Its’ been a real long while since I studied Game Theory. But since the last few weeks in the run up to the State elections in Maharashtra, we have been witness to a live demo of its application by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its now former ally the Shiv Sena(Sena). From the results which have just come today and the possible outcome, it appears that the BJP played the game well and has come out trumps.
Theoretically speaking, Game theory refers to the branch of mathematics concerned with the analysis of strategies for dealing with competitive situations where the outcome of a participant’s choice of action depends critically on the actions of other participants.
Looking at the sequence of events in this election, the moves by the BJP could fit in the above definition. Right after the big win in the Lok Sabha elections, BJP clamored to be the bade bhai in the BJP-Sena alliance in the assembly polls. The reasoning was quite simple. With Modi, they had a winning horse and they believed that Sena owed it to them for in a way reviving the fortunes of Sena in the Lok Sabha Polls and for relegating the other Sena to the corner. Sena, however wanted to continue with the old existing formula conceived by Bal Thackeray and Pramod Mahajan 20 years ago whereby BJP will contest more seats in Lok Sabha elections while Sena will contest more in Assembly polls. And when the alliance won, the CM will be from the Sena. This formula worked well as along as BJP was not the dominant party as it is today. So in the negotiations that followed, conclusion eluded and the old alliance broke resulting in BJP and Sena going alone competing against each other.
There were many who felt that this was a big gamble by the BJP and the Sena as a split vote may help the Congress/NCP. (In a very, very strange move almost leading to conspiracy theories, NCP also announced break up with the Congress the next day). Here’s where BJP applied the funda of Game theory and applied it well. As per me it would have been better for the Sena to have kept the alliance together at any cost and if it was just giving away a few more seats than last time they should have. For the BJP, breaking the alliance was a win-win-win deal looking at the probable outcomes:
- If they get absolute majority by themselves, nothing to complain.
- If they fall short of the majority and emerge the single largest party, they could still form the Government taking support from either the Shiv Sena or NCP or MNS depending upon the number picture.
If the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance would have continued it would have been a landslide victory for the combine. But for the BJP, it would have been less than 100 seats and with no CM post. Sena by virtue of contesting in more seats had a better chance of winning more seats and retain the CM post. Perse additional numbers in the state assembly helps the cause of more Rajya Sabha seats which is another requirement for Modi i.e to establish majority in the Rajya Sabha sooner or later.
And the other subtext is, had the BJP-Sena alliance continued is that it would have been inconclusive as to who is the bigger brother.
By going it alone and by winning double the number of seats as the Sena, the BJP has clearly established how the wind is blowing. Now the option is with the BJP being the single largest party though without a majority to co-opt Sena in the Government and run the state. For many who believe that the BJP-Sena coalition will be as disastrous as the Congress-NCP combine, the difference is stark. In the former case, BJP is heading the Government at the Centre with a clear majority and a supreme leader unlike the UPA.
Unlike many who believe that a decisive mandate in favour of BJP would have been better than this fractured verdict, I have a different view. In this scenario of Maharashtra where BJP and Sena have been allies till now, if BJP got the majority mandate, Sena would have become the main opposition party. For Sena’s own survival they have to dig in to the same “constituency” to create any impact. Having followed Sena’s politics in the opposition it would be a major distraction for BJP to handle the Sena’s antics every now and then. By making it part of the Government, hopefully Sena will behave more responsibly and try to catch up for the time they lost in the middle without being in power.
For the Sena it is not a bad deal either. They get to share power after a lonnnnnnng while. Uddhav gets to establish his supremacy within the Sena finally. Gets an opportunity to pitchfork the 3rd Gen tiger cub ahead. And got to silence the “other” Thackeray once for all.
At the end of the day, for the BJP,
- Their vote share has doubled
- They have added 65+ seats compared to 2009
- They have emerged as the single largest party in terms of vote share and seats
- They have successfully got the Sena off their back
So for the BJP it was it was not a Gamble as it is touted to be but a thought out “Gam(e)ble.
Postscript: While on elections, today has been the counting day and if at all if there is one winner who defeated all panelists, experts,… it is Arnab Goswami. No Game theory and all here 🙂 🙂
Toon courtesy : http://www.newsmobile.in
8 thoughts on “The Maha Gam(e)ble!!!”
Yes for the BJP this has been a good result, but if they were serious about decimating Congress and the NCP, they should have allied with the Sena. And a massive victory would have been such that NCP and Congress would have taken a decade to recover from.
Hi, Thanks for reading and for your views.
BJP HAD TAKEN R8 DECISION…….
neither it would have a disaster for them……
Nice post. I was looking for some game theory relations, but you have not exactly talked about the pay-offs for other party i.e Shiv Sena. Also which game do you think would this game closely resemble?(Brinkmanship, Co-ordination etc.) . Could game theory predict the break up of alliance? What about Nash equilibrium? Would like to explore the answers.
Thanks for the feedback. In the last, I have mentioned briefly the payoffs for Sena. Obviously in this case it was and is game between Non co-operative players & therefore brinkmanship at its best. Since this involves just 2 players – I am not sure if Nash equilibrium comes into play here. Appreciate your thoughts
Happy 2020! Loved reading the content last year, and
forward to read more this year.