This volume, a product of collective work by scholars associated with the Lokniti network, aims to explain the dynamics in electoral politics in the Indian states to the Lok Sabha elections of 2004.
Using electoral politics as a ‘moment’ for analysing the wider politics of the states, the volume contains essays on 19 states. It also has three general essays that provide the context of the analysis of state politics in India. While delineating the ‘what’ of electoral outcomes, this volume addresses deeper questions about politics that include the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of politics in different states of India. Each essay focuses on what contributed to an electoral outcome and attempts to provide the context of the outcome in the larger socio-economic and historical mosaic of state politics. The essays use survey data to provide answers to critical questions on citizens’ perceptions of their government, political leadership and the nature and context of political choices.
The essays draw upon the research tradition established by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) since the early 1990s. More specifically, these articles use the data from the National Elections Study 2004, the largest scientific study of the Indian elections for building an evidence-based understanding of the Indian voter.
The outcome of the 14th General Elections to the Lok Sabha constitutes a puzzle, something that continues to elude political authors, analysts and the public after the results were announced. The outcome of the elections — the constituency-level results and the national tally for the major parties — was known within a few hours of the beginning of the counting. The electoral verdict — that a Congress-led alliance was to replace the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) — was clear by the evening of the same day. Yet the mandate of the elections was not clear even after the proverbial electoral dust had settled down. Neither the political establishment nor the knowledge industry could forge anything like a shared common sense. The initial bewilderment settled in popular political folklore of a cautionary tale whose move is profoundly unclear.
In a sense all the essays in the collection are attempts to respond to this puzzle by way of making an informed intervention in this theoretical as well as ideological contestation.
The first section takes a look at the contours of the outcome, the final picture of vote share to understand what needs to be explained. A very narrow range of outcomes was available in the election and the NDA’s ‘defeat’ and the UPA ‘victory’ were much less sweeping than they appeared on the day of the counting.
The second section gives some common explanation of this outcome and suggests that some of the most popular explanations are deeply flawed.
The third section looks at the underlying causal patterns by describing the structure of political competition within which the election is embedded.
The fourth section summarises the effect of the alliance that worked to the advantage of the UPA.
The fifth and sixth sections disaggregate the outcome by two principal sets of variables — the geographical and the social patterns of voting — to pick up clues about the meaning of the verdict. The break-up shows that the changing verdicts at the state level were critical to the outcome, as were subtle shifts in the national and social pattern of voting.
In conclusion the book presents the competing hypotheses about why the Indian electorate voted the way it did. The evidence presented in the essays suggests that the national verdict cannot be explained with reference to short-term factors related to the campaign effect or more visible factors, like the leadership, or the performance of the government.
What is of importance is to keep in mind the very long-term structuring of political choices and by the contingent factors like people’s assessment of their respective state governments and the new electoral coalitions.
This book will be of great interest to the demographers and political analysts.
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