How do Indians vote ?

In a few days from now Indians will be Voting to elect a new national government.The Indian general elections are considered as the biggest exercise in democracy in the world.

So it is a good time to look at the question that is the domain of psephologists ie How do Indians vote ? On what basis we decide our national government ?

Let us look at some of the factors.

Let us first dwell a little on the Indian Constitution. India is a federal State with a national government and a government of each constituent state. Although the structure of India is federal in a general way, the Indian government follows a strong central bias. Over the years since Independence Parliament has passed legislations to increase the power of the Central govt. Therefore India is refereed to as quasi-federal democracy. Lot of states are not happy with this structure and often there is the talk of decentralisation of powers. So it is clear that the union government plays a more important role in india than the state governments.

Now back to our original question. How do we Indians vote ?

Of course, in India caste and religious affiliations are known to play an important role in elections. Every political party while deciding the candidates keeps in mind these factors.
But what are the other factors ?

If you analyze the trend of election results in recent years one thing is quite clear.The results are decided by local issues, The issues of the state. People actually vote on the performance of state govts. even in national elections. That is why regional parties in recent years have been playing such a significant role in the national elections. Though the national political parties campaign in elections on national issues ,they have a marginal impact on the voter. It is not difficult to understand why this is the case ? India is a vast and diverse country with many different languages. The average Indian voter living in small towns and villages does n’t understand any language other than his mother tongue.
He can’t comprehend the speeches of the national leaders. He is more concerned with local issue than what is happening at the national level. There are few national issues he can identify with(say debate on reservation). His dealings are more with the local government than with the centre. The poltical parties also exploit the local issues to garner votes. It is easier for them to win voters this way. Imagine the Left or the Congress party going to villages and debating the demerits/merits of the Nuclear deal.

One more important factor in India’s national elections is the role played by big states like UP and Bihar. These 2 states together contribute 130 seats(of the total of about 550 Lok Sabha seats.) which is the same as that by the 4 south Indian states. These two states have had profound effect on the governance at the centre. UP alone has given India 80 percent of it’s Prime Ministers. Ironically these two are the among most corrupt and backward states of India. Leaders from these two states wield enormous power at the centre. Well the saying ‘power corrupts’ holds truly for at least these two states.

So though India has a quai-federal government, general elections in India are decided on local issues and governance at the central level is largely ignored.

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