The Economic Times
Our results are based on the study of electoral performance of more than 12,000 candidates who fought the recently-held assembly elections.

What is the association between the probability of victory of a candidate with a criminal charge against him and high voter turnout? Such an association should be negative for a variety of reasons. We find that the probability of victory of such candidates falls by 1.5% in constituencies that witness above-average increase in turnout when compared to the previous election.

Our results are based on the study of electoral performance of more than 12,000 candidates who fought the recently-held assembly elections in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

Several NGOs, media and the Election Commission have launched highdecibel campaigns, which exhort the voters to exercise their choice. Such efforts seem to have paid dividends and voter turnout has been on the higher side in almost all states during the current Lok Sabha elections.

In states that have gone to polls so far, the turnout has been higher by 8-10% when compared to the 2009 general elections. In Bihar, there has been a dramatic 17% increase in voter turnout. In Bangalore city, 50-55% voter turnout has taken place, which disappointed many, but this was 8-9% higher than the turnout during 2009 elections. Even in the recent assembly elections held during November-December 2013, one saw a significant increase in voter turnout. In Rajasthan, almost 75% of voters exercised their franchise.
Do non-voters and occasional voters have preferences that differ from those of habitual voters? If the answer is a no, then the voter turnout does not matter as the same candidate would get elected irrespective of the turnout.
However, our study shows that incremental voters do have qualitatively different preferences when compared to core voters. This fact is reflected in the reduced probability of winning for a candidate with criminal charges against him in highturnout constituencies.

Candidates with criminal records, in general, have a higher probability of winning when compared to other candidates. What we find is a reduction of such probability by a significant 1.5% in high-turnout areas. Thus, it is imperative to understand the reasons for persistence of "criminal candidates" in elections.

Research done in the context on other developing countries throws light on this aspect. Research from the 1970s shows that voters, especially those from backward regions, treat their votes as a means of repaying their patrons. Others have shown that vote buying, criminal intimidation and inclination to vote on ethnic lines blind the voter. Many of these findings are applicable in the Indian context as well.

Global scholarship has tried to understand who these incremental voters are and how different are their preferences. Research shows that incremental voters are less ideologically driven and more willing to change their preferences based on electoral issues. Our results indicate that the incremental voter is more politically aware and is less swayed by sectarian and other emotional concerns that blind core voters.

The incremental voter in India has taken up the task of cleansing Indian state legislatures and the Parliament. Aphenomenon of rejecting candidates with a criminal past seems to have set in, albeit at a snail's pace. The Supreme Court and NGOs like the Association for Democratic Reforms have helped bring to light the criminal antecedents of many politicians and revealed the details before the electorate.

Acaveat is in order at this stage: what we have found is a significant correlation between increased turnout and better candidate selection. But it is not possible to say with 100% confidence that one has caused another. More research is required to prove causation. However, the trend is definitely encouraging and we sincerely hope this continues.

© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method