United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action (Part 5)

Bihar Election Numbers

A person’s vote is not cast in stone until the button is pressed on the EVM. In fact, many voters do not have entrenched beliefs on who they will support. A decision on whom to vote is made on the day of voting or just a few days before. A Prashnam survey showed the following:

  • 45% vote for the same party regardless
  • 40% decided on the day of polling, or 1 or 2 days before polling
  • 8% had made up their mind even before elections were announced
  • 7% voted based on manifesto promises

Turnout in the Bihar election was less than 60%. Putting this in perspective, out of 100 eligible voters in Bihar, 60 voted. Of these 60, 45% (27) can be considered as the core base of the political parties.

Another interesting facet of the Bihar election was that the two main coalitions got just 75% of the vote, as can be seen from the IndiaVotes data. These two coalitions won 97% of the seats (235 of 243 seats). In effect, 25% (of 60% who voted; 15 out of 100 eligible voters) of the voters wasted their vote by voting for candidates or parties that had no hope for winning.

To simplify, here is the composition of the Bihar electorate on a base of 100:

  • 27: committed core base across political parties
  • 18: floaters
  • 15: wasters
  • 40: non-voters

So, a majority (73) of 100 eligible voters in Bihar are in the NANV (non-aligned and non-voters) bucket. The story is not very different for other states and elections.

The challenge lies in crafting a message to persuade the NANV segment that their individual vote, while useless on its own, can become a force for positive change if combined with others like them.

This may seem like mission impossible. How does one identify the NANVs? How does one reach them? Why will they agree to join UVI? In an electorate in which politicians shower many goodies for votes, why will anyone agree to vote for ‘free’? UVI may sound like a good idea on paper, but can it really work? All good questions. And all have answers. I will argue that UVI is an idea whose time has come. What India needs is not a new political party, but 10% of voters agreeing to unite into a voting bloc dedicated to the principles that create prosperity.

Tomorrow: Part 6

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.