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Opinion: Opinion | How Prime Ministers Have Fared in Their Home Constituencies In Past

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The seats from which Prime Ministers and Prime Ministerial candidates have contested have attracted significant attention. The margin of their victories has been a topic of debate. Given the sharp rise in the number of voters per constituency over the last seven decades, it may be useful to look at the percentage of votes that Prime Ministerial candidates secured in the seats they contested.

A review from 1952 to 2024 reveals there are 21 relevant contests. These include elections where sitting Prime Ministers contested or individuals became Prime Ministers soon after the elections. There are 15 instances of sitting Prime Ministers contesting elections: they won on 14 occasions and only one sitting Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, lost her seat, Raebareli, in 1977. In six other instances, we examine the Lok Sabha seat won by a candidate who went on to become the Prime Minister immediately after the elections.

Two caveats are necessary.

First, two individuals who became Prime Minister after the elections contested from two seats. They won both seats and the seat they retained is considered. Indira Gandhi won from Raebareli and Medak in 1980 and retained the latter. Narendra Modi won from Vadodara and Varanasi in 2014 and retained Varanasi. One sitting Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, contested from two seats in 1996, Nandyal and Berhampur. He won both and retained Berhampur, so that seat is considered.Second, in the elections of 1952 and 1957, Jawaharlal Nehru won from a double-member constituency, where voters had two votes. This factor is considered while calculating the percentage of votes he secured.

There are 15 instances of sitting Prime Ministers contesting Lok Sabha elections. In 11 cases, sitting Prime Ministers returned to the position after the election. In six cases, sitting Prime Ministers left office as their party/alliance was unable to secure a majority. Notably, in three of the 21 examples where the candidates secured less than 50% of the votes, they were sitting Prime Ministers. One returned to power, while two had to relinquish office as their party/alliance lost a majority.

When PMs Won Majority Of Votes

There are 18 cases where the sitting Prime Minister or prospective Prime Minister won by a majority of votes in their constituency. Twelve of them were sitting Prime Ministers: eight returned to power after the election, while four resigned as Prime Minister as their party/alliance lost. In the remaining six cases, they became Prime Ministers immediately after the elections as their party/alliance secured a majority and they were elected its leader.

On all three occasions when Jawaharlal Nehru won as a sitting Prime Minister, he secured a majority of votes in his constituency. Narendra Modi, who won two elections as a sitting Prime Minister and one as his party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, also secured a majority of the votes on each occasion. Indira Gandhi appears in the list four times. She contested three times as a sitting Prime Minister, returning to power twice and being defeated once in her own seat, coinciding with her party’s loss in the 1977 election. On another occasion, she won the election and helped the Congress return to power after three years in the opposition.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee also appears four times. Twice he was a sitting Prime Minister. On one of these occasions, he returned to power (1999), and on the other, his party was voted out (2004). Twice he became Prime Minister after winning Lok Sabha elections from his constituency (1996, 1998). Notably, most Prime Ministers listed below did not change their constituencies, except Indira Gandhi, who retained Medak and relinquished Raebareli in 1980.

It is also relevant to note that except in three cases (Narasimha Rao from Berhampur, Indira Gandhi from Medak, and Morarji Desai from Surat), all sitting Prime Ministers and prospective Prime Ministers in the table won from Uttar Pradesh. In his third victory, Narendra Modi saw a nine-percentage-point decline in his vote share in Varanasi. Jawaharlal Nehru experienced an eleven-percentage-point decline in vote share in his third election from Phulpur. The Lok Sabha constituencies of sitting and prospective Prime Ministers have always been prestige battles. There has been only one defeat, and in more than three-fourths of the cases, they have polled more than 50% of the vote.

Prime Ministers and Lok Sabha Elections

Sitting Prime Ministers contesting Lok Sabha polls and individuals who contested Lok Sabha Polls and became Prime Minister (in decreasing order of percentage of votes polled by candidate)

Year

Individual

Constituency

Sitting PM/ Post Election PM

Votes Polled

(Percentage)

1984

Rajiv Gandhi

Amethi

Sitting PM

83.67

1952

Jawaharlal Nehru

Phulpur

Sitting PM

77.56

1957

Jawaharlal Nehru

Phulpur

Sitting PM

73.74

1980

Indira Gandhi

Medak

Post Election PM

67.90

1989

Rajiv Gandhi

Amethi

Sitting PM

67.43

1971

Indira Gandhi

Raebareli

Sitting PM

66.35

1980

Charan Singh

Baghpat

Sitting PM

65.2

2019

Narendra Modi

Varanasi

Sitting PM

63.62

1996

P.V. N. Rao

Berhampur

Sitting PM

62.60

1962

Jawaharlal Nehru

Phulpur

Sitting PM

62.00 

1998

A.B. Vajpayee

Lucknow

Post Election PM

57.82

2014

Narendra Modi

Varanasi

Post Election PM

56.37

1989

V.P. Singh

Fatehpur

Post Election PM

56.18

2004

A.B. Vajpayee

Lucknow

Sitting PM

56.12

1967

Indira Gandhi

Raebareli

Sitting PM

55.20

2024

Narendra Modi

Varanasi

Sitting PM

54.24

1977

Morarji Desai

Surat

Post Election PM

52.46

1996

A.B. Vajpayee

Lucknow

Post Election PM

52.25

1999

A.B. Vajpayee

Lucknow

Sitting PM

48.11

1991

Chandra Shekhar

Ballia

Sitting PM

46.52

1977

Indira Gandhi

Raebareli

Sitting PM

36.89 (Defeated)

(Dr. Sandeep Shastri is the National Coordinator of the Lokniti Network)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author

 There are 15 instances of sitting Prime Ministers contesting elections: they won on 14 occasions and only one sitting Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, lost her seat, Raebareli, in 1977.    

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