In a State of 4 crore voters, 33.78 lakhs hold key

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli:  If one were to adopt the language of cricket to the Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka, it is the extras, which make the difference between victory and defeat for the contesting parties.

This may sound strange but it is apparent to all those who have been looking closely at the electoral performanance in elections over the years. The “extras” are those who have maintained strict political neutrality in the assembly elections but have exercised their vote in favour of either of the national parties in the LS elections.

Therefore, as far as the State goes, it does not matter whether the general elections and assembly elections are held simultaneously or separately after an interval of one or two years.

The latest example of the classic trend was the 2004 elections, when the two elections were held simultaneously. It was noticed that the number of neutral voters who had stayed away from the main national parties in the assembly segments was around 38.30 lakhs out of the total valid 251.29 lakh voters.

In the Lok Sabha polls, though, nearly half of them chose to express their preference for either the BJP or Congress. As a result, the BJP picked up an additional 16 lakhs votes over and above what the party had received in the assembly polls held at the same time, to notch up a total of 87.32 lakh votes, while the Congress got additional support to the extent of 3.86 lakhs to end up with a tally of 92.47 lakhs. The JDS got a paltry addition of 65,000 voters.

A similar trend was noticed when simultaneous elections were held in 1989, and during separate elections held after a brief interregnum as in 1983 (assembly) and 1984 (Parliament), or 1994 (assembly) and 1996 (Parliament).

If this trend were to hold good in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, too, the performanance of the parties in the 2008 assembly elections would be a benchmark, with a motley crowd of around 34 lakh voters holding the key in deciding the political fortunes of the three parties, namely the BJP, Congress and JDS, each of which have their own political agenda.

This bunch of 34 lakh voters out are of the 2.60 crore voters in an electorate of 4 crores who had taken a politically neutral stand in the assembly elections and had kept the main political parties at bay while bestowing attention on the smaller parties, independents and others.

A chart specially prepared to interpret the 2008 assembly election results in terms of the parliamentary constituencies going to polls, reveals quite an interesting picture on the behavioural pattern and ground realities of the balance of political power.


It is seen that out of the polled voters of 260.13 lakh votes, the three main parties picked up 89.80 lakhs (Congress), 87.79 lakhs (BJP) and 49.34 lakhs (JDS) for the 80, 110 and 28 seats respectively, while 33.78 lakh voters (12.98%) had gone to the “others” category, from which six independents had emerged victorious (all whom are now a part of the ruling BJP government.

After the byelections to the eight assembly constituencies, the situation underwent a small change, with the BJP improving its position slightly, picking up 1.96 lakh additional voters and five additional assembly seats, the JDS retaining one and picking up two additional seats while its votes tally saw erosion to the extent of 72,000.

The Congress failed to retain or win any of the eight, and its vote count dipped by 74,000 votes.

But in terms of the parliamentary constituencies, the BJP, the Congress led in 12 each and the JDS in the remaining four. That situation hardly changed after the byelections to the eight assembly constituencies.

# The twelve constituencies, where the Congress has a lead are as follows: Chikkodi (+79,000), Bijapur (+25,000), Gulbarga (+41,000), Raichur (+54,000), Bidar and Koppal (+13,000), Dakshina Kannada (+5,000), Chitradurga (+36,000), Mysore (+56,000), Chamarajanagar (+1.10 lakh), Chikballapur (+69,000) and Kolar (+55,000).

# The twelve constituencies, where the BJP has a lead are as follows: Belgaum (+56,000), Bagalkot (+66,000), Bellary (+1.04 lakhs), Haveri (+60,000), Dharwad (+97,000), Uttara Kannada (+5,000), Davangere (+1.31 lakhs), Shimoga (1.18 lakhs), Udupi (+76,000), Bangalore North (+4,000), Bangalore Central (+55,000), and Bangalore South (+31,000).

# The four constituencies where the JDS is in the lead are: Hassan (+76,000), Tumkur (+31,000), Mandya (+1.31 lakhs) and Bangalore Rural (+35,000).

It can be seen that in only six constituencies, the lead for the parties is near and more than one lakh votes, of which four—Bellary, Davangere , Shimoga, and Dharwad—are with the BJP, with the Congress (Chamarajanagar) and JDS (Mandya) having one each.

It is in this context that the presence of 33.78 lakh votes neutral votes clubbed under the “others” category in the chart assumes significance. It can be seen that the average size of this category of voters is more than one lakh per constituency, with the number crossing the two-lakh mark in the three constituencies of Chitradurga, Mandya and Chamarajnagar. And in 10 constituencies it is less than one lakh and it is least in the four Bangalore constituencies, Bangalore Rural North, Central and South.

The question is how many of the neutral category may prefer to cast votes?

If the 2004 performanance is any guide, it is around 50%—which in this case around is 16 lakh voters.

Whom would they vote for? Again going by the previous experience, the BJP may get a lion share, followed by Congress and JDS.

In 16 constituencies, the parties have a lead of more than 50,000 votes. One can safely assume that it should be possible for them to retain the same. And the problem comes only in the remaining 12 constituencies, where the lead is less than 50,000 and it is here that the “sundries” become crucial for each of the parties.