Performance Doesn’t Always Pay
Some parameters of governance matter more than others at the ballot box
In the recent by-elections held in Haryana, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, the Congress got a drubbing. There is no doubt that perceptions about corruption and inflation influenced the results. Question: so how much do development and governance affect electoral fortunes? Data is inconclusive.
While there is some evidence of good governance being rewarded and bad governance being punished, one has to pin down what governance means. This concerns citizen expectations about a state government. Expectations are about a package that includes an enabling environment, law and order, physical infrastructure ( bijli, sadak and pani), delivery on social infrastructure and reduction in corruption. However, some of these are outside the purvey of state governments, introducing a variable in calculations.
There have been recent statelevel elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Data is available on party performances at the level of individual constituencies in these five states. With some disaggregation, data on socio-economic indicators can also be created at the level of constituencies. We thus know the improvements (or deterioration) in socio-economic indicators between 2006 and 2011 and we also know the changes in vote shares of parties between 2006 and 2011. Is there any correlation? It is important to mention that this question is being asked at the level of the constituency, not at the aggregate level of the state.
The results show that if one disaggregates in this fashion, what matters most are indicators that have a strong and direct bearing on economic performance of households— per capita income and road connec- tivity. Socio-economic criteria such as infant mortality rate, immunisation and education-related variables do not matter as much. Perhaps not because they are unimportant, but because the electorate is aware that these are determined more by central government schemes. Even crime is not important in an overall sense, but violent crimes, economic crimes and those pertaining to social unrest have an impact.
Does this mean that other socioeconomic indicators have no influence on electoral outcomes? Not quite, because the sample has been restricted to Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. In these five states, improvements in other socio-economic indicators have not had a significant statistical influence on voting patterns. There are dangers in extrapolating this experience to other states.
ATRINAMOOLCONGRESS SUPPORTER CELEBRATES
AFTER THE PARTYWON THE WESTBENGAL POLLS