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The Politics of Local Elections in India

Dr. Neelanjan Sircar

Dr. Neelanjan started by speaking about how we are used to thinking about politics in terms of leaders. We don’t actually talk about citizens, especially when we say that India is the second largest democracy. Sheer amount of electorate volatility exists in India. Caste and leader are stable and constant factors. They don’t influence volatility.

In 2014, BJP alone won 282 seats while just five years back, Congress had won 206 seats. Two things that can be noticed from here are -Severe volatility and very small percentage converting to a large number of seats.

BJP’s Overall Performance

BJP won 282 out 428 contested constituencies – 66% strike rate. Strike rate is the number of seats won/number of seats contested.

Consider the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh- 70% votes came from these States - over 90% strike rate in these States.

Consider 5 other States- Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal - only 2% seats. Strike rate of 7%

BJP didn’t do well in 2009.

Why is the strike rate different?

Because the other 5 that did poorly are ruled by regional parties which are mobilized due to vernacular movements.

BJP became good at picking up people who were unaligned, the ones who thought they weren’t a part of the system. BJP was not good at convincing people who were already politically committed which is why they could not garner confidence of the other five States that had a poor strike rate.

What is the MODI Wave? Narendra Modi’s ability to bring new (or passive) voters to the polls and create a swell of support for the BJP. It brought new people into the voting system.

BJP’s strike rate in 2009 was 24% when less than 5% people turned out to vote. When there were more than 5% voters in 2014, the strike rate shot up to 81%. Huge shift when more people came out to vote.

As the turnout changed from negative 5 to 25, the BJP’s probability of winning shot up.

UP and Gujarat

UP- BJP won at a huge level in the last elections. BJP had 90% strike rate in UP.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) - serve certain class groups. SP serve Yadavs and Muslims. BSP serves Dalits.

Strike rate goes up when Muslim population is about 30-35% in 2017. Why is this so?

Gujarat Elections

BJP has been in power in Gujarat since 1995. Extremely stable coalition between 1995 and last election. It was a cakewalk for BJP in Gujarat as Prime Minister was also from Gujarat. Hardik Patel- Caste Leader in Gujarat. He came up as a campaigner for getting reservations for Patel community. By the end of campaign, he became an agricultural class hero and dropped the reservation.

Prof. Sukumar Muralidharan

After 1991, BJP’s strategy was to try to get alliances but it didn’t work so they contended for more seats. Their Campaign revolved around development and criticism of Congress. In UP, BJP was placed third in 2012. The first was SP and the second was BSP. BJP was well behind in terms of vote share. They broke up the strategic alliances that both the parties had with Muslims. The BJP managed to get so many people to contribute to their vote bank. The Gujarat Agrarian distress isa factor that affects the entire country and nothing substantial has been done in the past four years by the BJP government to alleviate that. What does that foretell for the future elections? Would BJP be staring at the possibility of a setback?