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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 31, July 26, 2014

16th Parliament Elections: A Clear Mandate

Saturday 26 July 2014

by P. Sakthivel

Unlike in the previous Parliament elections, this time the people’s verdict was very clear and they voted the BJP to come to power. By securing 282 seats the BJP has formed the government under the leadership of Narendra Modi. The incredible electoral campaign by Narendra Modi, the BJP’s electoral alliance, rampant corruption during the UPA’s rule, sharp increase in inflation etc. have finally paved way the for the success of the BJP in these elections.

The Congress, with 44 seats, drew a blank in 11 States including Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu etc. The AIADMK emerged as the third largest party by securing 37 seats in the elections. The Trinamul Congress (TMC) won 34 seats, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) 20 seats and Shiv Sena 18 seats. The much publicised Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), after its stunning victory in the Delhi Assembly elections, managed to win four seats only in Punjab. Though it fielded candidates in many constituencies, in a majority of them it lost the deposits.

It was in 1984 that the Congress came to power with a thumping majority winning as many as 404 seats, the electoral success being largely because of the ‘sympathy wave’ created after the assassination of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, and after this election the people’s mandate was fractured; so no party was able to secure a minimum of 272 seats to form the government on its own. After three decades, this time the BJP has secured 282 seats and formed the government on its own.

Name of the PartyTotal No. of MPs
BJP 282
Congress 44
AIADMK 37
Trinalmul Congress 34
BJD 20
Shiv Sena 18
TDP 16
CPI-M 9
YSR-Congress 9
NCP 6
SP 5
Akali Dal 4
AAP 4
AUDF 3
IUML 2
JD(S) 2
Others 48
Total 543

The BJP did not require the support of any other political party to form the government; however, it invited its alliance partners to join the government and some of them were also inducted into the Council of Ministers.

Impressive Turnout

It is significant to note that the voting percentage was very impressive in these elections when compared to previous elections: nearly 66.40 per cent of votes were polled in these elections. 64.10 per cent of votes were polled in the 1984 elections and that was considered the highest turnout in India’s election history. One of the important factors responsible for the surge in the voting turnout was the great increase in the number of voters when compared to the 2009 elections. Nearly 71 crore eligible voters were enrolled in 2009 and for 2014 the figure stood at 81.60 crores, almost 10 per cent increase in the percentage of voters in India. Young voters were more in number, registered their names in the electoral list and their voting percentage was very impressive this time.

It is worthwhile to note here that more than 80 per cent of votes were polled in States like West Bengal, some of the North-Eastern States and Puducherry. Tamil Nadu recorded 73 per cent polling and significantly more women exercised their franchise in these elections. It is interesting to note that in 20 out of 39 parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu, women outnumbered men in voting.


Source: Election Commission of India website.

Expense for Lok Sabha Poll

The Election Commission has estimated that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections have cost the exchequer Rs 3500 crores, about 150 per cent increase from the 2009 Parliament elections (Rs 1400 crores). This does not include the expense incurred for security and the amount political parties spent during electioneering. The money spent in the 1952 elections was just Rs 10.45 crores.

The reasons for the increase in the amount of spending for the conduct of elections in India were due to inflation and Election Commission-initiated numerous awareness programmes in order to increase the voting percentage in these elections. It is noteworthy here that this time the EC introduced the ‘ethical voting’ concept requesting all eligible voters to exercise their franchise according to their consciousness only. It advised the voters not to get money from political parties for exercising their franchise. It was because of the dynamic role of the Election Commission that money distri-bution to voters was by and large curtailed.

Women Voters

In a State like Tamil Nadu the women voters outnumbered men. For instance, women voters in Tamil Nadu account for 2,75,21,570, that is, 3237 more than 2,75,18,333 men votes in the State. At least in 22 Lok Sabha constituencies women voters are more than their men counterparts.

In these elections in States/ Union Territories like Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Lakshadweep the female voting percentage was higher than the total voting percentage. (TOI, April 21, 2014, p. 9)

A record number of 61 women was elected this time to the Lok Sabha which is the highest ever number in the political history of India. It is significant to note here that there is a gradual increase in the women members’ entry into Parliament, but it is still below the global average. In some of the countries in the African continent, such as Rwanda and South Africa, women elected to the national Parliament are more in number. In Rwanda more than 50 per cent of Parliament members are women, more than any other country in the world, and in South Africa it is 44.8 per cent.

Despite the fact that the women population in India is nearly half of the total population, they are under-represented in Parliament. Political parties are not willing to field more women candidates. If women contested in the general constituency, only fewer women were elected in the past elections. Feminist activists felt that still the minds of the male counterparts have not changed. The patriarchal society does not welcome fielding women candidates in the elections and is not ready to elect them also.

NOTA

The NOTA (None Of The Above) option was introduced in all the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) after the Supreme Court direction in 2013. The NOTA option was already introduced in five Assembly elections held in 2013 (Delhi, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) and the by-election to Yercaud (Tamil Nadu).

Significantly, nearly 57 lakh voters across the country have pressed or cast the NOTA vote in order to express their dissatisfaction against the political class or against politicians or candidates who are contesting the elections.

The data analysed by The Hindu (see The Hindu, April 19, 2014, p. 1) found that constitue-ncies reserved for STs are over-represented in the list of seats with most NOTA votes: 23 of the 25 constituencies are reserved for STs. It means the upper-caste Hindus or those other than SC, and ST, in some States, were not ready to cast their votes to ST and SC candidates. But they preferred to press the NOTA button.

In Tamil Nadu the highest number of 46,559 NOTA votes were polled in the Nilgiris (SC) constituency, where the former Union Minister, A. Raja, contested and the BJP candidate’s nomination was rejected. Similarly, more than three per cent NOTA votes were polled in the Puducherry Union Territory giving it the highest percentage of NOTA voters among the Union Territories. The NOTA votes polled in puducherry came to 22,268. Some of the mainstream political parties, including the Communist Parties, polled fewer votes than NOTA votes. (The Hindu, May 17, 2014, p. 2)

In the Naxal-affected areas, such as in Maharastra and Chhattisgarh, nearly 40 thousand voters have used the NOTA option because of the campaign by the Naxalites for boycotting the elections or choosing the NOTA option. Inspector General of Police (IG), Gadchiroli Ravindra Kadam said that “the Naxals’ role behind the rampant use of NOTA cannot be ruled out”. “It is likely that Naxals may have prompted the villagers in their meetings to go in for the NOTA option in the Electronic Voting Machines, in case they thought that the candidate had not done anything for them or even visited their hamlets,” the police officer said. (The Times of India, May 19, 2014)

Tainted MPs 

The 16th Lok Sabha has the highest number of MPs with criminal cases against them. According to data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), nearly 34 per cent of the elected MPs are facing criminal charges. The percentage in 2009 and 2004 stood at 30 and 24 respectively. The data show that there is a gradual increase in the entry of MPs with criminal background to the national Parliament. This time more number of tainted MPs are elected from Maharashtra, UP and Bihar. What is worrying is that almost all the political parties have fielded candidates with criminal charges. (S. Rukumani, The Hindu, May 19, 2014, p. 14)

Political analysts predict that the criminals’ entry into national Parliament is not healthy for the quality of functioning of parliamentary democracy in India. Indeed, they may not be good legislators at all and they cannot contribute anything meaningfully for the functioning of parliamentary democracy in India.

Left lost Battle 

With just nine seats from three States such as Kerala (5), West Bengal (2) and Triupura (2) the CPI-M is short of two seats to retain its national party status. As per the Election Commission (EC) norms, for getting the national party status a political party should secure not less than 11 seats in the Lok Sabha from at least three States. Since 1971 and till 2009 the CPI-M won double digit seats in all the elections it contested. The party won the highest number of seats (43) in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The party had been popular in States like West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Because of the emergence of Mamata Banerjee’s TMC the CPI-M could not win a considerable number seats in West Bengal since 2008. This time most of its prominent leaders were defeated in West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu: Dravidian Parties’ Hegemony

The landslide victory of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu was unexpected and unpredictable. The party won a record of 37 out of the 39 seats it contested without a single ally and the DMK drew a blank in these elections. The BJP and PMK have managed to win single seat each in these elections.

The 16th Lok Sabha elections once again proved that Tamil Nadu remains a Dravidian stronghold with the two prominent Dravidian parties, the AIADMK and DMK, together securring two-thirds of the votes polled in the Lok Sabha elections. Significantly, the AIADMK secured 44.30 per cent votes and the DMK secured 23.6, totalling 67.90 per cent votes. This is considered the highest ever vote-share secured by the Dravidian parties in the Lok Sabha elections since 1977, the year in which the AIADMK was founded in Tamil Nadu.

The incredible electoral campaign by the Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK Government’s populist policies and absence of any strong alliance established by the DMK, Congress and BJP helped the party to win 37 out of 39 seats.

Fewer Muslims in House

Muslims account for nearly 14 per cent of the country’s total population but their representation in Parliament is not very impressive. In this election only 22 Muslims have been elected to the Lok Sabha, the lowest in the past 50 years of India’s political history. Though the BJP emerged as the single largest party in these elections, but it allotted only five seats to Muslim candidates and all of them were defeated. It is important to note here that even Muslim electorates did not cast their votes in favour of the BJP’s Muslim candidates.

Several factors are responsible for the Muslims’ under-representation in Parliament; the most important among them are fragmen-tation of Muslim politics in almost all the States, personality and egoistic clashes among its leaders, lack of clear vision or agenda to improve the socio-economic conditions of Muslims etc. These are primarily responsible for the electoral debacle of most of the Muslim candidates in the elections. In States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh lesser number of Muslim members were elected this time because of these reasons.

Conclusion

This time the people’s verdict is very clear and has been delivered in favour of formation of a government by the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi. The country is already facing several problems such as inflation, rampant corruption, unemployment, poverty, economic growth etc. The forthcoming days will be very crucial and significant for Narendra Modi’s government and the entire nation and the world are eagerly waiting to see how the new govern-ment is going to resolve all those issues. The Congress, though small in number, must join hands with other parties such as the AIADMK and TMC which together can play a decisive role as Opposition parties inside and outside Parliament, as watchdogs. Political parties must shed their differences and allow the new government to work for five years and extend all kinds of necessary support for the govern-ment. Similarly, the government headed by Narendra Modia should also listen to, respect and accept any constructive criticism and opinion from the Opposition parties. If the new government fails to fulfil its promises and improve the socio-economic conditions of the people, then the party will be duly rewarded for its failures by the people in the next general elections.

Dr P. Sakthivel is an Associate Professor and the Head, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar (Tamil Nadu)