Voters in recent national elections have not just formed the habit replacing ruling coalitions with their opponents as part of the so-called anti-incumbency factor, but they have also sought out fresh faces to represent them in Parliament. And some experts believe that the two trends are linked. In fact, going by voter behaviour during the last two general elections, the 2009 general election should see even more first-timers in the Lok Sabha.
To be sure, there is no link between experience and ability to govern or make policy. Data provided by PRS Legislative Research, a Delhi-based independent research agency, shows that the proportion of so-called lateral entrants into the Lok Sabha (those members with no prior legislative experience, whether at the state level or at the Centre), has risen from 9% in the 13th Lok Sabha to 16% in the outgoing 14th. In the same period, the proportion of first-time MPs—the lateral entrants and those who graduated from local and state-level politics—almost doubled, from 23% to 44%.
Uttar Pradesh had elected the most number (17) of previously untested politicians. While some small states such as Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, with just one or two parliamentary seats, had elected new faces to all or half their total seats, as many as eight states with more than five constituencies each had sent more lateral entrants to the Lok Sabha than the national average of 16%.
Andhra Pradesh (28.57%) leads the list, closely followed by Rajasthan (28%), Jharkhand (21.43%), Uttar Pradesh (21.25%), Tamil Nadu (20.51%), Karnataka (17.86%), Bihar (17.50%) and Maharashtra (16.67%). Gujarat and Assam sent 3.85% and 7.14% of new legislators, respectively, while Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Mizoram and Uttarakhand did not elect any inexperienced politician.
Among parties, the maximum number of lateral entrants were from the Congress (25), followed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (15), Bahujan Samaj Party (8) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (7).
An anti-incumbency factor could explain the growing number of fresh faces in Parliament. "A large number of first-time MPs reinforces the popular perception about anti-incumbency in Indian elections," says C.V. Madhukar, director, PRS Legislative Research. "From a policy standpoint, the important thing is to invest significantly more resources in providing support and strengthening MPs with no prior legislative experience. While having new MPs might mean that there is fresh perspective coming into Parliament, there may be a need to take re-look at parliamentary procedure to allow for a greater role for first-time MPs."