2014: The biggest ‘wave’ elections ever

India Infoline News Service | Mumbai |

The 2014 elections had 97.5mn new voters, which are more than the increase in 2004 and 2009 elections put together.

An astounding 120mn additional votes were cast in the just-concluded general elections, a 29% increase over the 2009 elections. This increase eclipses the ones recorded in the 1977 and 1984 polls, the two elections that produced the biggest landslides yet. The increase in votes polled has been partially driven by the sharp increase in electoral base. The 2014 elections had 97.5mn new voters, which are more than the increase in 2004 and 2009 elections put together. Intuitively, this should increase the proportion of young voters. A massive surge in participation by a relatively younger cohort suggests that the exit polls might be underestimating the change and not overstating the case.


The just concluded elections witnessed 66% turnout, which is the highest ever recorded in an Indian general election. The 7.8ppt increase PoP in turnout is also the highest ever.


The 28.8% increase in number of votes polled eclipses the increase in 1977 and 1984 elections, which are watershed events in Indian politics. In 1977, the incumbent Congress was almost wiped out of the electoral map in northern India as voters vented their anger against suspension of civil liberties. In 1984, the opposition was wiped out of Northern India as the incumbent Congress rode on sympathy wave for the son of the assassinated prime minister. 


The increase in voter turnout has been more pronounced in the northern hinterland where turnout has traditionally been lower than the national average. The key swing states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, witnessed 13 and 11ppt increase in turnout respectively. 


The sharp increase in votes polled has been partially driven by a much more intensive voter registration drive. Electoral rolls witnessed 97.5mn net additions compared with 52mn and 45.5mn additions in the 2004 and 2009 elections respectively.


Although a registration drive does not necessarily target only the first-time voter, intuitively, probability of a young voter registering for the first time should be higher than a 50 year old.


The election commission does not provide the full age profile of the electorate. However, it shares the number of electors in the age group of 18-19 years. The proportion of the youngest voter has gone up from 0.75% in 2009 to 2.88% in 2014.


This limited piece of data supports the surmise that the intensive voter registration has increased the proportion of first-time voters in the 2014 elections.


Historical evidence suggests that watershed events have accompanied large increases in turnouts: first ever decimation of the Congress in 1977; decimation of the opposition in 1984 and the only instance of government having three-fourths majority; emergence of the BJP as the single largest party in 1996 in a decade of it being reduced to just two seats.


Exit and opinion polls have a chequered track record in India. They might be off the mark this time as well. The voting pattern suggests that exit polls might be underestimating the change and not overstating the case.


Biggest surge in votes polled ever

Source: Election Commission of India, IIFL Research, *excludes 1989 as voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 years prior to these elections; like-to-like comparison not feasible


2014 has witnessed the highest ever voter turnout in general elections

State 1999 2004 2009 2014
Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra) 69% 70% 73% 76%
Telangana NA NA NA 72%
Assam 71% 69% 70% 73%
Bihar 61% 58% 44% 57%
Chhattisgarh
52% 55% 66%
Delhi 44% 47% 52% 65%
Goa 45% 59% 55% 77%
Gujarat 47% 45% 48% 62%
Haryana 64% 66% 68% 72%
Himachal Pradesh 57% 60% 58% 65%
Jammu & Kashmir 32% 35% 39% 50%
Jharkhand NA 56% 51% 63%
Karnataka 68% 65% 59% 68%
Kerala 70% 71% 73% 74%
Madhya Pradesh 55% 48% 51% 54%
Maharashtra 61% 54% 51% 62%
Odisha 56% 66% 65% 70%
Punjab 56% 62% 70% 70%
Rajasthan 54% 50% 48% 59%
Tamil Nadu 58% 61% 73% 73%
Tripura 68% 67% 85% 84%
Uttar Pradesh 54% 48% 48% 59%
Uttarakhand NA 48% 53% 62%
West Bengal 75% 78% 81% 81%
All India 60% 58% 58% 66%
Source: Election Commission, IIFL Research
 

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