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Sunday, August 16, 2015

A majority of votes did not mean a majority support for AAP in Delhi


The Delhi Legislative Assembly Elections, 2015 resulted in huge upsets for both BJP and Congress who could only win 3 and 0 seats respectively, whereas the AAP won the remaining 67 seats. This landslide victory for Aam Aadmi Party was already on the cards even though a majority of voters did not consider them as the most deserving contestant. This post explains why a large number of voters did not vote for their favourite party but for their second favourite.


Before the arrival of AAP, Delhi had two major parties – BJP and Congress. And for a vast majority of voters, all other parties or candidates were not the top ranked, so how voters ranked them did not matter in deciding the election result. There could be only two types of voters – BJP supporters and Congress supporters. The introduction of AAP expanded the set to six possible voter types:
 
Here's my interpretation of types. Type 1 voters support Congress and oppose the Hindutva forces of BJP. These comprise a majority of Congress supporters. Type 2 support BJP but would prefer a change of party due to opposition to Congress because of corruption in previous years. Type 3 are the ones who do not want congress to win at any cost but would give chance to a new party and type 4 are AAP supporters who oppose Hindutva forces of BJP. Type 5 and 6 supported their respective parties but believe that AAP as a new party will not be able to manage the Indian capital.

In the 2013 Delhi elections, the number of BJP (33% votes, 31 seats) supporters exceeded both AAP (29.5% votes, 28 seats) and Congress (24.5% votes, 8 seats). Also, independent candidates received 10% of total votes cast with 1 seat. Once Arvind Kejriwal resigned as the Chief Minister of Delhi, it was clear that Congress is not going to win any significant number of seats in the 2015 re-elections and here is why AAP victory was a near certainty in the following elections.

Since the type 1 voters did not want BJP to win at any cost, they indulged in strategic behaviour and voted for their second favourites AAP instead of Congress (who were doomed to lose). If they had not done this, then BJP would have won more seats and that would have been a worse result for them. Most of the people who supported independent candidates were more likely to support AAP over BJP as they are more likely to give chance to a new party instead of the old established ones. So most of them also voted in favour of AAP candidates to prevent the victory of BJP as they got to know that the independent candidate is unlikely to win over AAP candidate. So the outcome of 2015 elections did not represent the actual support for AAP, but instead strategic voting by groups of congress supporters and independent candidate supporting voters who considered AAP the second best party.

The 2013 election result showed the true preferences of voters as they were largely unaware of the likely outcome and various opinion polls showed widely varying estimates of number of seats for each party. This lack of information reduced the scope for strategic behaviour. Also, since only a very short time passed between 2013 and 2015 elections and there was not much change in the political environment of Delhi, preferences can be taken to be almost constant. The voter turnout increased only marginally from 66% to 67% between the two. So, the set of voters was nearly identical across the two elections. Out of the total votes caste in 2015 elections, AAP secured 54.8% votes, BJP 32.3% votes, whereas Congress could garner only 9.7% of total votes cast. The votes cast in favour of independent candidates reduced to just 0.5%. This increase of votes in favour of AAP by 24.8% of voters is explained almost entirely by the sum of decline in Congress votes by 14.8% and independent votes by 9.5% compared to the 2013 elections. Based on this we can say that type 1 voters comprise roughly 14.8% of the voters whereas type 5 (or those congress supporters who did not indulge in such strategic behaviour) were roughly 9.7%.

Many people blame introduction of Kiran Bedi as BJP's Chief Minister candidate instead of Dr. Harsh Vardhan for their defeat. But a single glance at the election data will give her some relief as BJP's vote share in 2015 elections remained almost the same as 2013 elections, registering only an insignificant fall of 0.7%. Often we only look at the outcome, oblivious to the misrepresentations that keep happening in the background.This was one of those cases when Arvind Kejriwal was lucky to get more support than actually existed for him.

9 comments:

  1. Nice explanation..in theory it was known AAP gets congress votrs n you present them.in numbrrs very well. But how you classify the voters in still not clear.

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    1. Thanks Ekta. Glad you liked it :)
      Voter types are classified on the basis of how they rank each of the three major political parties with respect to each other. e.g. for some individual AAP may be the favourite, BJP second favourite and Congress will give the least happiness if it comes to power. Given three parties there can be 6 such permutations.

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  2. Interesting analysis. A.Ks first victory was somewhere evident due to his sudden popularity as a new entrant from commons against corruption. However the second time along with that sentiment the above derived analysis might have worked in his favor! After reading your post, election results for next term would be intriguing and exciting!

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    1. It will be interesting how the next elections play out. But that is a long time away. Meanwhile, we can look at how results of other states were affected by Delhi results.

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  4. This makes sense Sugat, how did you validate the data showcased ?

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  5. The data is collected from the website of the Election Commission of India. Dividing congress supporters in Type 2 and Type 5 is based on two assumptions:
    -Voters' preferences have remained more or less constant through the 2013 to 2015 period.
    -Voters behaved strategically in 2015 but not in 2013. I have chosen to justify these assumptions based on reasoning.

    I'm sure more can be done in terms of validating the assumptions with data. But my idea was to use a real life example to convince readers how moving from two to three parties can make the voters behave more strategically.

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  6. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.

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