Now that the results of the 2019 general election are out, we can dissect the data to see what it has to reveal about this extraordinary exercise. Here, we look at voter turnout data, party performance, the regional dimension of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s performance, candidate-level data and representation patterns.

The data is from the Election Commission of India’s website and has been treated by the team at the Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University. The analysis is based on provisional data, so there may be some marginal discrepancies here and there. The raw data is available for download here.

Voter turnout

Those who perceived or predicted a lack of enthusiasm from voters in this election were wrong. At 67.36%, India registered its highest turnout in a Lok Sabha election, 1% more than in 2014.

For the first time, women closed the gap to male voters. Their respective turnout was identical, with just a 0.07% difference in favour of men. Women even outvoted men in 13 states, which is significant given the greater difficulties they face accessing the public sphere in India.

This, however, does not mean more women voted than men – one must factor in skewed sex ratios and gaps in voter registration. It simply means that among the registered voters, women participation was higher.

Turnout maps suggest participation was higher along the eastern coast of the country, across the North East and in the South. This has been the case for long.

Andhra Pradesh saw a much higher turnout (80.5%) than Telangana (62.8%). Turnout was particularly high in Jharkhand (84%), West Bengal (82%) and Madhya Pradesh (77%). Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir recorded the lowest turnout of around 60%.

There was still a 5.2% gap in turnout between urban and rural constituencies, but with 64.6% turnout cities voted in larger numbers than ever before.

Participation across the 41 Scheduled Tribe constituencies was much higher in this election (74.2%), confirming the reversal of a historical trend of lower participation that started in 2009. The gap in participation between various types of constituencies closed in 2004, but this is the first time turnout across Scheduled Tribe seats exceeded the national average (74.2% as against 67.36%). There is a need to investigate this phenomenon.

Parties and candidates

Peculiarly, as more votes are concentrated in favour of main political parties, the total number of parties keeps increasing. A record 669 parties contested this time, but the number of parties represented in the Lok Sabha rose by one to 37. This is a big jump from 2014, when “only” 466 parties contested.

In 2019, the cumulative vote share of the national parties (the Congress and the BJP) and the state parties (according to the Trivedi Centre for Political Data’s classification) was slightly lower than in 2014. That said, this figure has hovered around and above 90% at least since 1999.

Most local parties in India are individual affairs. Some exist for the sole purpose of money laundering, while others are curious single-issue parties. Political scientists ought to examine this diversity of political actors.

The overall number of candidates did not change much, increasing from 8,251 five years ago to 8,422 in this election (without counting Vellore, where the election will be held afresh). The election commission does a formidable sifting through a much larger number of nominations, nearly half of which are rejected on various grounds. That is still an average of 15 candidates per seat. Nearly 81.5% of the candidates lost their deposits this time, for managing less than a sixth of the votes polled.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Punjab and certain seats in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are far ahead of the national average when it comes to the number of candidates. At three, Tura in Meghalaya had the fewest candidates this time while 185 contestants sought to win Nizamabad in Telangana.

In most constituencies, though, there were just two or three effective candidates. In fact, most of the third-placed candidates stood a distant third, confirming the notion that most local races are fought between two parties or candidates.

The vast majority of the candidates were running for the first time. In India, there is a trend of most parliamentary election candidates contesting a single time.

Gilles Verniers is assistant professor of political science and co-director of the Trivedi Centre of Political Data, Ashoka University.

Data compiled and prepared by Mohit Kumar, Saloni Bhogale, Basim U Nissa, Priyamvada Trivedi, Sudheendra Hangal, Gilles Verniers and Sofia Ammassari from the Trivedi Centre of Political Data.

This is the first part of a five-part statistical analysis of the 2019 general election.