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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.

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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

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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The Media and Mr. Modi

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Time LeaderEveryone who is anyone is busy predicting a magnificent return to power of the BJP and the election of Modi as our Prime Minister. They may very well be right but it got me thinking about the media’s role in these elections. The spread of television and mobile phones has meant that more people have access to television media, making their coverage more important than ever before.

What/Who has the media been covering this election season? Read the rest of this entry »

Money, Money, Money

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BJP2012There has been a lot of talk about money this election: whether it is in terms of corruption or in terms of economic development. There has, however, been very little talk about contributions to party campaigns and spending by candidates. Everyone seems to accept that parties are wildly under-reporting their expenditures and contributions. In today’s post, I answer 3 important questions: How much is being donated to Indian political parties? Who is donating to these parties? How much are political parties spending? Read the rest of this entry »

Signing Over Our Environment

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MiningTOR-page-0Finally, the environment seems to be rearing its head in the run up to the elections. Unfortunately, its for all the wrong reasons. Both our leading parties seem eager to appease private interests and assure them that environmental clearances will be given faster. It is alleged that Jayanthi Natrajan was ushered out of the Ministry for delaying things. Are these allegations true? Has there been a dramatic, unwarranted drop in environmental clearances in the past couple of years?

For today’s post I looked at Environmental Clearances and TORs granted by the Ministry of Environment in the past 4 years. Read the rest of this entry »