India Votes – 2014 Lok Sabha – A Political Armageddon

Its been over a week now since Indian voters vented their anger against the ruling UPA dispensation for the economic mess that India finds itself in. A shellacking for the Congress was expected but the political armageddon that was in store for most political parties wasnt expected by even the most astute of observers. Well entrenched election arithmatic calculations, “stalwart” leaders losing, the coalition curse etc. were all consigned to the garbage bin. With the government being one with a thumping majority it can now put its head down and do some real work for the people of the country.  

This election threw many firsts.

  • First absolute majority government since 1984
  • First non – congress absolute majority government ever
  • First time that BSP has won 0 seats since its inception
  • First time that only the family members of both Congress & SP won seats in UP whereas others got blown away.
  • First time that an OBC will become India’s PM after Deve Gowda & (won by fortuituous means)
  • First time Congress failed to open account in 9 states (Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, J&K, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Goa)
  • First time that BJP’s low ~ 31% vote share (lowest % vote share, however the voter base has expanded) on an All India level resulted in more than 50% seats in Parliament.

UP & Bihar saw a rout for the champions of Mandal politics who might have thought that they are here to stay. With ~ 50% of UP population belonging to some backward community or the other, BJP sweep there means it managed to attract atleast some proportion of the “backward” votes. The election arithmatic which was so abused by these political parties came to a naught in UP & Bihar. It almost backfired. With India’s “first past the post” system of parliamentary democracy, BJP just had to win more votes than the number 2 placed party / candidate. With a mad dash for the backward/minority vote, the vote got divided amongst the “secular” parties. BSP vote share of 19% lead to 0 seats for it. This can be explained by a surge in BJP vote share by 25% to 42% in UP which just swept the others away. BJP’s potent weapons of development (the now famed gujarat model) which also had an element of “word of mouth” publicity by the migrant labourers, appeal among its traditional upper caste voters, appeal among the majority community voters. Thus, the counter – polarisation of votes which subsumed the caste appeal swept the opposition away.

In Bihar, an oversmart move by CM Nitish Kumar who himself had his eyes set on the PM chair of breaking away from the BJP backfired badly for him. He had thought he had the backward / minority votes pocketed along with a dash of development he had achieved. The fact remains that Bihar under Nitish has progressed. But relatively it stands no match to the development in Gujarat. An increasingly aspirational voters meant they wanted more. Modi’s backward credentials (full credit to him that he didnt flash the backward card till the time he was forced to by Priyanka Gandhi) meant that the backward voters were rooting for him. Minority voters deserted the JDU and flocked to RJD / Congress alliance as they seemed a more credible force to stop BJP. Also, after almost 15 years of allying with the BJP, Nitish talk of breaking away due to “non – acceptibility” of PM candidate Modi seemed hilarious.

UPA leaders after the defeat seem to be still in denial mode saying that they “failed to communicate” their achievements. Well what was there left to communicate? The scams? or the inability of the government to deliver results? I mean this is purely self defeating and actually it implies that they doubt the collective wisdom and intelligence of a large section of the voters in India.  

Meanwhile with just 48 hours to go before the new government assumes charge, its time to walk the talk. India awaits with great hope.


India votes for a change – 2014 Lok Sabha

The excitement was palpable last night as India went to sleep. With elections results due today the BJP HQ was already getting ready to celebrate with reports of ~ 2500 kg of ladoos being prepared as also a giant sized lotus to be floated on the banks of the Ganges near Varanasi. Congress HQ on the other hand had already thrown in the towel with media reports of it removing posters of its leaders and strategies to ring fence Rahul Gandhi. But BJP had always flattered to deceive and were deceptively inept at actually winning. So could there be another twist to spoil the BJP party like last 2 times?

As counting began at about 8 am today morning BJP was quick to get off the blocks and started racing ahead. But unlike last time kept up with the half way as counting progressed across constituencies and states. By 10 am a NDA majority was a near certainty. By 11 am a BJP majority became a reality. By noon there was awe, shock and awe almost at the storming of the BJP to power. ‘Bulldozer’ Modi had achieved a clinical demolition of his opponents. BJP swept North, East, West & Central India with almost 50% votes in each of these states propelling them to 250+.The final tally is ~ BJP = 285 & BJP+ 335 whereas Congress sank to ~ 42 and Congress+  55.

With this thumping win, its time to seriously re-think the projection of one form of politics being good over the other. I mean who decides what good or bad? Right or wrong? It should be left to the people right, the collective wisdom of the people is supreme in a democracy like India. The projection of “right wing politics” as being evil and “left politics” being good. With people’s thumping mandate, the acceptability of “right wing” politics should no longer be questioned. What the historic mandate implies is that development is the sole agenda for youth. Hopes and aspirations of a young country wanting to break out from the cage of a negative and vicious nature of our politics. The mandate demolishes the myth that development agenda doesnt work in India’s electoral politics. It sets the bar higher for another political parties. It changes the narrative of constantly highlighting just one riots in India rather than all.

With this win comes the HUGE expectations of the people. Nothing less than a military like discipline would be required to tame the inflation monster still at large in India which really did Congress Party in in these elections. Re – invigorating the economy by stimulating corporate investments in the country would be required. 

Heres a look at reactions in the foreign media;

Change is here. A stable government is the best thing to have happened to India. 

Mumbai Votes 2 – Low voter turnout – Does it care only for stock market turnover?

Mumbai  41%
Constituency Name Area Sitting MP  Party % votes % votes of total
Mumbai North  Dahisar – Malad (W) Sanjay Nirupam Congress 37.24% 15.27%
Mumbai North – West Goregaon – Andheri Gurudas Kamath Congress 35.91% 14.72%
Mumbai North – East Mankhurd – Ghatkopar Sanjay Patil Congress 32.60% 13.37%
Mumbai North Central Vile Parle – Bandra Priya Dutt Congress 48.04% 19.70%
Mumbai South Central Chembur – Sion Eknath Gaikwad Congress 43% 17.63%
Mumbai South  Worli – Colaba Milind Deora Congress 42.48% 17.42%

Looking at the low voter turnout, my friend Amol made this comment, “Mumbai only cares for stock market turnover, rather than turning out to vote.” Succintly captures the apathy of the citizens. Although the turnout of ~ 51% (meaning only 51 out of 100 registered voters actually turned out to vote) is 10 ppt more than 2009 Loksabha turnout of 41%, it is still abysmally low.

Last post we looked at the phenomenon of vote splitting and how it benefitted one party over the other. It is also a corollary of low voter turnout. High voter turnout would have negated this dynamic by ensuring a candidate doesnt win purely because of this, atleast in constituencies where the margin of victory was 2000 -5000 votes.

In this post we look at another important corollary of low voter turnout. Lesser and lesser representativeness of our democracy. In the above table, columns 5 & 6 are the % of votes gained by the candidates and the effective % votes of total votes. Now, with just ~ 41% average turnout across constituencies, a candidate with as low ~ effective 13% (32.4% of 41%) of total votes won in Mumbai North – East constituency. Thus the MP is actually a choice of ~ 10% of the registered voters in that constituency and not a majority of the eligible voters in the constituency. Wicked stuff. Is this really a representative democracy? No wonder these politicians are so unpopular on say a twitter or facebook or even TV but they actually manage to win because most of this junta doest vote and therefore doesnt count. Politicians discount this audience. This is totally a fault of the voters who didnt turn out to vote.  

Imagine the situation had the turnout been 80%, more voters would have excercised the vote and this skew would have been negated. It would have been more representative, the MP sent to parliament would have genuinely raised issues facing the broad spectrum of the society rather than miniscule 10% – 15%. It would genuinely stop politicians from taking YOU for granted. Assembly elections are due in Maharashtra. There is another chance. 

Mumbai Votes – 2014 Lok Sabha elections

Constituency Name Area Sitting MP  Votes won SS (or BJP) +MNS Votes 2009 Margin of victory Party
Mumbai North  Dahisar – Malad (W) Sanjay Nirupam 2,55,157 396880 5779 Congress
Mumbai North – West Goregaon – Andheri Gurudas Kamath 2,53,899 339369 38415 Congress
Mumbai North – East Mankhurd – Ghatkopar Sanjay Patil 2,13,505 405720 2933 NCP
Mumbai North Central Vile Parle – Bandra Priya Dutt 3,19,352 277352 174555 Congress
Mumbai South Central Chembur – Sion Eknath Gaikwad 2,57,165 290251 75641 Congress
Mumbai South  Worli – Colaba Milind Deora 2,72,411 305847 112682 Congress

With India’s first past the post system of parliamentary democracy, one just needs to ensure one secures one more vote than the second placed candidate. One can get elected by even 25% vote share.  Last time round in Mumbai in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, with the sole exception of Mumbai North Central from where Priya Dutt won comfortably, the other Mumbai constituencies witnessed the mayhem wrought by the MNS (a newbie political party back 2009). With both SS & MNS targeting pretty much the same vote bank, the votes got vertically split benefitting the Congress in a 3 cornered fight.

The fifth column shows the combined votes gained by the SS+MNS. With the exception of Mumbai North Central, all other constituencies saw the SS+MNS votes outnumbering the Congress votes won, hurting the SS+BJP alliance badly.

This time round the MNS has decided to not to field candidates against the BJP in 3 constituencies, i.e. Mumbai North, Mumbai North East and Mumbai North Central. This, they say, has been done obstensibly to help the NDA form the government at the centre and help Mr Modi to be the next PM. Not sure how will it help as out of these 3 constituencies, there is Mumbai North Central from where Priya Dutt seems comfortably placed from the above statistic. Out of the remaining 2, there is Mumbai North – East constituency from where AAP’s Medha Patkar, who being a grassroots activist might just pip the others. Mumbai North, thus is the only constituency from where the SS+BJP would win comfortably. In the remaining 3 seats, Milind Deora too seems to be in the lead. In the other constituencies, the vote – split phenomenon might just continue unless the x – factor in the form of the ‘Modi wave’ does the trick. 

Huge double anti – incumbency for the ruling dispensation, the x – factor Modi wave, vertical – split of votes with the MNS, tactical voting would all be at play. It ensures a heady cocktail in 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Mumbai. Now unless the voter turnout is high in the 70% region, will it negate some of the negative dynamics at play. With the turnout being at an abysmal 41% last time round and just around 36% at 3 pm, 70% mark seems a tall order. It would indeed be a shame if the voting turnout doesnt increase even with such high awareness. The figure might just cross 50% but it is NOT enough to drive out the incumbents.

10 yr average GDP growth joke UPA government

An old saying goes ‘People have drowned trying to cross a river just three feet deep on average.’ Averages could be deceptive. Since they take into account all the datapoints to arrive at a number, even outlier observations included could result in mis – representation affecting the average.

UPA government fig leaf of defense of its poor economic track – record is that over its 10 yr rule the economic growth rate averaged 7.6% vs 5.9% under NDA government. But what UPA conveniently forgets that the people of India had already rewarded them for the stupendous growth achieved under UPA 1, the misery inflicted on the economy in UPA 2 avatar reflects in the economic growth collapsing to just 4.5%. This coupled with runaway inflation ~ 10% p.a over past 5 years will guarantee a hammering of a life for the Congress primarily in the coming elections

S Aiyar has this on the UPA statistical juggelery. 

“Analysts” and congress spin doctors in their desperation are resorting to the “10 yr average growth” joke.

GDP is a lagged indicator of growth. Meaning work done in a period gets reflected in the GDP figure of a later period. Policies of NDA laid the groundwork of a buoyant economy, the fruits of which started showing in the NDA regime itself with growth of 8%+.This one reading prompted the BJP in pre – mature celebration resulting in the ‘India Shining’ campaign. Since the trickle down effect of its policies were yet to be experienced, people took offense to the blatant show of prosperity wherein in reality it stil was working its way down the pyramid.

Although India did shine, albeit a bit too late for the BJP, the fruits of which were reaped by the Congress. The economy grew at a rapid clip in the 2004 – 2009 period. Rising GDP and the subsequent per capita incomes and poverty alleviation resulted in election windfall for the Congress, whose joy knew no bounds since a robust economy was served to them on a platter by the previous government. As luck would have it, its after effects lasted right till the time they were up for elections in 2009. And voila ! they won that election hands down with Congress powered to a 200 + seats on its own. 

But tables turned since 2009. Within 8-9 months of its re – elections scams started surfacing. Inflation reared its ugly head due to the massive deficits run by the UPA to fund its MNREGA scheme (~ 30000 Cr annually). Robust economic growth and the resultant buoyant tax receipts correctly emboldened the UPA 2 to further its social welfare schemes. But they forgot that they need to have a chair to sit when the music stops in the game of musical chairs. Policies which further economic growth were jettisoned, scams started tumbling out, indecisive prime minister compounded matters. Its image took a beating. Inflation ran amok, GDP growth halved to 4.5%.

Only if the UPA had simply apologised for the mess they have created and promised corrective action then perhaps, things would have been different. But justifying the wrongs by sending lawyers on national TV irritated people even more. 

Hammering royale awaits the Congress come 16th May 2014.  

Tale of two political parties and a pretender

The woes of the principal party in power in India doesnt seem to be ending. Opinion polls (although these should be discounted somewhat) after opinion polls suggest a “wave” for the candidate of the principal opposition party. Disgust seems to be the common feeling among ordinary Indians especially directed at the government and the principal ruling party and rightly so for the mess that we find ourselves in.

Kanti Bajpai has this piece on the current state of the Congress party

Scams, corruption, supreme arrogance of the ministers, an indecisive leadership and inflation running in double digits since 2009 have all taken its toll.

On the other hand, in a reversal of roles of 2004, the BJP seems to be marching towards the magical half way mark of the simple majority in India’s lower house. Ex – army chief has joined it terming it as the only “nationalist” party. There are wild rumours of former IPS former Kiran Bedi joining it too.

MJ Akbar has this

Among all this the election phenomenon, the Third Front, which we would like to refer as the pretender seems to have once again reared its head as a non – congress and a non bjp alliance. Leading it are the so called “socialists” Yadavs (Mulayam & Lalu) and Nitish Kumar. Both the Yadav’s would be facing a tough time these elections as also Nitish Kumar whose gamble of severing ties with the BJP seems to be going against him. Goodwill built by him over the years seems to be vanishing and he risks the danger of a drubbing in the coming elections.

Interesting times ahead ..