manifestation of this tremendous desire of the voters to change
their governments is generally termed the 'anti-incumbency'
factor. In these 2004 general elections, three out of every
five sitting MPs, or nearly 60% of the incumbent Lok Sabha
members, were told to take time-off by their constituents.
That brings us to the first point: these elections are purely
a mandate for change. The voters are changing their governments
in a desperate search to find one that matches their expectations.
Almost every election result in the past 15 years and more,
for both the state and the central governments, is a reflection
of this singular fact.
second point is that the composition of our legislatures
does not truly reflect the voters' actual choices.
in the night of May 13, some very interesting data came
in: early reports on voting patterns across the country
indicated that both the Congress-led and National Democratic
alliances secured around 35% of the total votes cast across
the country. Actually, there seemed to be less than 1% difference
in the vote shares of each side. What does this mean? Only
that the Cong vs. NDA match should have really ended in
a draw. But, finally, why did the NDA end up losing a test
match it should have drawn? Because, in India, we follow
the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP or Plurality) system where
seat share in Lok Sabha need not correlate to the vote share
obtained. That is why, even though the Congress- and BJP-led
alliances have secured nearly equal number of votes across
the country, the Congress + Allies ended up with 216 seats
(or 40% seat share) while the BJP + Allies managed only
186 (or 34% of the 539 seats announced).
Congress alliance, which claimed the peoples' mandate and
has readied itself to lead the next Indian government (while
I am writing this article), has a positive vote swing of
only 0.1%! (These are initial statistics, let me emphasize).
And this was equally true in 1999, except that NDA was the
gap between popular support and legislative strength (vote
share vs. seat share) becomes obvious even when we consider
the results of our state election. The TDP-BJP alliance
secured around 40% of the votes but obtained only 17% of
the seats (49 out of 294) in our Assembly. On the other
hand, the Congress-led alliance got around 48% of the vote
share but ended up winning 77% (or 227 out of 294) of the
MLA seats! Even a moderate difference in the vote shares
of the TDP-BJP and Congress-Allies got translated into a
stunningly huge difference in the seat share between the
two sides. This is the real reason behind the completely
one-sided result in our state elections. And again, this
was true in 1999, and TDP benefited then.
FPTP system under some circumstances could lead to the formation
of even more skewed and un-representative legislatures.
For example, let us suppose that a party manages to secure
51% of the votes cast, in every parliamentary constituency
of the country. In that case, it is guaranteed to end up
winning 100% of the seats in the Lok Sabha. The remaining
49% of the votes cast in the country simply end up getting
deleted (this is the age of the electronic ballot, mind
you). The voters who cast these 'wasted votes' will not
find even a single candidate of their choice getting elected.
And that, probably, would be the height of un-representativeness
in any electoral system.
real problem of FPTP system is relating to the quality of
candidates and the money power and muscle power they muster.
The need to win the marginal vote to get elected in a constituency
forces parties to nominate "winnable" candidates.
Once they do what it takes to win, they have to misgovern
to make money. Governments may change, but things remain
the same. The real solution lies in fundamental reforms
of our electoral system.
me end with another statistical tid-bit: this time, MPs
from forty-five distinct parties and groups will be sitting
14th Lok Sabha!