Monday, May 18, 2009

Elections 2009: Do results really reflect ground reality?

The Great Indian Political League 2009 threw a lot of surprises. These surprises surprised even those who caused the surprises. Before and during the elections every analyst was describing the kind of surprise that will be witnessed in these elections. After the results, they are now trying to explain why those surprises didn't occur. In this era of "breaking news" syndrome, the media tries to keep churning stories upon stories. The constant bombarding of varied news content doesn't leave time for the common man to sit back and analyse the data peacefully. And therefore, we believe the media most of the time. Being a Ph.D. student most people, from my relatives, friends and even people who do not know what a Ph.D. is, believe that I have all the time in the world. So, it doesn't do harm to keep that belief intact. Just as we like to believe that the Congress, SP and RJD are secular, but BJP is communal. So, I took some time off and decide to dig a little bit about the result. This is my analysis of the election results.

Let us accept one fact that most of the media in India is pro-Congress, rather anti-BJP. That is why the media kept playing about Narendra Modi and his connection with the Gujarat riots. I remember a news channel advertisement, where it was providing snippets of an interview with NaMo, that was to be broadcast later. The snippets kept repeating the interviewer's question on the riots to NaMo and NaMo's brushing aside the question. Now, if this snippet is shown in every break up to hours before the full telecast, imagine the effect it will have on the viewer. Remember, till now no court has ever proved that NaMo is guilty, nor is there any judgement which states that NaMo is hindering the investigations. But, NaMo is guilty until proven innocent. On the other hand, the Congress is treated softly by the media. No demolishing of the Congress for giving tickets to Sajjan Kumar and Jagadish Tytler. Just see how softly Barkha Dutt interviewed Priyanka Gandhi. Nor did the Prime Minister's statement about Ottavio Quattrochi receive enough coverage and demolition that it deserved. So, the media was involved in biased reporting.

Now, coming to the analysis of the results. First, the voter turnout was around 58% over India as a whole. So, let us forget the other 42%. Most of them deserve to be stuck with the MPs that came through. But, as the media claims, have people really elected for stability? Recounting Navjyot Singh Sidhu's Sidhuism, "Statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is interesting, what they conceal is vital." To support this, I'm now giving the case of two constituencies here, one where the Congress was elected and the other where its ally the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was elected.

The first one is Mumbai North. Sanjay Nirupam of the Indian National Congress (INC) defeated Shri Ram Naik of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Mr. Nirupam polled 255157 votes, whereas Mr. Naik polled 249378 votes. The difference between the winning and losing candidate: a mere 5779 votes. The total votes polled in Mumbai North were 683975. So, percentage-wise Mr. Nirupam got 37.31% of the votes. Which means, a whopping 62.69% of the voters rejected Mr. Sanjay Nirupam.

The second is Mumbai North East. Mr. Sanjay Patil of the NCP polled 213505 votes, while the runner up, Mr. Kirit Somaiyya of the BJP polled 210572 votes. The difference: a mere 2933 votes. Here, the total votes polled were 667904. Percentage-wise, Mr. Patil got 31.96% votes, lesser vote percentage than Mr. Nirupam. In this case, 68.03% of the voters rejected Mr. Patil.

These may appear selective statistics, but then all over India, there have been many constituencies, even the prestigious Sivganga constituency, where such close contests have been witnessed. So, how much value does statements "Mandate rejection of caste politics" and "A vote in favour of a new dawn" or "A thoughtful verdict for stability" hold? Since India's election is about first past the pole, there will be a large number of people who will reject this statement. At least those who voted against Messrs Nirupam and Patil would do so.

In this election the Indian voter has just showed how many choices they have and that few candidates enjoy the support of the majority. If this was a mandate for the UPA, at least half of their elected MPs should have had secured more than 50% votes in their constituencies. But this is not the case as we see from the two examples above. I am sure that many of the elected MPs have come to the Parliament with similar vote shares. This is the flaw in our democratic system and we have to live with it until someone comes across with a better alternative.

P.S. All figures for votes and voting percentages have been compiled from the Election Commission of India's website.
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  1. US has a thing called run-off, in which if you do not get 50% of the votes polled, the top two compete again....but that is going to mean 2 elections in India :)

    In the statistics you present, why don't you try to add MNS votes to the NDA votes and see how the result changes...I am sure they would have cut around 10,000 BJP votes...

    BTW, I think the same first to the pole kind of thing helped NDA in '99. The minority vote got split between all the tiny regional parties, and the BJP gained....

    This year though, it looks like the Muslims and Christians have voted as a block to the fact in Kanyakumari, which was considered to be BJP's first seat in TN, went to DMK because the church placed a diktat asking the christians to support DMK....

    Now, if a Hindu temple had placed some diktat like that, it would have been communal and against the very fabric of our democracy....but if you are muslim or christian, you have every right to vote as a block!

    That is the really sad thing for me this time, that secularism is having two different meanings based on which relegion you follow

  2. No demolishing of the Congress for giving tickets to Sajjan Kumar and Jagadish Tytler.

    I am not very sure if thats correct.

  3. @Kaushik,

    There would be no need of two elections. In a sequel to this post, I'll try to outline an alternative. And yes, even in Kerela the church had issued a 'fatwa' in which it indirectly asked people to vote for the Congress. As you mentioned in your post, the Muslims too have been openly airing their anti-Hindu statements. So, it is a cause of worry, when being a pro-Hindu means being communal, while being pro-Muslim or pro-Christians, etc. means being secular.

  4. @Anonymous,

    Did you ever see an interview where any Congress leader was poked with uncomfortable questions related to the Sikh riots? Did any anchor "ask" any Congress leader that since they have withdrawn Tytler and Kumar's candidature, doesn't it imply that they are accepting their role in the ant-Sikh riots? I didn't come across any such questioning, the manner in which NaMo was being questioned about the Gujarat riots. Where is the devil's advocate now?

  5. I would prefer not to talk abt the medias handling of Tytler or Sajan. What I meant was that these guys were not given tickets. I may as well be wrong but I think they were denied ticket.

  6. @anon:
    I agree with Vinay. If they were *not guilty* (the verdict by CBI itself was very fishy, coming days before their nomination), why did the congress bow down...

    Also, if gujrat-02 is termed as a progrom, why not Delhi-'84. If i were the media, I would bracket both together...

    you should have a reason not to talk about media handling '84 issue similarly to the '02 riots...because media creates perception....any news watching Indian has grey spots about Modi, thanks to the media, when he too is just an accused as sajjan and tytler...but no voices can be heard abotu sajjan and tytler's conduct during '84.

    @vinay: waiting for the post. I have been reading some "right-wing" blogs lately, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed. The media is blatantly parroting Congress' stand on this. I don't even know why!

  7. @Anon,
    Tytler and Sajan were in the fray for being Congress nominees from their respective seats in Delhi. It is just that they hadn't officially filed their nominations. The Congress didn't remove them because it felt the Sikhs would be hurt. They were toppled by Jarnail Singh's shoe which hit them like nine-pins. So, somewhere deep inside, the Congress knows that the two are guilty of being pro-active in the anti-Sikh riots. Therefore, they were removed after Jarnail Singh shoed Chidambaram.

    will do that over the weekend.

  8. Interesting blog. I liked ur analysis. And like Kaushik said, the system has to be tweaked around then.

    But yes, I agree, as part of the media, too, that most channels do have a soft corner for the Congress. I guess it is because of the Gandhi family. As a family, they have done a lot and been through a lot. And I guess nothing can match up to the sacrifices that family has done.

  9. The only reason that I didnt want to comment about media was due to our individual perceptions...each one of us may have a contradicting one and yet none of us may be just leads to "unending" commenting :)

    For example, one can say that media "punished" by the shoe throwing incident. But, again one can argue that it was just a one off incident and not every journalist is embarrassing the congress..The shoe throwing incident and that too particularly on PC is a huge embarrassment..Not that PC is a "innocent guy" but since he is the "I dont take sh*t" kind of guy

    I am not a great admirer of media,congress or the BJP but the thing is that Congress had publicly asked "sorry" (I know it does not bring back the lost lives) for the sikh riots and though symbolic they did cut off tickets of two biggies. But, BJP didnt do that for Varun Gandhi. (Again one can say that the tapes were doctored as Navin Chawal is pro-congress. The arguments just dont end and thats why I didnt want to comment in the first place)

    The sad thing is that Modi refusing to talk about Gujarat riots..I dont know why he is not using the same defense that he used in the immediate aftermath of the incident..And since he does this, people get all the more excitement in taking him back there.

    I am not sure if I am correct but the cases were moved out of Gujarat as the courts werent comfortable. This may not reflect something good on Modi' government.

    I may be wrong (and pray too) but I definitely dont buy the argument that Modi does not have blood on his hands.

    Of late, it has become a fashion to bash the media particularly for supporting congress. I dont understand as to how they managed to make sure that all the prominent journos speak on their side (some say it is the padma awards). Lets hope they put up such a nice effort on foreign diplomacy too

  10. "So, percentage-wise Mr. Nirupam got 37.31% of the votes. Which means, a whopping 62.69% of the voters rejected Mr. Sanjay Nirupam."

    I dont think I would ever agree with the second part of the statement. Just because someone didnt go and vote doesnt mean that the vote is against SN. If the person actually wanted to vote against SN, he would have gone and voted to someone else or atleast used the "vote for none" option.

  11. @Anon,
    Mr. Nirupam got 37.31% of the total votes polled. Not 37.31% of the total eligible voters. I've already mentioned in my post that all across India the voting percentage is around 58%, which means the 42% who didn't vote shouldn't complain.

    If Mr. Nirupam gets 37.31% of the total votes, it means the remaining 62.69% of the votes that were polled went against him. So, it means that the majority of the people who voted in his constituency didn't want him to be their leader. Who else? That is a different question.

  12. @puresunshine
    Sacrifices of the Gandhi family? The last person in the Gandhi family who made a sacrifice was Rajiv Gandhi, who left his plum airline pilot job and began helping his mother.

    Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka haven't made any sacrifices. I can understand Sonia's initial apprehensions about joining politics, but then she hasn't made any great sacrifices for the nation. Priyanka continues to be safe with the Vadra family, she has abandoned her family for the cause of the nation. Rahul too, has kept his interests in various businesses intact. Not a bad idea, but then larger sacrifices have been made by L.K. Advani, A.B. Vajpayee and for that matter even Lalu Yadav. These people went to jail to protest against the imposition of Emergency, imposed by the Congress.

  13. @anon on the media:
    It is all about perceptions and how you interpret what is being shown!

    I think the journo threw the shoe because no one in the media was making it an issue...

    Do you think a public Modi apology would be enough? For all his talks on development, I also want him punished, IF proven guilty in the court of law...the media cannot appropriate blame on anyone...

    Things were not done correctly in Gujrat, but by the same measure, things were not done correctly in '84 too. All I demand is a balanced coverage of both...and presently, I don't think even a Modi apology will make the media not take up '02 to prove that BJP is communal...

    Regarding Varun Gandhi, He made silly statements, but I don't see how you can connect that to Congress not giving tickets to Sajjan kumar and tytler.

    There are two sides to every coin, and if you are just showed one on the TV, day in and day out, everyone is going to believe that the coin is one-sided.

    @puresunshine: Indira Gandhi imposed emergency because her election was challenged in a court...she nearly took over the country for her personal interests...

    As Vinay said, what are the sacrifices of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi?

    The Congress is just using their surnames. They MAY be good politicians, but they are not good because they are Gandhis.

    @Vinay: I have a question? Who do you think would you support in the US? The republicans or the democrats? The republicans are the "right" or "center of right", the kind of political space BJP wants to occupy...but I don't see myself wanting any of their policies...

  14. @kaushik,

    I'm not completely aware of the policies that the Republicans and Democrats follow. This is not a diplomatic answer, but the truth. What I can say is that when the average American feels that the economy is in doldrums, he/she banks on the Democrats who are more about social welfare, government spending, etc. Yes, more like the Congress, left-of-centre.

    In the good times, the American citizens hand things over to the Republicans, whose policies prefer the free enterprise and market economy.

    Whom would I prefer? Well, I read a column by S.A. Iyer in the Times, where he said that India has benefited more from the US when Republicans were at the helm of affairs, while Democrats have actually hurt Indo-US relations. He said, while Bill Clinton maybe a popular Prez in India, all he did was enact sanctions against India. So, if I were to think of India's benefit, I would prefer the Republicans.

    Also, in India no party has ever abandoned the socialist nature. There is a socialistic attitude in every party in India.

  15. But, that is what the game is. It is not going to be changed in the near future at least. And, you cannot add MNS voters to NDA. MNS was a handy work of Congress. They created Sena in 60s against the Communists and Nav-Sena in 2008 against the Sena.

    Unless the BJP and Sena combine understand the game, I don't see any Sena-BJP Govt in Maharastra. Hope they can do some thing before the assembly election.

    Statistics can only give some hope to them, but not seats. They have to go the mass and do some ground work at least, without any hate-love speech.

  16. @aamjunta,

    That MNS was nurtured by the Congress is not completely true. The party was started, had an agenda and was trying to make its presence felt. The Congress-NCP govt didn't take action at that time as it felt it would antagonise the Marathi voters. And yes, if the MNS wasn't there, atleast 50% of the MNS votes can be safely shifted to the NDA kitty.

    While BJP-Sena seem to have lost to Congress in Mumbai, the Sena has gained ground in Western Maharashtra, a NCP stronghold. There was no MNS in Western Maharashtra.

    While the first-past-the-pole system has given the Congress-NCP seats in Mumbai, how true is the statement that the Congress and media are making? That people have voted for development and rejected all things that Congress doesn't want to associate with itself. How many people have actually done what the Congress says? Look at the statistics, it doesn't speak too well. And as I said, while the exampples I've presented appear selective, you can easily choose any constituency across India and there is a high probability that my article stands valid.

  17. vindicated! The times carried this article.

    I've presented some analysis in this blog. The Times has given a cause