Wednesday, February 12, 2014

India Elections Tidbits #1: Why I think parties are looking at the wrong place for votes

Since the biggest entertainment of India i.e. parliamentary elections is just around the corner, I thought to understand the last parliamentary elections little better. As a researcher, I have learnt that the best way to understand any event is through the telemetry that it generates. So I decided to look at the data.
First my experience, even though election commission puts all the data on their website, it is extremely difficult to use in any meaningful way. They put PDF files for everything and the PDF files are also generated through bizarre set of input document. It required lots of hard work to get the data into a database so that one can make some sense out of it. This is first in a series of (hopefully) posts related to parliamentary elections 2009.
Now to answer the question that is mentioned in the title, why I believe political parties are looking for votes in the wrong place. A primary look at data suggests that many of the winners in the election don't represent anybody. Just have a look at the table. The figures in brackets in third column are voting percentage in the constituency.

Winners with low voting percentage
Winning Percentage
(of the total electors)
Number of seatsTotal Voting Percentage
Nawada, BH(38.13%)
11%2Salempur, UP(39.21%)
Chatra, JH(45.67%)
12%5Madhubani, BH(39.83%)
Pratapgarh, UP(44.66%)
Phulpur, UP(38.69%)
Gonda, UP(45.12%)
Palamau, JH(45.95%)
13%11Jamui, BH(38.13%)
Anantnag, JK(27.10%)
Bhiwandi, MH(39.39%)
Jalore, RJ(37.98%)
Lucknow, UP(35.33%)
Farrukhabad, UP(46.78%)
Baharaich, UP(41.12%)
Sant Kabir Nagar, UP(47.27%)
Machhlishahr, UP(40.99%)
Chandauli, UP(46.39%)
Bhadohi, UP(43.35%)
14%17Begusarai, BH(48.75%)
Banka, BH(48.74%)
Arrah, BH(35.78%)
Sasaram, BH(42.70%)
Srinagar, JK(25.55%)
Rewa, MP(48.34%)
Kalyan, MH(34.30%)
Mumbai North East, MH(42.46%)
Agra, UP(42.03%)
Akbarpur, UP(43.62%)
Hamirpur, UP(48.40%)
Deoria, UP(45.26%)
Bansgaon, UP(39.02%)
Lalganj, UP(43.62%)
Ghosi, UP(45.23%)
Varanasi, UP(42.61%)
Godda, JH(56.48%)
15%16Mujaffarpur, BH(46.41%)
Gopalganj, BH(37.40%)
Ujiarpur, BH(45.89%)
Karakat, BH(41.61%)
Palghar, MH(48.10%)
Aligarh, UP(51.44%)
Kheri, UP(54.58%)
Misrikh, UP(41.48%)
Fatehpur, UP(45.19%)
Faizabad, UP(49.94%)
Kaiserganj, UP(41.10%)
Shrawasti, UP(43.06%)
Rajmahal, JH(55.18%)
Kodarma, JH(56.14%)
Dhanbad, JH(45.03%)
Lohardaga, JH(53.21%)
As we can see in the table, except for couple of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir where the voting percentage itself is very low, other constituency have not so bad voting percentage. Bihar, UP and Jharkhand seem to be states where this trend is prevalent. Also these constituencies are not obscure constituencies, these are represented by Meera Kumar, Murali Manohar Joshi, Salman Khurshid, Lalji Tandon among other candidates.
So, what is my point here. I think that political parties are just not paying attention to the the block of voters that doesn't vote. That is more than 40% of voters who have not voted and can tilt the election in each of these constituencies.
That's where parties like AAP are more successful. Because of their design, they seem to be easily able to attract non-voters. I think new parties like AAP need to get their message out to these non-voters and get them out on voting day. Old parties, need to put candidates that can inspire non-voters to come out and vote. That's why I believe old belief of "winnability of candidates" is a wrong approach. If parties put candidates that can inspire people to come out and vote, they can easily get a positive result in each of these constituencies.

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