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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 22 New Delhi May 19, 2018

Analysis of True Public Preference — Why Vote-share Should Get More Attention

Sunday 20 May 2018, by Bharat Dogra

Everyone knows that election results are decided by the number of seats won and so it is understandable that most public attention is focused on this. However, in terms of under-standing actual public preference and choice as well as trends relating to this, it is more important to look at the percentage of votes won by different political parties.

Depending upon the election system a democracy selects as well as the electoral demography of any region, the percentage of vote-share for any political party can differ conside-rably from the percentage of seats won. There are certainly several possibilities for this in the first-past-the-post system that India has. This has been revealed time and again on several occasions resulting in rather awkward situations. This does not necessarily mean that the existing system has to be changed. The existing system also has certain advantages—for example, its simplicity and familiarity.

Hence the question here is not of any changes in the electoral system but rather a more simple one of how public preferences as reflected in voting patterns can be best understood by giving more importance to the vote-share of different political parties (and not just the seats won by them).

From this perspective if we look at the recent Karnataka Assembly elections then it is interesting to see that the number of seats won by the two leading parties does not reflect the voter preference properly. This can be understood from the following table

Table 1 Performance of Congress in two Karnataka Assembly Elections

Year Seats Vote Share
2013 122 36.6%
2018 78 38%

Table 2 Vote-share of Two Leading Political Parties in Karnataka State Assembly Elections 2018

Congress 38%

BJP 36.2%

It is evident from the above two tables that the Congress has a higher share of the votes in 2018 compared to the BJP (despite the BJP winning many more seats).

It is also evident that the Congress has improved its vote-share compared to the previous Assembly election in the State.

These two aspects of the performance of the Congress should get adequate attention in order to understand the actual verdict of the people properly.

The author is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.

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