Divided Opposition behind BJP surge
The past week, from news point of view, could be dedicated to the continued controversy which a few political parties have tried to create around the innocuous Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have been specially vociferous in their criticism of the voting machine claiming that they have been manipulated to ensure the trail of victories which the BJP has registered in the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and municipal polls in New Delhi.
In the case of both parties, the political rout has brought in internal turbulence, with BSP supreme leader Mayawati dropping her longtime confidant Naseemuddin Siddiqui and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal removing his powerful water minister Kapil Mishra from the Cabinet. In both the cases, the dropped leaders have struck back with serious charges of corruption against their party leaders, which may give arch rival BJP a stick to beat them with.
The Election Commission has responded by calling an all-party meeting to address the issue. The Election Commission has said that it will offer political parties an opportunity to prove that electronic voting machines used in the recent Assembly polls were tampered with. A 'challenge' is on the cards, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi told the political parties. Zaidi also reiterated that the Commission had no favourites and it was equidistant from all parties. He also made the major announcement that all future elections -- both parliamentary and state Assemblies --- will be held by using only VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail system) with EVMs. The use of VVPAT with EVMs should ensure total credibility and transparency and put to rest all controversy.
However, for your reporter, the mere analysis of the poll results would show that the controversy around votes being manipulated in the favour of BJP is frivolous as the poll data doesn't show much gain for the BJP. A case study can be done for Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and Municipal polls in Delhi.
First analysis of the votes polled closer home – Delhi. The BJP may have secured never before number of seats in the three different corporations in the municipal polls held last month but failed to add to its vote share in the city. The BJP cornered 36 per cent of the votes polled, the AAP 26 per cent and the Congress 21 per cent. While the BJP vote share remained almost the same as in 2012 (36.74 per cent), the Congress slid by almost nine per cent from 30.54 per cent in 2012. This vote share of the three parties can also be compared with the results of the Vidhan Sabha polls held just two years ago. In the polls held in 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party, which won 67 of the 70 seats, was voted to power with the 54.5 per cent vote share. The BJP got 34.5 per cent votes, the Congress 9.7 per cent votes.
It would also be interesting to note the poll percentage of the three parties in the 2013 Vidhan Sabha elections, which threw up a hung Assembly. In these polls, held in the backdrops of the 15-years of anti-incumbency being faced by the Sheila Dikshit government, the charges of corruption being faced by the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre and the Anna Hazare movement, the BJP had polled 33.1 per cent votes, Congress 24.6 per cent and the AAP 29.5 per cent. If we were to take an average of the votes polled by the BJP in the last three elections in Delhi, the average voting percentage is 34.5.
Thus, the charge of BJP manipulating the EVMs in the last municipal polls does not make sense given that its vote share is stuck around the same figures as it was during the 2015 Assembly polls when it could just get three out of the 70 seats in the house. What changed from then was the increase in the vote share of the Congress, and decline the vote share of the AAP, leading to a very effective division in the Opposition vote share helping BJP romp home.
Similar is the story in Uttar Pradesh where Mayawati has raised a hue and cry about the voting machines being manipulated. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won 73 of the 80 seats in the state garnering 42.3 per cent of votes. BJP won these seats with neither being in power at the Centre or in the State, thus ruling out the chances of influencing the performance of the EVMs. In these polls, the Samajwadi Party received 22.20 per cent votes, the Bahujan Samaj Party 19.6 per cent, and Congress 7.5 per cent votes.
In the 2017 state Assembly polls, the BJP has won 312 seats nearly 39.6 per cent votes followed by the SP and the BSP with 22 per cent each while the Congress got over 6 per cent. BJP's ally, Apna Dal, got nine seats and Suheldev BSP four seats. Among others, the Rashtriya Lok Dal got less than 2 per cent vote share and just one seat. Independent candidates polled 2.5 per cent votes and three of them won.
Despite getting equal vote share as the BSP, the Samajwadi Party (47) ended way ahead in seat count vis-à-vis the BSP (19) because of its alliance with the Congress. Mayawati would have to understand that to survive she has to enter into an alliance with her longtime bête noire Mulayam Singh Yadav or his son Akhilesh Yadav. And she should also remember that EVMs have been the greatest instrument in actually enfranchising the weaker sections, whose interests she represents.
Thus, the lesson, or to use the much clichéd phrase, the writing is very clear on the wall, it's not the manipulated EVMs which are helping the BJP but a division in the Opposition ranks which is allowing it to capture one seat of power after another.
(Sidharth Mishra is President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice and Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. The views are strictly personal.)