Does the Development Quotient Cease to be Significant to the Average Indian Voter?

how BJP was voted back to power despite several contesting narratives built against the party during their tenure from 2014 to 2019. Image Source - Hindustan Times

The Lok Sabha Elections are over and it’s evident that the new ruling party has won with a whooping majority. The party surpassed its own record from 2014 and became the largest party to garner such huge support.

A new study by Oxford University scholar Tanushree Goyal entitled Do Citizens Enforce Accountability for Public Goods Provision?’  revealed that it is not on the basis of the development or policies that citizen’s vote in India.

The study takes into account election results across 14 states that hold 90% of India’s population. It linked the performance of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (prime minister’s rural roads project) to the results of state and central elections between 1998 and 2017. She has used lowest-level roads data from the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana to tally it with national and state-level constituencies by covering approximately 11,000 electoral constituencies both parliamentary and state assembly during that period.

In the study the researcher argues that the vote bank for the parties did not come even after the successful implementation of the programmes at lowest level possible. The researcher takes the example of the road developed by Congress in Rajasthan between 1998 to 2003 and Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh 1999-2004. As per official records the Congress government in Rajasthan constructed 13,634.43 km of road across the state. Yet, in the 2003 elections, the Congress lost an average vote share of 9.6% and the BJP came to power in Rajasthan. The Telugu Desam Party  during 1999-2004, constructed 8167.56 km of roads. However, in the 2004 election, the Telugu Desam Party lost its vote share by 7.3% and the Congress came to power.

The researcher in her interaction with the media said “My empirical analysis suggests that while the world’s largest rural roads provision programme provided all-weather roads to over 200,000 Indian villages, most of which lacked paved roads and desperately needed all-year market access, the electoral effects of roads provision were close to zero over time, space and electoral levels. The very few times the results are significantly positive or negative, they are far too feeble and inconsistent, to have an electoral impact for the incumbent or incentivize future policy provision.”

 The researcher has argued that this kind of non consideration of the schemes, policy development and policy implementation has led to manipulations at different level.

Lack of accountability and check from the citizens has led to the poor implementation of schemes and policies in both rural and urban areas. The researcher through her study has warned that if this trend continues policies can never be successfully implemented.

Another striking revelation made by the researcher in her study was about the fact that even the BJP government no longer minced the development narrative during elections 2019.

The researcher argues that when the BJP government came to power in 2014 it did start with the “Vikas” and “Ujjawal Bharat” but as observed after the 2014 elections this time during the pre election period in 2019  the BJP government did not build a development narrative. As the researcher states this time it was only the issue of caste and identity which were used by the BJP government to gain mass support.

Development as a narrative could not get a profound mass appeal.

This study is important piece of work to clear the dilemma of how BJP was voted back to power despite several contesting narratives built against the party during their tenure from 2014 to 2019.

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