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Lok Sabha elections 2019: In 2019, fewer sitting MPs in poll fray

There are 8,048 candidates in the fray, out of which 6,819 (85%) are contesting for the first time; 8% of all candidates are running for a second time, 3.2% for the third time, 1.5% for the fourth time and 2.2% beyond four.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 11, 2019 07:30 IST
Gilles Verniers
Gilles Verniers
New Delhi
lok sabha elections 2019,parliament,elite
There are 8,048 candidates in the fray, out of which 6,819 (85%) are contesting for the first time; 8% of all candidates are running for a second time, 3.2% for the third time, 1.5% for the fourth time and 2.2% beyond four. (Photo by Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times).

Now that the names of the seventh phase’s candidates have been released, we can look at a number of running and re-running patterns to see whether this election is a conventional one or not.

There are 8,048 candidates in the fray, out of which 6,819 (85%) are contesting for the first time; 8% of all candidates are running for a second time, 3.2% for the third time, 1.5% for the fourth time and 2.2% beyond four.

There are 2,163 candidates running on a national or state-based party ticket, while 2,445 and 3,440 candidates are running on a local party ticket and as independents. Overall, this is a lower number than 2014, where 8,794 candidates contested.

The total number of parties contesting has, however, risen considerably, from 463 different parties running in 2014 to 674 in 2019. Most of these parties are micro-local formations. Many of them are unlikely to survive this election. These numbers are a good reminder that elections generate tremendous enthusiasm, beyond the scope of the actual competition, since the vast majority of parties and candidates run knowing full well that they stand no chance of winning.

Among those candidates, we can look at re-running patterns, or the number of sitting MPs attempting to win another term.

Incumbent re-running patterns

There has been since the late 1990s, a decline in the re-nomination ratio of sitting MPs. Parties attempt to duck anti-incumbency by fielding fresh faces, particularly when a government seeks to win a consecutive term. This is compounded by the fact that the opposition usually attempts at the same time to improve its odds by replacing many candidates who did not perform in the previous election.

In this election, nearly four MPs out of 10 are not re-running (accounting for by-election results), which is a bit higher than usual. In 2014, 73% of sitting MPs got a chance at getting re-elected, against 66.3% in 2009. In a high-stakes, uncertain election, parties are more inclined to reshuffle their candidates, which is the case at present.

There are significant variations across parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) often tends to discard a higher percentage of sitting MPs than the Congress, which the 2019 data confirms. The BJP is fielding 156 of its sitting MPs, out of the 275 it currently has (this data does not consider turncoat MPs, running on different party tickets. There are eight current BJP MPs running under different party affiliations, five of them in Uttar
Pradesh).

The Congress is fielding 28 of its 48 sitting MPs, which is a large and unusual turnover for this party.

This variation of re-running patterns between the BJP and Congress stems from differences in electoral strategy approaches, but also come from the fact that the BJP’s organizational culture is more prone to the sacking of candidates and MPs, while the Congress often tends to stick longer with candidates that are loyal to the party but not necessarily performing, electorally speaking. The low ratio of Congress re-running MP in 2019 might indicate that some organisational overhaul has taken place within the party.

Regional variations

Among the regional parties’ MPs, only 63 MPs are re-running, out of 139 sitting MPs (45.3%). Here also, there are important variations. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is running with only 16% of its 37 current MPs, a sign of the disarray in which it has fallen after the passing of J Jayalalithaa. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) also has either discarded or lost many of its MPs in a highly competitive race in Odisha. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) are approaching this election with greater confidence and haven’t felt the need to change many of their candidates. So did the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. The YSR Congress Party, in a position of challenger in Andhra Pradesh, has fielded mostly new candidates.

What are the implications of these numbers? Historical data suggest that roughly half of re-running incumbents get re-elected, leading to one of the highest recurrent turnover of political elites seen among democracies. If this rule checks out in this election, we should have a profoundly different looking assembly than the current one, irrespective of the outcome. If the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comes back to power even with an equal or reinforced majority, most of the members of the majority will be newcomers. The same goes if they lose their majority to an alternative coalition, irrespective of the configuration.

This means that a large part of the cumulative experience current parliamentarians have gained over these five years will be lost. One can rejoice at this great reshuffling of elites, or one can worry that the kind of control party leadership executives exert on parliamentarians contribute greatly to prevent Parliament from exercising its role of putting checks and balance on the executive. In all probability, the newly elected members of the Lok Sabha will have to worry that their own parties will put an end to their new career.

(Gilles Verniers is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Co-Director, Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University. Mohit Kumar, Sukanya Janardhanan, Priyamvada Trivedi and Sudheendra Hangal coded the incumbency data, using Surf, a TCPD-developed name matching software. Views are personal.)

First Published: May 11, 2019 07:30 IST

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