13 Apr 2024  |   05:56am IST

What is the voting criteria?

What criteria do voters apply while voting in Lok Sabha elections? On which issues do they vote? When electing their representatives, do they audit the candidates' work? Or by considering the problems they face every day, or by someone's advice, or by taking someone's money for votes, or upon some emotional issue, or by looking at the caste of the candidate, or by looking at the economic progress or decline of the country?

 It cannot be predicted precisely because there are so many States, so many languages, so many cultures, different issues of each State and different identities. The unanimity amongst the voters is rare. As it happened in 1977, during the anti-emergency era, when the public for the first time voted for a non-Congress government. Or as it happened in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, where Congress rode on the wave of sympathy and a record number of Congress MPs were elected. It takes some reason for such a collective unanimity amongst the voters. Moreover, to create such a situation, it takes some popular leadership like Jay Prakash Narayan in 1977 where people put their trust in him. Therefore, the results don’t come unless there is some excuse. 

Although there is no particular single reason for the transformation that took place in 2014, the growing resentment towards the UPA government, which had failed on various fronts, was one of the reasons for its defeat. The image of Modi also created through the growing social media gave a chance to people to think about the options. It does appear that people do not apply a particular criterion before they cast their vote. The local leaders have their influence on the voters of the particular area; hence people vote for him even if that leader joins some other party. That is, it cannot be said that people vote considering the ideology of a party. Inflation and GDP are the issues. If we consider these issues, it is natural that the government during whose tenure the GDP is high would actually come back to power or the government during whose tenure the GDP is low would go out of power. However, this doesn’t happen. During P V Narsimha Rao’s tenure from 1991 to 1996, the government's GDP was 5.2. However, Rao's government failed in the 1996 elections. Or before that, during Rajiv Gandhi's tenure between 1985-89, the GDP growth rate was 5.9 percent, but his government was dethroned in the 1989 elections due to the Bofors issue. In short, there is no clear correlation between inflation and election results. The governments with low inflation rates have also been defeated. Therefore, it is difficult to guess what criteria voters actually apply. Exit poll agency C-Voter India, recently conducted a survey in which they studied data dating back to 1952. The survey sought to understand the preferences of first-time voters and what they found important when voting for the first time. The survey found that first-time voters prioritise quality of life and economic development, with significant emphasis on essential infrastructure such as electricity, water and roads. India has a significant number of first-time voters. The class is obviously influenced by any discussion or reaction on the social media about the leaders, their performance, the claims made by them. So, the criteria set by first-time voters may be completely different from the criteria set by seasoned voters. But most young voters vote based on which candidate is relatively fit to address the issues and challenges rather than succumbing to emotional issues. After the youth, comes the votes of women. It is often found that women especially from rural and tribal areas vote according to the advice of the men in the house or their husband, and do not think for themselves. Though the backward situation has improved a lot, some educated women seek advice at home as to whom to vote for. Many parties give freebies to lure voters. Doles such as free electricity, free travel, free education influence the women voters. However, it is not possible to accurately predict the exact criteria on which women vote. During this Lok Sabha election, many issues and decisions taken by the current government are for the voters to see. Many issues have been raised by the opposition parties through social media. But what criteria the voters apply will only be known on June 4. 


Idhar Udhar