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.
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%.
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.