With UP in all probability headed for a hung assembly, Independent candidates could well be the kingmakers. All exit polls are predicting increased fragmentation of votes. And the main parties in the fray — the Samajwadi Party, BJP and Bahujan Samaj Party — may invariably run short of the required number of seats, forcing them to woo Independents.
Over the years, the number of Independents contesting elections has increased, and so has their bargaining power. If the 1951 elections saw 1,006 of them participate, the 2002 elections saw that number more than double to 2,353. In 1957, they managed to seize 74 of the 430 seats and pulled in 28.68 per cent of the votes.
The one thing going against the Independents is their lack of consistency. If between 1951 and 1967 they managed to poll an average 19.37 per cent of the votes, between 1977 and 1989, their vote share fell to 15.06 per cent. It has fallen further in the last four years to an average of just 7.11 per cent.
But interestingly, their seat share has been increasing since 1991. If in 1991 they got seven seats, in 2002 they raised their tally to 16. And in a situation where every seat counts, this group could well be the deciding factor.
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