Poll results: Is rural India more ‘liberal’ than urban? - Hindustan Times
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Poll results: Is rural India more ‘liberal’ than urban?

New Delhi | ByAbhishek Jha and Roshan Kishore
May 26, 2019 07:57 AM IST

The increase in vote share of the candidates/parties who became liberal mascots in these four seats is inversely related with the share of urban population in these seats, suggests an HT analysis.

The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the post-2014 phase has often been seen as a threat to liberal values by a section among both anti-BJP political parties and civil society. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, at least three candidates; Atishi in East Delhi, Kanhaiya Kumar in Begusarai and Prakash Raj in Bangalore Central became a mascot of sorts for people subscribing to this view. One could also add Bhopal to this list, where the BJP fielded Pragya Singh Thakur, who is facing terror charges. Digvijaya Singh from the Congress was her opponent on this seat. All these seats were won by the BJP in 2014.

The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the post-2014 phase has often been seen as a threat to liberal values by a section among both anti-BJP political parties and civil society.(PTI photo)
The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the post-2014 phase has often been seen as a threat to liberal values by a section among both anti-BJP political parties and civil society.(PTI photo)

The BJP has won all these seats in 2019 as well. In two of these seats, Begusarai and East Delhi, the BJP’s vote share has actually increased between 2014 and 2019. To be sure, part of the increase in BJP’s vote share in Begusarai could be due to the return of Janata Dal (United) to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar. In Bhopal and Bangalore Central, there has been a marginal decline in BJP’s vote share, though it continues to be more than 50%.

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Among the anti-BJP candidates in these four seats, Digvijaya Singh has garnered the highest vote share. He is followed by Kanhaiya Kumar, Atishi and Prakash Raj. While Atishi and Kumar were fielded by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI), Raj contested as an independent.

In terms of increase in vote share compared to 2014, the Congress has made the biggest gain in Bhopal, where it has increased its vote share by around five percentage points between 2014 and 2019.

In Begusarai, the CPI has increased its vote share from 17.8% in 2014 to 22% in 2019. To be sure, the 4.2 percentage point increase in the CPI’s vote share is an underestimate here because it contested the 2014 elections in an alliance with the JD(U). In East Delhi, the AAP has suffered a 15 percentage point decline in vote share between 2014 and 2019.

Because Prakash Raj contested as an independent, all of his vote can be considered to be a net gain over 2014.

These trends actually correspond to a larger pattern. The increase in vote share of the candidates/parties who became liberal mascots in these four seats is inversely related with the share of urban population in these seats, suggests an HT analysis. A parliamentary constituency-wise ranking by share of urban population by How India Lives using the 2011 census shows that East Delhi (15) was the most urban seat among these followed by Bangalore Central (27), Bhopal (53) and Begusarai (327).

This explanation holds for BJP’s vote shares in India’s metropolitan centres as well. Contested vote share of the BJP in Lok Sabha seats situated in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai has been significantly higher in 2014 and 2019 than what it was in 2009. In Delhi and Kolkata seats, this figure has increased by 10 percentage points or more between 2014 and 2019. Even though the BJP’s contested vote share has come down marginally in Mumbai between 2014 and 2019, it continues to be more than 60%. The party did not contest any seats in Chennai in 2019. The BJP has also performed better in terms of contested vote share in seats, which are among the top 10% by urban population in 2009, 2014 and 2019 elections. Prior comparisons cannot be made because of delimitation in 2008.

These figures capture the basic political dilemma facing those who attack the BJP of being illiberal. Because of better education and modernity, cities should have a higher proportion of liberal voters. Yet, the BJP performs better in the most urbanised seats in India.

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