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Project Report SOC171 2006-07 / II

Regional Politics & Voting Behaviour

Chintalagiri Shashank Y5157 [email protected]


Regional Politics and Voting Behavior

Why regional politics? And why voting behavior?

The political scenario in India today is quite dynamic, with a lot of changing variables and plays for power being orchestrated on almost a daily basis. One key element to it all is the regional politics. Every region has its own story to tell, with local groups and issues as much in the drivers seat as the national bigwigs and ideologies are. We hoped to capture the mood around Kanpur in the Uttar Pradesh elections, using the energy the elections bring out to get to talk to some of the people out on the streets. The issues of regional politics are manifested in the way people respond to the elections. We hypothesize that in order to understand the forces of regional politics, it would help to study the voting behavior of the common man. We believe that understanding the factors that come into play when the man who runs the little shop around the corner goes to cast his vote would help further our understanding of the driving force of regional politics.


In this project, we attempt to answer the following questions:

Is politics in Uttar Pradesh based on Caste? To what extent is this so? What are the major issues of Uttar Pradesh Politics On what basis does a voter caste his/her vote

Further, by going out and talking to people, we hope to understand why a person votes, the factors that are important when it comes to choosing the candidate to vote for, and try to study the level of satisfaction towards the previously elected candidates. Another important question we ask is whether a person votes for a person or for a party.


Regional Politics and Voting Behavior

Major Parties

India has a mulit-party system, and coalition governments seem to be the trend of the day. There are hordes of political parties each with its own ideology and support base which come together in metastable coalitions to govern the millions of people in the state. In Uttar Pradesh, it seems clear that religion and caste has a major part to play in this process. A number of the major parties have a clear foothold in a specific religious group, an example being the Samajwadi party which enjoys the support of the Muslim vote-bank, and the BSP with the Dalit votes. The following are the major pieces to the Uttar Pradesh political chessboard :

Samajwadi Party : Headed by Mulayam Singh. They are Socialists and Leftist.They heavily rely on the Muslim-Yadav vote bank. Bahujan Samaj Party : Headed by Mayawati. BSP has reached out to the Dalit vote bank. It has also reached out to the Upper Caste Brahmin community over the past 2 years. Relies heavily on caste. Bhartiya Janta Party : Headed by Kalyan Singh. The BJP is a religious conservative political organisation and it appeals mainly to the Hindu Voters. Congress Party : Headed by Salman Khurshid. The Congress, which is on the political fringe in the state, is determined to become a crucial player without whose support the next government cannot be formed.

These parties, while forming a sizable chunk of the mountain, represent far less than what the real thing has to offer. The Kalyanpur constituency itself, for example, represents a relatively small place on the outskirts of Kanpur, a more or less industrial city. As constituencies go its not really a very small place, but in the grand scheme of things it represents ­ geographically and demographically ­ a very small chunk of the nation. Even in this constituency, this past election saw 14 candidates, 4 of which were independents. This means that there were around 10 different political groups vying for the Kalyanpur constituency, since parties in coalitions generally don't compete against their allies. Further, of these 14 candidates only one was female. While a single constituency is hardly enough data to make a generalization, it does remind one of the very real gender disparity in the country, atleast when it comes to the holding of public office. The issue of political parties is important to us in the study of voting behavior and vice versa since the party a contestant belongs is found to be a major factor in choosing which candidate one votes for. In our field study, we found that 33% more people vote for a party rather than for a person. The policies of these political parties, especially the large ones, in most cases tell us ­ indirectly ­ what the people want as a generalization over many constituencies, perhaps even whole states. The policies of the smaller parties and the independents, on the other hand, are expected to echo the local sentiment.


Regional Politics and Voting Behavior

Field Work

Details :

We spoke to 19 people in Nankari and 27 in Kalyanpur. We went along with a few questions which we asked the people. The following are the questions we asked :

What is your age ? How long have you lived in this locality ? What is your Qualification ? Occupation ? Do you Vote Regularly ? Does your family vote for the same candidate ? Why do you Vote / not vote ? Do you Vote for Party or Person ? Are you Satisfied with the work of the Previously Elected Candidate from your Constituency ? What were your Expectations ? On what Basis do you vote and why ? (Development , Individuals reputation , Unemployment , Education , Caste , Crime Control , Corruption Control, Price Control)

Questions on Caste Politics : What is the role of Caste in local Politics ?

Collection of Data

The collection of data was done in an informal setting. We went around and spoke with random people. While initially some were hesitant in speaking about anything, most became quite helpful once we told them we were students from IITK. The responses to some of the questions were in most cases the same. It was as if people were trying to tell us what they thought we wanted to hear. For example, in the question about the role of caste, almost everyone said they did not vote on the basis of caste. However, when asked if they could put a number on the role of caste ­ as a percentage ­ almost all of them came up with a number greater than 49%. Similarly, when asked on what basis people vote, almost all of them replied "Development". The gender disparity reared its head once again here as well. In a few cases women refused to answer these questions in the absence of their husbands. In one case, a person said he did not vote as he was afraid to come out during this period. In another case, a person seemed to take the elections a little too lightly. He claimed he voted whenever he felt like it, and that he voted 'just like that'. This particular data point is probably to be discarded, but we left it in as our sample size was too small to start with.


Regional Politics and Voting Behavior

Analysis of the Data

For the sake of simplicity in statistical analysis, the qualification of the respondents was given a numerical code : 1 ­ Less than High school 2 ­ High School/ Intermediate 3 ­ Bachelors Degree 4 ­ Master's Degree



3 2

Graph 1 : Qualification distribution in the cross section of data As graph 1 suggests, a majority of respondents belong to the qualification categories 2 and 3, ie, they had either finsished high school or a bachelors degree, with comparable numbers of these 2 groups. Now, when we look at satisfaction with regards to the previously elected candidate from the constituency (graph 2 and 3), we see a rather interesting result.


1 2 3

Graph 2 5

Graph 3 (% satisfied in each category)

Regional Politics and Voting Behavior

It seems the most satisfied group with regards to qualification is that with a bachelors degree, while the least satisfied by far is the group which just graduated high school. Satisfaction with the previously elected officials is less than 37% in all groups, and only 10% in one of them. Satisfaction, while lacking everywhere, seems to be higher at higher levels of qualification than at the high school level. Also, all satisfied people have the whole family voting for the same person are of generally higher qualification most (83 %) vote for party. The issue of family influence When it comes to voting behavior, an important question is how a family votes. Does the whole family vote for a single candidate, or do the different members of the family vote independently. To be clear, the question here is not whether the whole family votes for the same person or not ­ the question is whether each member of the family makes the decision to vote for a particular candidate independently, or if the family discusses and decides who gets all the votes from the household. Another interesting fact comes out in this picture (graph 4).

Graph 4 It seems that as the level of qualification increases, the families tend to stick together when it comes to exercising their franchise. The reason for this has been hypothesized to be due to a single member of the family being educated, and the others take his word to be wise and well informed. In any case, the trend in this regard comes through clearly in the graph. Next comes the question of how family influence, as described above, comes into picture in the cases of respondents voting for a person or for a party (graphs 5 and 6)


Regional Politics and Voting Behavior

Graph 5

Graph 6

Now, in the case of respondents giving more importance to a person rather than a party, there is a clear trend as in the whole family votes for the same person. This trend is not so apparent in the case of respondents voting for a party. This could mean that in the small scale of things ­ at the truly local level of a constituency, the personal touch might be more effective that one would have thought. It is conceivable that when someone is voting for a person rather than a national party, he/she might just vote for a family friend or acquaintance. The issue of caste tends to crop up here once again, albeit indirectly. Does this suggest that perhaps the people voting for a person have caste in mind, even though they might not want to admit it? The role of Caste The role of caste can not be represented easily in the form of categories and pie charts. To begin with, the data we have on the caste role is not so reliable in nature ­ everyone claimed to not take caste into account while making their voting decision, and yet factored in caste at percentages over 50%. There are a few different ways to look at this ­ one is to consider the caste role people quote to be, in some sense, the amount of importance they themselves place on caste. Another is to treat this number as the percentage of people in the respondent's day-to-day life who would place large importance on caste. In either case, it is clear that the role of caste in the process is hazy, especially considering the small size of the data set. However, by comparing the caste-role the respondents provided to the qualification level and the family influence, and looking at the trends using a polynomial fit, we see the following :


Regional Politics and Voting Behavior

Graph 7 In graph 7, all the data points were ordered by the importance placed on caste role, and the trends in qualification were calculated. As expected, there seems to be a general decrease in the qualification level as the importance placed on caste increases.

Graph 8 Graph 8 is similar to graph 7 in its construction, except that family influence replaces level of qualification. It seems that as the importance of caste role increases, the importance of family influence decreases. This is quite unexpected and seems to be a contradiction of sorts.


Regional Politics and Voting Behavior


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