Lok Sabha elections 2019: Kerala, West Bengal prefer older lawmakers
Looking at the average ages of winners in Lok Sabha and assembly elections since 2008 in each Lok Sabha seat, the average age of winning candidates in Kerala is 55.4 years while that of West Bengal is 54.7Updated: Mar 15, 2019 13:28 IST
States with high development indicators such as Kerala and West Bengal tend to vote in older members of Parliament and legislative assemblies than the rest of India, according to an HT analysis. Looking at the average ages of winners in Lok Sabha and assembly elections since 2008 in each Lok Sabha seat, the average age of winning candidates in Kerala is 55.4 years while that of West Bengal is 54.7. Only Tripura votes older candidates with an average age of 55.5. Meghalaya votes in candidates at least 10 years younger, with winners there having an average age of 45.7 years.
So when Kerala and West Bengal vote in older candidates, what does that mean? Does that mean people there like their political representatives to be experienced? Or that parties there have a penchant for putting up older candidates? Whatever the case, this means it is harder for younger candidates to break into electoral politics in these states.
Only elections after 2008, or to be precise the Karnataka assembly polls of that year, were taken into account in this analysis.
Because of delimitation, a process in which borders of Lok Sabha and assembly seats were redrawn using population figures, constituencies before and after 2008 aren’t comparable. Also, results of bypolls weren’t taken into account because of the absence of organised data on the Election Commission website for the ages of bypoll winners.
We included assembly election results here because each Lok Sabha constituency is comprised of several assembly seats.
So, if we were to analyse how voters in different parliamentary seats voted in terms of age, looking at how the same voters voted in intervening assembly polls would only improve our understanding of how they vote. If we look at individual seats, there are just three seats — Nabarangapur in Odisha, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep — that have winners with an average age under 40. There are clusters of seats with representatives whose average ages are between 40 and 50. They are in eastern UP, the Tirhut region in Bihar, coastal Andhra Pradesh, and the Trichy region in Tamil Nadu, to name a few.
If we restrict the analysis to candidates under 40 and see where they won elections, we find there are 66 seats where a person under 40 has won one out of four elections (Lok Sabha and assembly polls combined since 2008).
There are 16 such seats in eastern UP and Bihar, which may be a reflection of how the distribution of population in those areas is shifting towards the young. Under-40 candidates winning in these areas might be a reflection of people there preferring someone closer to them in age and who understands their priorities.
But in some cases in this region, the success of candidates under 40 may be less a reflection of a demographic shift and more an expression of dynastic politics. For example, some of the under40s who’ve won elections here are sons and daughters of prominent politicians. Examples are 36-year-old Chirag Kumar Paswan (son of Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan), elected to the Lok Sabha from Bihar’s Jamui; 30-year-old Tej Pratap Yadav, MLA from Bihar’s Mahua; and 29-year-old Tejashwi Yadav, MLA from Bihar’s Raghopur. Tej Pratap and Tejashwi are sons of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav.
These exceptions aside, the larger demographic shift cannot be denied and this trend in the northern states towards the young is set to continue and, as a result, we could see a rise in the numbers of young MPs and MLAs from there. From Kerala and the rest of the slowly ageing South, not so much.
First Published: Mar 15, 2019 11:16 IST