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Vote Consolidation

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As the elections to five state assemblies draw to a close, the first thing of note will be that, as a trend, the total poll percentage is on the rise. It is not just because of increased awareness among voters, but also the overall improvement in conditions. EVMs ensure that it does not take as much time as before to cast one’s vote; the Election Commission and political parties have worked out ways to ensure that voters do not have to run from pillar to post to learn which booth is theirs; and there is much less intimidation of weaker sections. A large number of those who fail to turn up are the ones who live and work in areas other than their native place. It is inevitable that, soon, technology will find the means to exercise their franchise from where they are.

Higher polling means a much more representative mandate. However, this does not mean the certainty of a clear mandate. While most parties have hard core supporters who can be depended on to vote for them under any circumstances, it is only the BJP in recent times that has seen a rise in this sort of consolidation. In states where the contest is largely between two parties, such as Rajasthan, the anti-BJP vote might go to the Congress, but it cannot be said to be that party’s own. In the right circumstances, and a change of perspective, a lot of it can switch sides.

It can be said, therefore, that this situation gives the BJP an advantage. While it has adopted every trick in the book to divide the opposition and exploit every weakness, it has also worked to build up its committed vote. Every state has a threshold percentage with which a mandate can be denied to other parties. The ongoing assembly elections will show how much this objective has been achieved. In Rajasthan, for instance, the general consensus among analysts has been that Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is facing massive anti-incumbency, because she has managed to alienate various caste groups through her intransigence. If one extrapolates a vote percentage on this basis, and the BJP manages to poll higher than that, the obvious conclusion would be that it has increased its hardcore support. In the long run, this is what the BJP is interested in. So, while everybody is eager to see who wins the recent round of elections, an eye should also be kept on how much vote percent the BJP manages to achieve. It will give a good idea of the shape politics takes in the future.