India Uncut

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How to get voted out of power

Get voted in first.

Saubhik Chakrabarti writes
in the Indian Express:
Starting from the 1977 general election — that was the first time post-independence the Congress wasn’t voted back — incumbents have lost all elections but those in 1984 and 1999. In those two years, there was a ‘wave’ — respectively, sympathy wave after Indira Gandhi’s assassination and a smaller but still significant patriotic wave after the Kargil war.

So, minus a countervailing wave, voters over the last 30 years have swept out politicians in power, whether they were old fashioned statists or reformers who lost courage. The proposition that economic reform is a vote loser in national elections hasn’t been tested at all. Incumbency, not liberal reform, is the ultimate vote loser in national politics.
I have just two comments to make here. Firstly, whatever liberal reform has taken place has been in fits and starts, and in limited areas of the economy, and not enough reforms have been carried out to reduce the inequities in our country fast enough. I wrote about it here: The Myth of India's Liberalization. Also read Ravikiran Rao's masterful post on the subject, Why we reformed what we did, in which he explains why "[e]veryone supports reforms, but someone opposes every single reform measure."

Secondly, I think we often read too much into elections anyway. Different individuals vote for different reasons in each constituency, and imagining a collective will of the masses is a vast over-simplification. The term "mandate," when applied to Indian elections, holds no meaning for me at all. I mean, look at how this Lok Sabha is constituted: you see a "mandate" there?
amit varma, 12:33 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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