TCPD Columns

Betting on Greener Pastures?


Uttarakhand, in its short political history as a separate state, has been no stranger to candidates switching political allegiances in hopes of a better chance of winning, or, in some cases, out of dissatisfaction from their previous parties. Uttarakhand is a state where governments have been formed on the basis of single-digit differences in the number of seats, and with the dominance of certain political parties in the state, turncoats may have a significant say in which party forms the government. 

Turncoats and their classification

Before beginning with the analysis of turncoat candidates, it is important to clearly classify turncoat candidates on the basis of the political parties that they choose to contest from. By and large, the political landscape has been dominated by two national parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC). This dominance has only solidified with time with other state-based parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) seeing a consistent election-on-election decline in their vote share (Figure 1).

Based on this pattern, this article classifies political parties into two categories – Major Political Parties, comprising the BJP and the INC, and Non-Major Political Parties comprising state-based parties such as BSP, SP, etc., in addition to other independent candidates. 

Figure 1: Party-wise vote share in Uttarakhand (2002-2022)

Source: Lok Dhaba, Trivedi Centre for Political Data

Greener Pastures?

As shown in Figure 2, there has been a significant uptrend in the number of turncoats, with the number in 2022 being over double compared to 2007 (31 and 15 respectively). While the 2017 Assembly Elections saw the highest number of turncoats, the figure is marginally higher than that of 2022. 

Figure 2: Number of Turncoat Candidates by Assembly Election (2007-2022)

Source: Lok Dhaba, Trivedi Centre for Political Data

In terms of being categorized, compared to Major Parties, between 2007 and 2022, Non-Major Parties fielded about double the number of turncoat candidates, as observed in Figure 3. 

Figure 3: Comparison of the number of turncoat candidates fielded by Major and Non-Major Political Parties (2007-2022)

Source: Lok Dhaba, Trivedi Centre for Political Data

Out of the 74 Non-Major Party turncoats, only 19 switched to the Major Parties between 2007 and 2022. Out of the candidates who switched to the Major Parties, 9 joined the BJP and 10 joined the INC. 

Figure 4: Number of Non-Major Party Turncoats Switching to Major, or within Non-Major, Parties (2007-2022)

Source: Lok Dhaba, Trivedi Centre for Political Data

While more in number overall, Non-Major Party turncoat candidates did not see much electoral success. Out of the 55 Non-Major Party turncoats, only one candidate emerged victorious; out of the 19 candidates who switched to Major Parties, 4 were able to gain seats in the legislative assembly.

Table 1: Electoral success of turncoat candidates

Turncoat ClassificationNumber of Turncoat CandidatesSuccessful Turncoat Candidates
Non-Major Party to Non-Major Party551
Non-Major Party to Major Party194

More particularly, out of the 4 winning turncoats who switched from Non-Major Parties to Major Parties, 3 belong to the BJP. 

Table 2: Number of turncoats from Non-Major Parties who contested from BJP and INC (2007-2022)

Turncoat ClassificationNumber of CandidatesSuccessful Turncoat Candidates
Non-Major Party to BJP93
Non-Major Party to INC 101

From the above discussion, it can be inferred that the success of turncoat candidates remains, by and large, shaped by the factor of belonging to Major Parties. 

Let us now have a look at the Major Party turncoat candidates closely. It can be observed that turncoat candidates who join the INC from the BJP are significantly less likely to be victorious following them switching political parties. 24 such candidates exist who have switched within the Major Parties, that is, from the BJP to the INC, and vice versa. Out of these, 14 candidates switched from the INC to the BJP and 10 switched from the BJP to the INC. 10 turncoats who joined the BJP were able to win seats to the legislative assembly, while only 2 such Congress candidates found success. BJP turncoat candidates, thus, have an impressive 71.4 per cent winning rate as compared to Congress’ 20 per cent winning rate. 

BJP’s successful turncoats in total, however, are heavily concentrated in the 2017 assembly elections (Figure 6). This occurrence is largely explained by the supposed 2016 political crisis preceding the elections which saw several notable INC heavyweights switch parties2,3. In addition, there was a significant decline in the number of turncoats fielded by the BJP in the 2022 elections, and one factor that can possibly explain this decline is that it was the incumbent heading into the elections. 

Figure 5: BJP Turncoat Candidates and Winners by Election Years (2007-22)

Source: Lok Dhaba, Trivedi Centre for Political Data

The INC, following the aforementioned loss of candidates, ramped up its efforts to field candidates from other parties as Figure 6 shows. The INC, however, has not seen significant success with its turncoat candidates, particularly when compared to the turncoat candidates fielded by the BJP.

Figure 6: INC Turncoat Candidates and Winners by Election Years (2007-22)

Source: Lok Dhaba, Trivedi Centre for Political Data

The INC took in 8 turncoats both in 2017 (when it was fighting to get reelected) and in 2022. Both times, however, only 1 of these candidates was able to win their respective seats. While the party’s intake in 2017 may have largely been a knee-jerk reaction to the exodus of leaders who left to join the BJP, 2022 saw several BJP candidates being taken in by the INC in hopes of possibly playing on the perceived anti-incumbency factor against the sitting BJP government.4

While elections in Uttarakhand remain a close race between the INC and the BJP, it is clear that in terms of utilizing turncoat candidates, the BJP remains significantly ahead of the INC.


This article analyzed the data for turncoats in Uttarakhand’s assembly elections between 2002 and 2022. We find that while many turncoat candidates belong to Non-Major Political Parties, such candidates find it difficult to successfully win their respective seats. It appears that the success of turncoat candidates remains restricted to those who receive the BJP or the INC tickets, with significantly better performance for turncoat candidates standing elections on a BJP ticket. 


I would like to thank Sai Vikas from the Trivedi Centre for Political Data for his feedback and suggestions.


  1. Ananay Agarwal, Neelesh Agrawal, Saloni Bhogale, Sudheendra Hangal, Francesca Refsum Jensenius, Mohit Kumar, Chinmay Narayan, Basim U Nissa, Priyamvada Trivedi, and Gilles Verniers. 2021. “TCPD Indian Elections Data v2.0″, Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University.
  1. The Hindu. 2016.  “Understanding the Uttarakhand crisis”.
  1. Hindustan Times. 2016. “Uttarakhand political crisis: Who are the nine rebel Congress MLAs”.
  1. Awasthi, Puja. 2021. “BJP faces massive anti-incumbency in Uttarakhand; AAP keen to break the pattern”.
  2. Attri, Vibha, and Sandeep Shastri. 2022. “Modi’s popularity galvanised a BJP win in Uttarakhand.” The Hindu, March 14, 2022.

About the Author

Vidipt Dhasmana is a graduate of Political Science from Ashoka University and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in Law at Durham University in the United Kingdom. His key interests are the electoral politics of North India, particularly his home state of Uttarakhand. His work at the TCPD has revolved around research focused on candidates contesting in Uttarakhand’s 2022 Assembly Elections.


This article belongs to the author and is independent of the views of the Centre.