MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Uttar Pradesh has proved once again the trend observed in the assembly elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu last year that political changes are wrought mostly by new voters rather than old voters.
The essential difference is that while in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu new voters en masse plumped for the leading opposition party, in UP new voters distributed their largesse among the main contestants and the Samajwadi party proved to be biggest benefactor.
A study of the electoral behaviour in the country has proved one thing in rather conclusive terms: that parties hold on to their bases generally and the shift of political loyalty is very rare indeed. Whatever shift happens takes place marginally, while the bulk remain loyal to the party they have voted before.
Under the circumstances, political change depends essentially on new voters.
They comprise of two categories, namely newly enrolled voters and those who, though enrolled, had not previously voted before and come to exercise their franchise for the first time.
In Karnataka, it is the newly enrolled voters, who have regularly voted for the BJP in the past three elections, even managing to catapult the party to power in 2008. It had happened in West Bengal too, where they supported the Trinamool Congress last time.
In Tamil Nadu first-time voters sent packing home the Karunanidhi government of the DMK and put the crown on Jayalalitha of the AIADMK.
It has happened once again Uttar Pradesh elections too, where SP led by the father and son duo of Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Singh, have turned in a stunning performanance to displace the BSP government of Mayawati and regain power in a very convincing matter.
The UP polls, it may be noted here, witnessed a higher turn out for a State which has a track record of low poll percentages all these years. For the first time nearly 60% of voters—that is three out of every five voters—turned up at the booths, which is perhaps a record for the State.
It marked a more than 14% increase in the poll turn out and reports said that women turn out was appreciably higher this time.
In terms of numbers, the increase in poll turn out, meant that more than 2.35 crore voters had cast their votes. This included around 1.38 crore voters who had enrolled themselves as voters for the first time and remaining chunk being the voters though registered long ago, were exercising their right for the first time.
All these voters were making the choice of parties for the first time.
Of the total of 2.35 crore new votes waiting to be shared, the SP was able to corner a whopping 88 lakhs, to win 224 seats as against 97 in 2007 and earned right to rule the biggest state in India by its own right. This appeared to be direct offshoot of the social engineering done by the SP in the allotment of tickets, the aggressive campaign done by Akhilesh Singh and rising disenchantment with the Mayawati government.
The ruling BSP which could not match with the superior election campaign of the father-son duo lost the race to retain power. Its only consolation has been that despite all the propaganda unleashed against it, it did receive an additional vote support to the extent of 37.74 lakhs. But this was not enough to retain the power and stem the tide of support that SP had been able to mop up. It lost 126 seats to end up with only 80 in a house of 403 but emerge as the main opposition party in the sprawling State.
The Congress, which ran a spirited campaign under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, had the next highest share to the extent of 42 lakhs votes. In terms of the seats, it meant an additional six seats to its previous tally of 22.
What is significant is that its share in the polled votes reached the double digit bracket perhaps for the first time, though it has still a long way to go in quest of power in the state, by taking on the two well entrenched parties, the SP and the BSP.
All those who are writing off Rahul Gandhi’s campaign as a failure appear to have overlooked a significant fact that the campaign had brought an increase in the base of the Congress. This trend had also been noticed in Bihar too, where also the campaign was managed by Rahul Gandhi.
The BJP, which regarded the present poll as something of a runup to the parliamentary polls scheduled in 2014, had quite a disappointing performanance. Though it did receive an additional votes to the extent of 25.19 lakhs, it lost four seats. Its share in the polled votes showed a decline with the party receiving 15.01% as against 16.96 % of the previous poll.
Another interesting factor is that there had been considerable reduction in the number of voters and seats going to the other splinter parties. The four main parties between themselves could bag 376 seats in 403-member house, and capture more than 81% of the votes.
From a national point of view, in the context of the coming parliamentary elections in about two years of time (if not earlier), the prognosis is not good at all for the top two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, whose disconnect with the voters at large has shown no signs of receding.
Of the 2.35 crores of additional voters who exercised their right, in UP, the share of the two national parties was a mere 68 lakhs, while a marked higher chunk of votes went in favour of the regional satraps, Mulayam Singh and Mayawati, who between them had received a combined support to the tune of 1.25 crores of votes.
Going by the present mood, it is unlikely that the either the Congress or the BJP is able to show any improvement in the days preceding the next poll.