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2019 Elections in India: Good Economics Makes For Good Politics

Therefore, the lesson for political parties is to devise mechanisms that focus on issue-based election campaigning, which will enable favourable public opinion and increase their chances of winning.

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In the worlds largest democratic practice, around 900 million voters - more than the combined population of all the European countries, across 543 constituencies will cast their votes to decide the fate of political parties. Pixabay

BY: AMIT KAPOOR

The Indian elections that kicked off on Thursday are a democratic exercise the likes of which the world has never seen. In the worlds largest democratic practice, around 900 million voters – more than the combined population of all the European countries, across 543 constituencies will cast their votes to decide the fate of political parties.

The media coverage, like every election season, is being ruled by opinion polls. Surveyors and pollsters have jumped into the maze of deciphering future election results by making use of statistical models that forecast the vote share and the seat share of political parties based on surveys conducted among electorates. These forecasts have become fodder for everyday conversation.

However, it is difficult to trust the results of opinion polls as the results differ significantly from poll to poll. Given this situation, many researchers have examined the results of opinion polls and claimed that they have failed repeatedly to predict election outcomes.

A recent study presented in the book ‘The Verdict’ demonstrates that the success rate of such polls in estimating the number of seats that the winning party may bag is just 62 percent. On similar lines, a study conducted by India Today raised concerns over the fact that day by day, opinion polls are drifting away from reality. One of the main findings of that analysis is that the errors in predicting Lok Sabha elections are on the rise since 1998-99.

In such a situation where the gap between opinion poll predictions and actual outcomes is widening it is important to have a better statistical model in place to make sense of what factors are driving the outcomes behind elections. This can be done by indicating which types of economic and political data most meaningfully correlate with election outcomes.

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Twitter has provided a direct link between voters and leaders. Pixabay

An attempt to develop such a holistic model that can provide precise estimates of voting behaviour must take into account all the factors that citizens keep in mind while casting their votes. In most democracies, a common belief is that good economics makes for good politics. This belief suggests that an incumbent party’s chances of winning elections increase if the region experienced positive economic growth during their term.

In India, however, this popular notion is not supported by data. A simple correlation analysis between the growth rate of GDP per capita and the incumbent party getting re-elected reveals a negative relationship between the two, implying that in most cases despite higher growth incumbent does not get re-elected. This observation helps us in concluding that support base and vote bank for parties in India is dependent on a host of factors other than economic development.

The two other factors that shape voting decisions of Indian voters might be social issues and public sentiment towards the government. A broad spectrum of the social issues from shelter to sanitation, education to health, personal rights to inclusion must be considered. This is important because of presence of diversity across Indian regions. For some living below the poverty line or on bare minimum income, social wellbeing would mean better shelter facilities, free healthcare, improved nutritional facilities, etc. For rich people, this would mean new opportunities to grow and improve their life.

The sentiment towards the current government can be captured through two aspects. One, the vote share of the national ruling party in the state elections held during their tenure. Second, the narrative build by traditional media platforms about leaders and political parties and social media engagement of the political parties. The traditional media platforms provide voters with the facts and figures that can help them to make informed choices. And the increased exposure of voters to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter has provided a direct link between voters and leaders. More and more candidates are relying on social media campaigns to win elections. By serving as the source of information, media has the power to impact voting behaviour of citizens.

A probit regression model, with the dependent variables as ‘the chances of incumbent coming back to power’ and explanatory variables as economic development, social wellbeing, sentiment towards the government and the presence of a strong regional party, for the period 1999 to 2014 results in a success rate of 80 percent.

The model predicts that for the upcoming elections the constituencies of Uttar Pradesh will play a key role in deciding the electoral fortunes of political parties. The incumbent Bhartiya Janata Party is expected to win 215 seats with surety while there are 33 seats in which any political party can turn the tables in its favour by focusing on the right set of issues.

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Indian voters are known for their anti-incumbency tendencies. Many instances from the Indian political history can be cited that prove that dealing with anti-incumbency has been the biggest challenge of the ruling party. Pixabay

The factors, according to the model, that dominates the arena of decision making are social issues wherein a larger piece of the puzzle comes from how inclusive the incumbent party is. It is observed that while casting their vote, people keep in mind how acceptable a leader is towards caste-based minorities and other socially backward groups, how they treat women, and what is the level of atrocities against these minority groups during the party’s tenure. The second crucial factor which dominates the arena of decision making is the sentiment towards the government.

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Indian voters are known for their anti-incumbency tendencies. Many instances from the Indian political history can be cited that prove that dealing with anti-incumbency has been the biggest challenge of the ruling party. For instance, BJP won a wave election in 2014 by channeling citizens anti-incumbency sentiments against the Indian National Congress.

Therefore, the lesson for political parties is to devise mechanisms that focus on issue-based election campaigning, which will enable favourable public opinion and increase their chances of winning. (IANS)

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By Advancing Interdependence, India will Bring New Dawn for Democracy in 21st Century

All citizens must be active participants in shaping the future of India

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Interdependence can be achieved by creating a country in which there is a shared understanding of the value of each citizen and a reliance on one another to eliminate discrimination. Pixabay

In his first speech after winning the election for his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed that “…we have to win ‘sabka vishwas’ (everyones trust).” What will be required to win that trust is establishing a true state of interdependence. Interdependence can be achieved by creating a country in which there is a shared understanding of the value of each citizen and a reliance on one another to eliminate discrimination, hostility, and prejudice and to provide equality and opportunity for all. All citizens must be active participants in shaping the future of India. They must be equal partners in Indias inclusive economic mobility and in Indias shared prosperity.

Independence Day is the perfect day to highlight the importance of and advance the concept of interdependence. This can be accomplished by promoting the need for a unified India on this national holiday.

The need for doing this is critical. Unfortunately, in the period since the Prime Minister called for winning “trust” in his speech, some Indians have engaged in actions destroying it.

Sadly, the heinous crimes at the beginning of Modi’s second term are nothing new. There were several lynchings and numerous attacks on Muslims during his first term.

Interdependence, India, Democracy
In his first speech after winning the election for his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed that “…we have to win ‘sabka vishwas’ (everyones trust).” Pixabay

Modi did not speak out vigorously then. He must do so now to demonstrate the essential leadership that will be required to create a state of interdependence. There are other serious conditions that must be addressed as well. To name just a few: sexual violence and subjugation of females continues; the caste system still exists; and, the problematic conditions of those in the weaker sections persist.

By speaking out, Prime Minister Modi can bring the country together to confront the matters that are hardening India’s democratic arteries. He cannot do that alone, however. He will need buy in and support from across the country and the citizenry.

A first step should be to “find our spiritual common ground”. That step can be initiated by recognizing that spirit is the invisible force that brings us together regardless of our caste, race, religion, region or political predisposition. The goal in discovering that common ground should be to create one nation under God. That nation would be an interdependent one and its God would be ecumenical and non-denominational. Its God would be welcoming to all.

As one nation, India would celebrate and embrace the richness of religious diversity

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As one nation, India would be inclusive and accepting unity over division and hope over fear

As one nation, India would elevate citizenship above angry and mindless partisanship and bring people together to pursue the common good

As one nation, India would be the place known for sharing and caring as opposed to blaming and shaming

As one nation, India would emphasize building bridges instead of constructing boundaries and barriers

Interdependence, India, Democracy
What will be required to win that trust is establishing a true state of interdependence. Pixabay

As one nation, India would ensure that all its people are literate and equipped with the skills to succeed in the 21st century

As one nation, India would extend life lines instead of drawing battle lines

As one nation, India would be a land of big dreams, small treasures, brave people, kind deeds, and tender mercies

As one nation, India would ensure the importance of the freedom of the free press, not to bury it

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As one nation, India would be a role model and exemplar for other democracies to emulate

Everyone must play a role in establishing India as one nation. Each citizen should engage in small acts of kindness by reaching out to those less fortunate and to the downtrodden by extending a helping hand and a hand up.

Some people can make special contributions. Religious leaders should promote interfaith dialogue. They should bring people together followers of different persuasions for meaningful conversations. They should promote a dialogue of understanding and a shared sense of community with other faiths. They should call the fact that attack on one faith is attack on all faiths. Political leaders should promote a framework of unity and civility. Civic and community leaders should promote collaboration in problem-solving. They should toil together their creeds to plant the seeds for doing good deeds.

There is no better day on which to resume our journey than Independence Day. There is no better way to make that journey than to chart a course to interdependence. By reaching that destination, India will establish itself as the beacon of hope for democracy worldwide. By realizing that potential, India will bring a new dawn for democracy in this 21st century. (IANS)