of ground underlined a paradox that has dogged the BJP for much the Narendra Modi era: while the party is hegemonic at the Centre, its power drops drastically at the state level.

Shaky states

India has 28 states and eight Union territories. All the states have Assemblies but only two Union territories do – Delhi and Puducherry.

Of these 30 Assemblies, the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power in 16. Of the 16 Assemblies, the BJP has a majority by itself in ten. In six, it is a member of coalitions with other parties.

Of these 16, eight are major states with populations more than 1 crore. Using 2011 Census figures, 48.7% of India’s population is ruled by a BJP government.

Governments of defectors

Of the eight major states where it is currently in power, governments in three – Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra – have been formed by engineering defections rather than as a result of election victories.

Had the BJP not carried out these defections, it would have governments ruling over only 28.3% of the Indian population.

The BJP success in carrying out defections is a result of its hold over Central power, opposition parties have alleged. This gives the Hindutva party disproportionate access to funds as well as control over the central agencies that have been used to pressure Opposition politicians, BJP critics allege. This accentuates the contrast between its hold over Central power and its much weaker position among state voters.