There are lies, damn lies, statistics, and then social media. In the age of social media posts and sound bites, it is increasingly easy to spread statistical falsehoods. Having seem some of these in the comments section of my previous columns, I decided to retort with facts and figures.
Rebuttal 1: “69% of India voted against Modi”
This has been gaining traction since Kanhaiya Kumar made this statement. Let us examine why this is a blatant misrepresentation of our democratic system.
Yes, the BJP did get 31% of the votes cast in this election. However, it contested only 78% of the seats as it was part of the NDA alliance. However, the NDA, clearly led by Modi, together contested all seats and won close to 40% of the total votes. To use a cricket analogy, this is the equivalent of counting the score of only 7 batsmen and not the rest of the team!
By contrast the Congress won 19% of the vote share, and no other party won more than 4%. Thus, by the “Kanhaiya logic” 81% of the country voted against the Congress and 96% voted against everyone else! This is worth keeping in mind given that these apparently very unpopular parties are the ones currently blockading parliament and preventing laws from being passed!
But this is a flawed way of thinking. Ours is a multi-party electoral system. When one has a choice of 400 parties, voting for one doesn’t equate to voting against the other 399! It is like saying there were 20 dishes in the buffet, and I selected one, which means I am against the other 19. It is a nonsensical argument.
Just to compare ourselves to other major multi-party democracies, in the recent UK election, the Conservative party won 36% of the vote, in what was widely reported as a thumping win. In France in 2012, the Socialist Party won only 29% of the first round votes and was yet a clear winner. And unlike India where 400 parties contested and 36 parties won seats, the UK and French elections had barely 3-4 relevant parties.
Even in 2004, the Congress secured only 28% of the vote. Would it be then logical to say that 72% of the country was against the Congress in 2004 and 2009?
Make no mistake, the NDA’s performance of 40% of the votes was a thumping win and a full scale rejection of the Congress and the Left who both sunk to record lows in seats and vote share.
That such a strong mandate is being undemocratically subverted in parliament and through an all out propaganda war is a blot on our nation, and as I argued in an earlier article, a danger to our democracy.
Rebuttal 2: Bihar and Delhi were a rejection of the NDA
In reality, the only thing that Bihar and Delhi proved were the absolute decimation of the Congress Party, and the cynical, unstable, divisive, caste-based, policy-less alliances that need to be cobbled together to stop the BJP.
Let us start with Delhi:
The below chart shows vote shares of the major parties over the last 3 elections:
As we can see, the BJP vote share remained essentially the same, while the AAP experienced a huge jump and the Congress, a total collapse
The conclusion from Delhi is that the Congress voters fled en-masse to AAP, while the BJP voters remained loyal.
While the BJP needs to examine its inability to pick up ex-Congress voters in Delhi, the main lesson here is the utter decimation of the Congress.
It is also pertinent to note here that being a new party, the AAP with its impossible promises of free water, free wifi, cheap power, and various other unachievable promises, can only fool the voters once. I would be surprised if they could pull this trick off a second time (hence note their strategy of already continuously blaming the center for all their failings).
Moving on to Bihar, the pattern here too is similar.
Below is a table of vote shares in the last two elections:
It is important to note that the BJP had a vote share of 24% an INCREASE of 8% from the previous election. In fact, no other party INCREASED their vote. The BJP was the most popular party by a long distance.
By contrast the RJD won only 18% of the votes and its former enemy the JD(U) won 17%. The Congress was annihilated with a mere 7% vote share. Thus, the RJD-JDU-Cong alliance combined for 42% vs NDA’s 35%…. hardly a hammering.
What is worth noting here is the moral compromises that defeating the BJP took. Firstly, it took a famously pro-development and anti-corruption JD(U) to ally with its sworn enemy, Laloo Prasad Yadav (who has been imprisoned on corruption charges and who promptly appointed two of his young sons as deputy ministers to ensure his spoils in the victory).
Also, for all Congress’s talk on “unity” and “tolerance”, its alliance was cynical, caste-based divisive politics at its worst.
Thus, while Bihar was a defeat for the NDA, it was, much more so, a victory for the old caste-based, corrupt, divisive style of politics we had all hoped India had left behind. This should worry all of us.
Fortunately, using the “Kanhaiya logic”, 58% of Bihar votes against this diabolical alliance, so there is hope yet!