Of Friends and Foes

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Wily alliances have generally been the backbone of state and national politics in India. For the first time in  decades, we are seeing a single party (the BJP) contest and win elections on its own. However, it’s not just a resurgent BJP that is breaking ties with its allies. A battered INC too chose to go the Maharashtra elections on its own. How much of a difference did the lack of alliances make? And whom did it hurt the most?

In today’s post, I look at close contests in the Maharashtra state elections and the difference an alliance could have made to these contests. A close contest is defined as a victory margin of 5000 votes or less. I looked at the winning vote margin and tallied the combined votes of the losing alliance to see if this would have made a difference.


The INC/NCP combine took the biggest hit. An alliance between the two could have salvaged over 30% of these close contests. And sometimes by a huge margin. For eg: In Melghat, the BJP won with 57,ooo votes. The NCP came in second with 55,000 votes and the INC with 48,500 votes. A combined fight would easily have taken this seat. Even in seats that technically qualify as ‘no difference’, the NCP-INC combine lost with a very slim margin.

It is clear that no matter what NCP-INC would have lost the state. Anti-incumbency and a resurgent BJP worked against it. However, smarter politics could have helped mitigate the extent of this lose. The INC has always been able to reinvent itself and its ability to ally with local leaders has been a large part of this. The push  and pull of alliance politics have led to unlikely bedfellows, have sometimes led to policy paralysis and often acted as a check on the power wielded by national parties. If the INC intends to remain relevant in national politics then it needs to choose its friends and foes carefully.

What Women Want

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Election 2014 set historical trends for female voters with over 65% of them exercising their franchise. For today’s post, I look at constituency level data on female voters and compare it to party victories in these constituencies. The data is fairly clear: the BJP does not do well in constituencies with the highest female voter turnouts. Interestingly, it is regional parties that hold sway in these constituencies.

To be clear, this data doesn’t point to direct co-relation. A lot of constituencies with high voter turnouts are in the South and the East, neither of which are saffron bastions. However, it is telling that the BJP’s win % increase from 11.4 – 78 as female voter turnout decreases. If the BJP wants to increase its foothold in these regions, it would need to appeal to the female electorate. The party’s retrograde attitude to sexual violence and it’s attempts to control female choice must be re-examined if the party wants to solidify its current position in the Indian electorate.

Graph 1 looks at win % in constituencies with female voter turnout of 75%and above (148 seats). Graph 2 looks at constituencies with female voter turnout of 65-75% (130 seats), Graph 3 looks at constituencies with female voter turnout of 60-65% (88 seats). Finally, Graph 4 looks at constituencies with female voter turnout of less than 60% (179 seats). Only parties which won more than 4% of the seats have been included in the graph.

75%65-7560-65Less than 60

Social Media and Elections 2014

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A lot was made about the impact of social media in the last elections. The Modi campaign was credited with creating a convincing media blizzard which other parties failed to emulate. But did this really translate into actual seats? To answer that question, I look at party victories in Lok Sabha constituencies with high, medium and low impact of social media.

Thankfully, the good people at IRIS Knowledge Foundation had already classified the constituencies in these categories. The methodology is detailed in their report, it isn’t perfect but it will do for this post. 16o Constituencies are labelled as High Impact, 67 are labelled Medium Impact and 60 are termed Low Impact. The remaining 256 are termed No Impact and not considered for the purposes of this study.

High Impact

Medium ImpactLow Impact


It seems clear that the BJP took a much larger share of the pie in LS seats with a high social media impact. A direct co-relation to social media cannot be made. The BJP has traditionally done better in urban seats which have a high social media impact. However, part of the credit for its unprecedented performance in high impact seats must definitely lie with it’s extensive social media campaigning.

Yes, social media may seem constrained to certain populations right now. After all, 256 of the seats qualified as no-impact. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that a lot of power lies in good social media management. The methods of political campaigning are slowly shifting in India. The BJP definitely seems to have benefited from it. Other parties would do well to take note of this trend.

Maharashtra: What has changed since 2009?

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Change in Number of Seats-page-001The Maharashtra state elections are fast approaching. Riding high on its Lok Sabha victory, the BJP-SHS combine is expected to unseat the 15 year old INC-NCP government. Today’s post looks at vote share data from the recent Lok Sabha and previous state elections. What does this data indicated for the upcoming ballot race?

Graph 1 looks at the change in number of Lok Sabha seats from 2009 to 2014 general elections. Graph 2 looks at the change in vote share between 2009 and 2014 elections. Graph 3 looks at the number of close contests won by each party in the 2009 state elections. A close contest is defined as a victory margin of less than 10%. A huge thanks to the Election Commission for all its wonderful data.

The INC-NCP combine won 75 of these close contests in the 2009 state elections. 85 seats had a victory margin of less than 5%. It is clear that even in 2009, the INC-NCP had a tough time retaining its power. The battle seems even more uphill now.

Change in Number of Seats-page-001 Vote Share -page-001Close Contests-page-001

The Price of Unity

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UnityThe recent Union Budget allotted 200 crore Rupees ($33 million dollars) to the dubiously named and environmentally problematic Unity Statue. This allocation is in addition to the amount allotted by the Gujarat state government. This is a huge turn back for a party which heavily criticized Mayawati for building statues in Uttar Pradesh.

Today’s post looks at 10 things that cost less than this statue. Women’s safety, climate adaptation and welfare of tribals all rank lower in budget priority. Click here for the full text of the Budget Speech.

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Budget 2014: A look at Public Health

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HealthGDPThe new budget is set to be unveiled next week and there is a lot of speculation on the direction it will take. The blog will do a series on the budget and it’s implications for the nation.

Today’s post takes a look at an oft overlooked aspect of the budget: public health expenditure. I take a look at statistics on the nature of the public health system in India. It is clear that the health care system in the country is ill equipped to care of the population. The state’s unwillingness to invest in health infrastructure is difficult to understand, given India’s consistently poor showing in health outcomes. It is clear that the government needs to allocate more resources towards creating an affordable health care system, especially for the poor.

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The First 30 Days: A Twitter Flashback

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The first 30 daysRecently, Narendra Modi’s twitter account reached 5 million followers and he became the fourth-most followed political leader in the world. The PM has expressed his penchant for communication over Twitter and the party has encouraged BJP MPs to have a visible presence in social media.

It seemed only appropriate (and fun!) to take a look back at the first thirty days of the PM through Twitter. What does the PM talk to his Twitter followers about? I look at number of tweets by the PMO and an issue wise breakdown of the Tweets. Read the rest of this entry »