As the General Elections are being held, the world’s largest electoral exercise has many some interesting facts to throw up. Excerpts from a study Civil Society, Indian Elections and Democracy Today by Trilochan Sastry, founder chairman of Association for Democratic Reforms and a professor of Quantitative Methods and Information Systems at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore:
- An elected Member of Parliament (MP) [a Lok Sabha member] now represents (2014) over 15 lakh voters on average, and an MLA over 2 lakh. This is the largest number by far anywhere in the world. In 1951 an MP on average represented 3.54 lakh voters.
- But the MPs in Parliament control the Government, large budgets, and new legislation. The revenue expenditure in the early 1950s was between Rs 400 and Rs 500 crore a year. In 2014 the revenue expenditure budget is over Rs 17.63 lakh crore — an increase of over 3,900 times. Even at 10% growth, it should have gone up by about 500 times.
- After Independence, some of the first set of leaders emerged from the rural and urban elite. They were replaced by the rising aspirations of the Backward Castes, who were numerically larger, and then by the Dalits.
- In the Lok Sabha 2014 elections, over 475 political parties contested for 543 seats, up from 392 in 2009. In 1950 there were 54 parties. In most-so called developed countries, the number is at most half a dozen.
- The margins of victory are often small. In the previous five Lok Sabha elections of 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014, on average 32 seats were won with a margin of less than 1 per cent, 69 with less than 2 per cent and 101 with less than 3 per cent. With hundreds of parties in the fray, over 10 candidates per constituency, and coalition governments, an astute candidate today has to manage a small fraction of voters to win elections.
- An analysis of over 60,000 records of candidates and winners since 2004 shows that while only 12 per cent of ‘clean’ candidates, without any taint, win, around 23 per cent of tainted candidates win, and a similar 23 per cent of seriously tainted candidates win.
- The average assets (2004-2014) of candidates was Rs 1.37 crore, third-place candidates: Rs 2.03 crore, runners up: Rs 2.47 crore, and winners: Rs 3.8 crore. This clearly shows that wealthier candidates win more votes and elections. There are exceptions to this rule, but the broad trend over 62,800+ candidates over the last 10 years is very clear. The interaction between crime and money is even more alarming. The average assets of winners with some crime record was Rs 4.27 crore, and of those with serious crime records was Rs 4.38 crore.
- As we move from an annual income of less than Rs 1 lakh to over Rs 50 lakhs, the chances of winning increase from 1.0 per cent to 32.2 per cent for clean candidates, and from 3.7 per cent to 67.5 per cent for those with a serious criminal record. For the same Income bracket of greater than Rs 50 lakh, the chances of winning goes up from 32.2 per cent for clean candidates to 67.5 per cent for those with serious criminal cases.
- A former Chief Election Commissioner of India said while in office that about Rs 10,000 crore of black money was spent in the 2012 UP Assembly elections. At Rs 25 crore in each constituency, and over 4,000 Assembly seats all over India, this amounts to Rs 100,000 crore. If we take the Lok Sabha elections with 543 seats this adds up to another Rs 12,500 crore or a total of Rs 125,000 crore. Estimates of the 2014 campaign expenses by the ruling party are between Rs 4000 and Rs 10,000 crore. Local elections, including Municipal, District, Block and Panchayat, easily double the figure of over Rs 100,000 crore as there are lakhs of contested seats. However, many of the Panchayat elections are never held. Estimates vary from a total of Rs 150,000 crore to Rs 250,000 crore for all elections put together. This occurs once in five years and is adjusted for inflation as well.
- Governance clearly suffers as money and muscle-power continue to play a big role. This is reflected in a large survey done in January and February 2014 in about 525 constituencies with over 262,000 respondents. This is perhaps the largest ever survey done by civil society. Across the board, the performance of the Government on various governance parameters was low, between ‘Bad’ and ‘Average’. The top 10 priorities for voters was employment, basic essential services (drinking water, education, health, electricity), basic infrastructure (roads, public transport), lower food prices/subsidised Public Distribution System (PDS), law and order and women’s security.
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