With the temperatures soaring high and leaving the people dry, this summer has turned red hot by the addition of the spice of elections. The massive rallies held by all the parties, the Election Commission of India kept busy like never before, the desperate tactics used by the parties to belittle their oppositional parties, the hate-monging speeches etc.are cooking the flavor of the season. I strongly believe that there is a need for every responsible Indian citizen to be a part of our democracy to morally stand a chance to question the systems and the Governments at the state and central levels. Thus, I would like to see all my fellow citizens go out and exercise their right to vote to bring about the change in the dynamics of the Indian electorate and to make the word ‘Democracy’ more relevant in the Indian polity.
There are several factors that play a vital role in the formation of the Government of India and the role of just a few states is of great significance in this. So, lets learn how those states make an impact.
The Engine Room :
The 5 most populous states – Uttar Pradesh (UP), Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh (AP) account almost half (48.90%) of India’s total population and make up almost 46% (249 out of the 543) of the seats in the Lok Sabha thereby making the group of these 5 states the engine room of the Indian electorate. In the past decade, neither of the two leading national parties (INC & BJP) of India singly had any Government at the state level nor did they have any run away majority in the Lok Sabha seats in these states excepting Andhra Pradesh, where the INC has had a great presence in both the assembly and in the Lok Sabha . In Maharashtra, its the game of alliance between the INC and NCP that keeps the INC afloat while the state of Bihar was jointly held by JD(U) and BJP until Nitish Kumar decided to part ways from BJP and the NDA in the mid 2013. It’s the state party (SP), the sub-national state party (TMC) and the second string national parties (BSP,CPI(M) ) with the likes of Netaji, Didi, Bhenji and Bhattacharjee that have had their footprint in the states of UP and West Bengal.
The decision to bifurcate the state of AP (Telangana & Seemandhra) has changed the dynamics of both the 2014 general elections and the assembly elections in the bifurcated state also very significantly and has politically backfired big way for INC as the people of residual AP (Seemandhra) strongly opposed this bifurcation. The little overall advantage that the INC held over BJP in these 5 major regions has been squandered and it could possibly be a wipe out for it in AP if the opinion poll results are to come true and that again means the control shifts to the regional parties (TDP,TRS & YSRCP).
With the division of AP, the state of Madhya Pradesh(MP) replaces it as the 5th most populous Indian state and that changes the statistics a bit. Now, the total seats from the 5 most populated states comes down to 236 from 249 accounting to almost 43.70% of the total Lok Sabha seats. With a more than likely decimation of INC in AP and the strong presence of BJP in the state of MP, it’s the Narendra Modi brigade that gains a little advantage over INC in these 5 major states clubbed together.
The Southern Powerplay:
The south of India with the states of Kerala, Karnataka, AP and Tamil Nadu accounts for 129 (23.88%) seats and has always had a great impact on the formation of the Government at the centre and this time its bound to be no different with the things getting more spicy post AP’s bifurcation into Telangana & Seemandhra. Excluding the national parties, which are of great significance only in the state of Karnataka, the major power players in the south (Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi, Chandrababu Naidu, Jaganmohan Reddy), with their larger than life image and huge following are the heads of the regional parties that exist in here.
The INC always had atleast a small presence in all of these states everytime but the BJP, barring Karnataka is nowhere to be seen in the remaining states. Thus, it sees the need to ally with the other regional parties in the south going into this election to make an impact of any sort at the centre and so far it has done well. The likes of its old ally TDP from AP, the so called rainbow alliance with MDMK, PMK, DMDK, KMDK, IJK in Tamil Nadu and Kerala Congress from Kerala have all been brought together under a single umbrella of the NDA.
Possible adverse Effects of these states:
The 10 above mentioned states (5 most populated & 5 from south India) account for 365 seats i.e. more than 2/3 of the entire lower house. One can understand that the seats are in proportion to the total population. Now, lets just imagine a situation where the voter turnout in these states is very less when compared to the remaining states. “How does that make any difference ?” is a possible question one may raise referring to the comparison.
Those 10 states, with the number of seats they have in the Lok Sabha, possibly have the potential to decide who forms the Government at the centre. So, does that potential get affected if voters from the other 19 states and 7 union territories vote more in numbers than those who voted in these 10 states?. The answer is a simple NO. The overall results of the polls stay as they are even if it’s a 20% or 30% voter turnout in the whole of those 10 mentioned states if compared with 70% voter turnout in the remainder of India and still those 10 states stake a larger claim in making the Government of India. So, that potential does not really change and has the same impact on overall results of the polls.
Statistics courtesy : 2011 Census of India
There are many issues that are always revolving around an election. Firstly, whenever an election comes up, no matter if it’s a municipal or a state assembly or a panchayat election there is a lot of talk amongst the common people about the elements like money, caste and religious based voting. I don’t think this year’s elections (16th Lok Sabha & Assembly elections in 7 states) will be any different. The major issues are :
1. Cash for Votes :
The issue of money exchanging hands between the voters and the party workers campaigning for a contestant has become a prevalent practise in our system and is very much an open secret. One may not find this practise in the urban areas but this the ground reality in the rural areas, small towns and villages. The senior politicians and the new aged highly educated politicians are equally to be blamed for this set up of a bad precedent, thereby mocking the true meaning of the word ‘Democracy’. There have been been reports of unaccounted cash being seized regularly but this practise never stops and most of this wrongdoing gets swept under the rug.
2. Fake Voters :
The issue of fake voting is a longstanding one. The voter ID registration process is not really transparent and clean and almost everyone can get the voter ID card by the process that is being followed. The people are brought to the polling booths by an arranged transport system, in few cases they are even lured by providing them with alcohol. Recently on a social media network, a woman from Bangalore came up with a post saying there were many Bangladeshi citizens in her locality, who migrated to India hardly an year ago and were applying for the voter ID cards on the basis of having the Aadhar and the PAN cards. Such migrants are encouraged in every possible way by appeasing them with jobs, shelter and subsidies by the Government that seeks their support during an election. It’s a baffling fact that the Aadhar and PAN card holders need not be Indians and based on those cards they are being considered for the provision of a voter ID card. This just cannot happen without any support and external pressure from the people in power, who are good at making things happen behind the scenes with no fear of law and clearly suggesting that political mileage is what they are interested in by increasing their votebank tally. All such fake voters, who do not even connect to the basic concepts of India contribute significantly in the outcome of the polls.
3. Vote Banks :
Votebank politics for me is the cheapest way one would think of coming to power. ‘Unity in Diversity’ , a motto which India brags about but there’s a massive division in the Indian society amongst many people, thanks mainly to the countless castes, languages and various religions. No matter how much one denies this, it’s the actual reality of the scenario right from the backward regions to the urban Thakurs, Rajputs, Jats of northern India to the Reddy, Gowda and Iyer communities down south. The politicians go to the electorate and make irresponsibly inflammatory speeches to seek votes in the name of caste and religion and that is where the fuel is added to the fire. It’s like business asusual for them where they can stoop to new low levels just to gain power and run their show of strength. I feel, the parties which are the self certified guardians of the concept of ‘Secularism’ in India, which accuse other parties of polarising the votes for political gains are the real wreckers of this society by disrupting the little communal harmony and by building a communalised and polarised atmosphere around the elections.