Karnataka: Who are you voting for?

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CriminalWhile casting a vote is a great moment in the democratic process, the quality of democracy depends on the choice that is being offered. The vote is as important as the person it is being cast for. Who are we casting our vote for? My home state of Karnataka goes to polls on the 17th of April. For this post, I look at economic and social statistics on leading parties and candidates in the state of Karnataka. I find that most candidates are overwhelmingly rich, incredibly violent and predominantly male. For more data on individual candidates, please refer to this excellent resource from the Association for Democratic Reforms. 

Maps 1 and Chart 1 look at the criminal background of candidates, Chart 2 and 3 look at gender profile, Chart 4 looks at average income and Chart 5 looks at asset acquisition amongst re-contesting MPs.

Criminal Background



Gender Profile



















Income ProfileincomeAssets Accquired in the past 5 years







2 thoughts on “Karnataka: Who are you voting for?

    H said:
    April 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Shruti..Nice blog. a few comments:

    I realize that you haven’t expressed your own views explicitly in this post and the post comes across more as a presentation of data – but sometimes the way one presents data itself reveals views. If I misinterpret or misjudge your views, then ofcourse my apologies.

    It seems that you are making a case for saying that the choice of candidates being offered is low because they are overwhelmingly rich, male and violent. For now, I will leave the violent as a parameter aside – although I do have my views on how data is interpreted on that issue as well.

    First, I think that a nobler concept of democracy is where the elected representatives are representative of aspirations/ideas/views rather than one of identities. I also think that being a good MP does not depend on one’s identity as much as it depends on one’s capability. Just because someone is rich or male, does not preclude them from representing the concerns of people who are not male or rich. If one were to think otherwise, then where does the logic end…Would you also argue that Muslims better reflect Muslim concerns (assuming that there is something like “Muslim concerns” in the first place)?

    Second, while economic background and gender may be important criterion for some, other identity parameters (like religion, caste, region, language, sexuality, education, economic background and a million other categories) will be important for others. Can an elected body ever be judged as whether it is “representative” just on the basis of some of these parameters? How do we decide which categories to privilege over others? What if one category conflicts with the other? The crux of your underlying argument seems to be that the candidates are not representative of society…but my point is..on what basis is one judging that?

    Third, I dont think the mere fact that one is rich has any correlation with one’s capability or eligibility as a MP. Of course if the wealth is acquired through illegal or unethical means, then its a different question. So not really sure whats the point of the last two graphs.

    Fourth..The last graph is under the heading is “assets acquired” but the line within the graph says “how much did you earn in the last 5 years”. ..Its not clear what the graph is representing. To give you an example, if the value of a land or shares or any other asset goes up (due to a variety of factors) then your net wealth or what I think you are terming as “earnings” in the last graph may go up, even if you may not have actually acquired any new assets…So, my question is this: Is the last graph representing an increase in the value of assets (with the asset size remaining the same) or is representing an increase in asset size itself or is it a mix of both (in which case its important to figure out how much of the increase is attributable to the former and how much to the latter).



    shrutiviswanathan responded:
    April 13, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Harsh,

    Thank you for your comments. I agree with you, to an extent. Yes, the mere fact of gender and wealth does not imply that a candidate cannot represent your views. But if all candidates are consistently male and consistently rich, then it speaks to a certain lack of opportunity within the political system. I am not suggesting that only women can represent women but that the consistent under-representation of women is representative of their low political power. I make this argument at much greater length in this post: https://theindianelectionblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/where-are-the-women/

    Yes, there are several other factors that candidate can, and should, be tested on. One of the basic ideas of a democracy is representation. The Parliament of an incredibly diverse country like India should reflect the diversity of this nation. The fact that it isn’t suggests that we haven’t delivered on substantive democracy. The political process seems to privilege some over others.

    I agree with your point on asset accumulation. It would be great to acquire data on increase in land value versus acquisition of land and that could provide a more nuanced view of what is happening. However, I think it is safe to say that an increase of INR 146 crores while someone was in office is suspect. Especially, since his primary duty should be his duty as a MP. In fact, his asset declaration did not include his wife’s (whose moveable assets alone total 107 crores). Call me skeptical but I suspect something fishy is happening there.

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