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How angry “Hindi” voters turned the tables against Congress in 1977 elections

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credits: intoday.in

By Praveen Chakravarty

New Delhi: “If the majority rule were to apply, the crow should be our national bird, not the peacock”. A quote attributed to the Tamil leader C.N. Annadurai during a protest speech in 1962 against the imposition of Hindi as a national language, 13 years before the imposition of emergency by Indira Gandhi.

Annadurai went on to become the chief minister of Madras in 1967, galvanizing support through the anti-Hindi movement, defeating the Congress party in Tamil Nadu for the first time and forever.

The Congress party has never won in Tamil Nadu since. Ironically, a decade later, it was this “Hindi voter” that dealt the Congress party its first national defeat in parliamentary elections in 1977, after the emergency was lifted.

Twelve states accounted for 90 percent of all votes cast in the 1977 election. Using a loose definition of “Hindi” and “Non-Hindi” states, six “Hindi” states accounted for 65 percent of votes and the six “Non-Hindi” states, the remaining 35 percent. Our loose categorization of Hindi states include Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The non-Hindi states are Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal and Orissa.

One hundred and twenty million voters in these twelve states had a direct choice to express their anger against the emergency by voting against the Congress candidate on their ballot. Seventy million (63 percent) did. But 90 percent of all these angry voters were confined to the six “Hindi” states. Further, there were 376 constituencies in which there was a Congress candidate under Indira Gandhi’s leadership in both the 1971 and 1977 elections.

Fifty-two percent of these voted for the Congress candidate in the 1971 elections vs 38 percent only in the 1977 elections represented an absolute loss of 4.3 million voters for the Congress between 1971 and 1977. Incredulously however, 6.3 million incremental voters voted AGAINST the Congress in 1977 in the six “Hindi” states while 2 million voters incrementally voted FOR the Congress in the “non-Hindi” states.

Overall, in the “non-Hindi” states, roughly the same percentage of voters that voted for the Congress in 1971 did so in 1977. One state, Uttar Pradesh, accounted for 73 percent of all angry voters that treated the Congress with contempt while ironically, the voter in Tamil Nadu seemed nonchalant and even marginally happier with the Congress in 1977 vis-a-vis 1971. Ninety percent of all anger (vote share swing vis-a-vis 1971) was concentrated in three “Hindi” states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.

The Congress lost 167 seats across these twelve states in 1977 from the 1971 elections, of which 168 seats were lost in the six “Hindi” states and a gain of one seat in the six “non-Hindi” states. It is of telling significance that 40 million voters in the six “non-Hindi” states did not deem Indira Gandhi worthy of punishment for masterminding arguably independent India’s most heinous crime.

While one can nitpick over whether Maharashtra and Gujarat can truly be defined as “Hindi”, the larger point of this analysis is the massive diversion in reaction to what is generally considered a terrible action by any standards. To the ardent observer of Indian society and its history, this is rightly no big revelation or surprise. However, we still miss a scholarly narrative about why the “non-Hindi” citizen was not alarmed by the Emergency vis-a-vis her fellow “Hindi” citizen.

Was it the perceived positive impact of the 20-point programme? Was it the absence of a strong opposition in these “non-Hindi” states to galvanize support against the Emergency? Was it the lack of a credible alternative for people to vent their anger with? Was it the notion that local governance mattered much more than any suspension of civil liberties?

While Annadurai got his wish granted of Hindi not being imposed, has that inadvertently exacerbated and prolonged this chasm in voting behaviour between the “Hindi” states and “non Hindi” states, as was evident even in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections? (IANS)

Next Story

Is NYAY Going To Be A Game Changer for Congress?

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers.

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Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

By Amit Kapoor & Manisha Kapoor 

The idea of launching Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a cash transfer scheme that intends to provide Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent Indian families, by the Congress Party if it comes to power, has stirred a debate among the policymakers about whether the move is economically viable or is just a tactic by the Congress Party to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.

The discussions are foreseeable, provided that this intervention to ensure basic income to the poor households will cost the country somewhere between 1.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent of GDP, a number higher than the government’s expenditure on healthcare and education. The implementation of NYAY means an additional cost between Rs 3.6 lakh crore to Rs 7.2 lakh crore per year.

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. However, this will be a major dent in India’s budget expenditure and will explode the fiscal deficit from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

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An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. Pixabay

Apart from fiscal prudence, the other immediate concern surrounding the scheme is the identification of beneficiaries and the database that will be used for this. There is no official income database available with the government at the individual level and since most of the poor work in unorganised rural areas, there is no direct way of verifying their incomes such as through a payroll or income tax.

The proponents of the approach state that a good starting point could be Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 if one goes by multi-dimensional aspect of poverty. However, one can’t ignore the fact that even if the scheme defines poverty by assets and not income for quick exclusion rules, the data is outdated. A scheme targeted at reducing poverty can’t use data that is seven-eight years old. Even if one ignores that, it should be noted that there are major methodological issues with how data was collected. This is reflected in the discrepancies that exist in the data collected through SECC and other governmental data. A fresh survey for the identification process will lead to possibilities of corruption as in other targeted schemes. For instance, various studies have shown that many people who are not below poverty line have BPL cards.

One should also keep in mind that there exist significant disparities across Indian states and districts in terms of income levels and affordability of basic needs such as education, healthcare etc. Therefore, the same amount that means a lot to a person living in a low-income state or a state that has good access to public facilities such as public hospitals, schools etc would not be enough for a person trying to make a living in a high-income region. As a result, a prerequisite for such a scheme is a detailed regional level survey on income characteristics of Indian states and districts.

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To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. Pixabay

Another major concern surrounding the scheme is its inflationary implications. It is argued that the act of transferring cash to the target population will boost their purchasing power, which would lead to an increase in demand for goods and services and, thus, push prices upwards. Advocates of the approach have tried to argue that studies around the world present a lot of evidence to the contrary.

An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. However, these evidences should be considered with a pinch of salt. They rest on the assumption that the money will be spent on useful goods, that will help the local economy in becoming more productive. Though this will not be the case always.

Also Read: Food Unites People Across The Globe

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers. This idea is supported by claim that in-kind transfers will help by encouraging the consumption of right things, such as healthy food.

Given India’s concerns about rising unemployment rates, jobless growth and the fact that we need to have effective utilization of our young population to gain a competitive edge over other economies, the promoters are trying to project that NYAY can prove to be a game changer. However, for the Indian economy, a better alternative would be to strengthen the existing public services landscape by removing social, political and personal barriers, along with carrying out structural reforms that leads to creation of more productive jobs. (IANS)