The Incumbency Factor

ParliamentThere was a recent survey result that was interesting and illuminating. In the elections in India between 1951 up to 1972, pro-incumbency factor played a major (80%) role. Anti-incumbency factor was predominant (60%) up to, say the mid nineties. And since then, we have discerning voters and the pro or anti incumbency factor now depends on what the Government of the day, the Parliament Member or the MLA has done or not done.

This is indeed a healthy development. Of course, as for the pro incumbency factor for the first two decades after we became a republic, we should not forget that Jawaharlal Nehru was at the helm of affairs. How could there have been any anti-anti incumbency impact? He was truly a national leader and none dared to challenge him. Nehruji was omnipotent. The seventies witnessed the growth of regional parties since there was no regional Congress leader like Kamaraj or Nijalingappa or Tiwari. The vacuum was filled by leaders of regional parties. DMK (and then AIADMK), Telugu Desam, Samajvadi, Janata Dal, Ghana Tantra Parishad and several other regional parties were born and started growing. Most of them came to power in their respective state. There arose more than one main regional parties, like the AIADMK and the DMK in Tamil Nadu. This created a situation in which no National Party could dream of winning a seat without an alliance with one of them. Thus the electorate was compelled to choose and they grew discerning.

There was a recent report on Baramati in Western Maharashtra. Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pwar has been elected five times from Baramati, thanks to the educational institutions, sugar factories, milk co-operatives, a textile park, an aviation academy (and what not) – all established at the initiative of Pawar. Of course, now his daughter is all set to continue the pro-incumbency voyage.

The voters are pro incumbency if the incumbent has indeed done something good for the constituency. Otherwise they would reject the incumbent. That is precisely why the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the selection of its nominees decided to be unconventional this time. It has fielded eleven new faces, obviously to combat ‘local incumbency factor’ in the constituencies.

Yes, our voters have become discerning.


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