Indian Voter

An interesting article by Swaminathan Anklaseria Aiyer notes that prosperity doesn't necessarily win the ruling class, elections. He goes on to show that 80% of incumbent governments do not win reelections. He says that 'in democracies the desire for change is strong: even rich, well-governed countries tend to change governments frequently.'

The Indian rural voter today is using his franchise in a more potent way than the urban voter. In his classic essay titled, 'The miracle that is India', Ramachandra Guha notes that, voting in ever higher numbers were Dalits and tribals, the oppressed and marginalised sections of society. In North India in particular, Dalits turned out in far greater numbers than high castes. As the political analyst Yogendra Yadav points out, "India is perhaps the only large democracy in the world today where the turnout of the lower orders is well above that of the most privileged groups."

But Aiyer's article demonstrates 'voting behaviour' of rural folk that is quite interesting.

'In 2004-05, the percentage of rural households reporting “not enough food every day in some months” was the highest in West Bengal (10.6%) followed by Orissa (4.8%). How dreadful that West Bengal is hungrier than even Bihar! Yet, the CPM was re-elected with an enormous majority for the sixth time in West Bengal. And Navin Patnaik was re-elected in Orissa, the second hungriest state. The lowest incidence of hunger was reported by Haryana, which nevertheless voted out Omprakash Chauthala. Of hungry rural households, the saddest are those that were hungry in every single month of the year. The worst performance in this respect came from Assam (3.6%) followed by Orissa and West Bengal (1.3% each.) Yet, all three states re-elected incumbents.'

Why does this happen ?

Note again what Aiyer says, 'What’s happening? Don’t voters care for performance at all? Well yes, they do, which is why 20% of incumbent governments get re-elected. But in democracies the desire for change is strong: even rich, well-governed countries tend to change governments frequently. In India, politicians are seen as corrupt rogues. So, voters who prosper feel this has happened despite the government, and those who don’t prosper think it is because of the government.'

Interesting !!


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