It is hard to understand the psyche of an Indian voter. Most people are different in terms of their aspirations and preferences when it comes to voting and many are swayed by the rapidly changing political situations in the country. A resignation by a promising chief minister leaves an indelible impact on the minds of a few and obscurity in the party leadership disappoints a few others. While some sections of the society accept liquor and cash in exchange for promises of votes (the surveillance teams appointed by the election commission seized cash worth Rs. 32 lakhs and 34000 liquor bottles since the date of announcement of elections in Delhi, till 4 February, 2015), many abstain from voting altogether.
One of the factors influencing a voter’s decision is the regional-national divide. In many regions across India, the voters are inclined towards regional parties of their states. For instance, in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) won 37 out of 39 seats in the state of Tamil Nadu. Given the so called “Modi wave” prevailing in the country at that time, grabbing most of the seats was a phenomenal achievement for AIADMK. Regional parties got the highest percentage share of votes in other states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha. The voters in these regions may feel that the regional parties will pay more attention to their concerns and look after them better.
The fact that the public polled the largest number of “None of the Above” votes in reserved constituencies signals towards two things. One, it hints that the people are prejudiced against candidates from the reserved categories, often doubtful on their capability to govern. Two, it shows how people do give enough weightage to the candidates standing from their constituency. However, if we take the instance of the 2014 general elections, the people seem to have voted for the party face more than anything else. The “Modi wave” was nothing else but the culmination of a party campaign centred around one person.
Another factor which may have played a role in the voting decisions is the “None of the Above” (NOTA) option. It is claimed that this option encourages the people previously not voting to turn up at the polling booths to cast their vote. Delving into the numbers, one finds that such a provision did lead to an increase in voter turnout in the general elections. As per the Election Commission of India, in 1999, the voter turnout was 59.99%. In 2004, it was 57.98%. In 2009, it was 58.19%. In 2014, it was an unprecedented 66.4%. By far, this has been the highest voter turnout in any Lok Sabha elections in India. This may have been caused due to other factors, for instance, greater proportion of politically responsible youth in the electorate. In 2014 general elections, youth voters comprised of about one-fifth of the total electorate. So we cannot claim that the high voter turnout was because of the introduction of “NOTA” button in the EVMs. However, NOTA, to some extent, has made it possible to draw a fine line between the two of the many sections of the voters; firstly those who are politically negligent and do not vote, secondly those who have now got a tool to register their discontentment with the party or the candidates.
Hence, the complex phenomenon of voting is rather a culmination of a variety of factors acting together. The Indian electorate comprises of various types of voters, politically ignorant vs politically aware, enthusiastic as against negligent, the ones voting for the candidates as against the ones voting or the party face. Such divisions aren’t loopholes in the Indian elections system. In my opinion, they reinforce the idea of choice, liberty and freedom of opinion and preferences, which are most essential for a democracy like ours.
Poorva is a first year Economics student at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi. She keeps herself abreast of all the current affairs and holds a firm opinion about everything happening around her. She deems all forms of expression, be it acting, painting or writing, as a gift to the mankind. She is also involved in social service through two of her college societies, Enactus and NSS. She can be contacted at :firstname.lastname@example.org“
Edited by Nandini Bhatia