Mainstream media finds corruption irrelevant in Karnataka elections!

An impression is being sought to be made by the English language electronic mainstream media (MSM) about the incumbent party BJP’s loss in the 2013 Karnataka elections in that it can be attributed to a large extent to the Yeddyurappa factor. In other words, BJP’s poor showing was due to the potential BJP votes that got split by former Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa’s newly formed party KJP which in turn helped Congress winning in seats where the BJP & Congress were in a direct fight. By repeatedly emphasizing on this aspect, the English language electronic MSM is trying to portray that corruption was a non issue in the recent polls and that BJP’s loss was due to its own making when it decided to sack Yeddyurappa as CM when he was facing allegations of corruption; a move that eventually led to Yeddyurappa quitting the BJP and forming his own party, KJP.

I consider that argument in this short post and come to the conclusion that it is a huge leap of faith to ascribe a great degree of explanation to the Yeddyurappa factor. First up below are the statistics from the 2008 Karnataka elections sourced from the reports of Election Commission of India (ECI) that show the vote share percentage by parties (national & state) & independents.

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The above figures show that BJP’s vote share in 2008 was 33.86% while that of Congress and JD-S were 34.76% and 18.96%.

Similar data is not yet available from the ECI so I rely here on the information procured from Twitter that claims that the respective figures in 2013 for the BJP, Congress,JD-S and KJP are 19%,  42%, 23% and 4%.

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A comparison of the vote shares from these two elections show that BJP’s vote share has gone down by a whopping 14% points (from 33.86% to 19%) whereas the vote shares of Congress and JD-S have gone up by 7% points (from almost 35% to 42%) and 4% points (from 19% to 23%)  respectively. KJP’s vote share in this election is 4% and one can infer that the BJP votes that were split and lost by the presence of Yeddyurappa’s KJP is 4%. So, that means that a united BJP probably would have lost 10% points (discounting KJP’s 4% vote share that was lost).

Given this significantly large data point of 10% points, I find it difficult to come to the conclusion that Yeddyurappa could have been such a spoiler for BJP that would drag BJP from being the ruling party to the number 3 party (behind JD-S). Certainly, corruption as an issue would definitely have influenced the voting decision. It seems too supercilious to suggest that the damage was done in large part by the Yeddyurappa factor even when one accounts for the strong casteist influences that unfortunately come into play in Indian elections. One would need a seat level analysis to make a strong statement like the one that the MSM has been making in relation to the KJP and BJP. From what I have seen of their analysis while being “on the go”, I would be tempted to believe that it was just a foolhardy attempt by the media to take the focus away from what is definitely going to be the main election planks in 2014; corruption and misgovernance.

Update: 9 May: A newsarticle in the Times of India today has come up with the seemingly final figure of vote shares. The following is the vote share: BJP (20%, down by approx. 14% points), Congress (36.5%, up 1.75% points), JD-S (20.1%, up 1.1%) and KJP (9.8%, that’s an almost 6% points difference between the information I used from the Twitter). Given the almost 10% vote share garnered by the KJP (the potential BJP vote), it would definitely seem so that the Yeddyurappa factor did play a substantial role in BJP’s poor showing as the English Language electronic MSM had suggested. Though I must point that these numbers take time to be collated and compiled and no one came out with any initial numbers till late in the evening yesterday, so it was really quite the leap of faith on MSM’s part (not unlike mine when I relied on a tweet for my figures!) without all the facts in order to emphasise the Yeddyurappa factor that ultimately seems to explain the BJP’s loss. One could infer that only about 4% is the vote share lost by the BJP on account of corruption & other issues disaffecting the voters.

The final word: 13 May: After reading a few newspaper articles and doing my own analysis to understand the results of the Karnataka elections, I find this article has managed to accurately sum up what happened in Karanataka elections. The summary & conclusion of that article is below in italics.  And the same is supported by analysis of party vote shares overall as well as seat level analysis; Yeddyurappa did knock off the BJP from its ruling position thereby confirming one of the sad facts about deep rooted caste biases in Indian society. I can only hope that this is the case only at the local/regional level and corruption & misgovernance will be substantive issues at the national level.

On 8 May, our Prime Minister’s Office “faced its sharpest indictment in the Supreme Court” for interfering into the “Coalgate” investigation by the CBI, which was being done under its direct supervision. On the other hand, ebullient Congress political managers were easily brushing off these scams, flushed with the victory in the Karnataka elections (8 May). The fact that the BJP lost Karnataka by changing their Chief Minister whose government was notorious for corruption but in that process earned his powerful community’s wrath, would compel them to rethink whether anti-corruption drive, divorced from caste politics, is a good electoral strategy at all. This is the essential problem in India.

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Mass movement needed to arrest the criminalisation of India polity

I wrote about Baijayant Jay Panda, Lok Sabha MP from Kendrapara,Odisha, in an earlier post in connection with his efforts to maintain the freedom of expression of India’s internet denizens. Late last year, he had moved a Private Members’ Bill for the Lok Sabha to consider and review proposed amendments in Section 66A of the Information Technology Act (2000) that would safeguard the right to free of expression in India. Panda is back in the news again; this time he has filed 3 Private Members’ Bills in the Lok Sabha, all closely related to the Representation of the People Act (RoPA),  that if passed will go a long way in the fight against illiberalism in the Indian society and will significantly alter the quality of India’s public life thereby giving the goal of good governance a shot in the arms.

Writing in a business newspaper, Panda rightly diagnoses “the perverse trend of criminalisation of politics and the inability of the criminal justice system to conduct timely and effective prosecution of offenders” as one of the key causes of India’s pathetic standards in public life.

The goal of each one of these three bills in Panda’s own words is thus:

“My first Bill proposes to amend ROPA to remove the exception that allows MPs and MLAs/MLCs to continue in the legislature even after conviction. The second would set up fast-track courts for speedy trial (within 90 days) of criminal cases against all elected representatives. It would bring all MPs, MLAs/MLCs and members of panchayats and municipalities established under the state panchayati raj legislation under the Bill’s ambit. The third would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to enable independent and effective prosecution.”

In a simple and short article, Panda has managed to bring out the justification for each one of these bills. This article is a must read; not just for its clear, simple and direct approach to attempting to provide a legislative solution to what is at the root of India’s scam a day image, but also to get inspired and find some cheer in today’s corruption ridden gloomy environment brought about by India’s eminent scoundrels who continue looting the country in their capacity of leaders of  political parties, government agencies, government departments and every single public office they lay their sights upon.

Like Panda, I hope that “enough public support can be drummed up, (so that) the government would be compelled to pass legislation to that effect”. It will certainly be a test for the media if they will rise to the occasion and provide the support this bill needs; just as they did with all the attention that was showered on the Lokpal Bill. For my part, I have submitted a Wikipedia page on The Representation of the People Act (RoPA), 1951 that should be available soon pending review. The absence of a Wikipedia page on this very important piece of legislation is surprising given India’s status as the largest democracy in the world. Also, given the serious lack of propriety amongst many of India’s public servants, it is quite surprising to note that there is nothing in India that even remotely resembles a Committee on Standards in Public Life such as the one in UK that serves to “ensure the highest standards of propriety in public life”.

Learntainment for the masses in India from Monty Python.

Watch this sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus to get entertained and learn. This is called Learntainment! The message to learn is about the complexity of redistribution and is summarised by this line in the sketch:

Wait a tick.. blimey, this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought.”

Now, that’s a conclusion that the politicians and the masses need to come to sooner than later. Actually forget the politicians; because they don’t really believe in redistribution to help the ‘economically poor’. They only use redistribution as a tool to stay relevant and retain power.

It’s the poor who are swayed by the meager (objectively speaking, but generous in the eyes of the poor) incentives through various redistribution schemes such as Employment Guarantee, free TV, free electricity, Rs. 2/kg rice etc.. The poor consistently vote in political parties that promise these sort of redistribution schemes that use public funds raised through taxes. The effects and the achievements of redistribution are there for us to see. Even after more than 60 years of political independence, the incidence of economic poverty is fairly high in India. The consequences of this poverty should be unacceptable to any civilised society. The sooner the poor learn that they are contributing to their own misery, the better for all.

Having said that, what options do they have in terms of political parties that do not engage in redistribution schemes and have a well articulated policy on tackling poverty? The answer is but obvious. Hence, the redistribution schemes remain as popular as ever with India’s established political parties.

Hope a coalition of political parties that is economically Right of Center will soon emerge. Wishing the guys at Offstumped much success in their quest!