Political Parties in Karnataka

General consensus among pundits is that the Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) is going to struggle to cross 50 seats in the forthcoming assembly elections. The general discourse is that they lack a presence outside of the Old Mysore region. However, you might remember that not so long ago, in 1994, the Janata Dal (which broke up in 1999, one of whose offshoots was the JDS) had an absolutely majority in the state assembly. So I thought it might be interesting to see where the JD was strong in 1994.

I decided to go back another decade, to the 1983 elections, and for all elections from 1983 to 2004 I’ve mapped out how each of the 3 principal parties in Karnataka performed. I’ve grouped all the Janata Parivar parties (Janata Party, Janata Dal, and their offshoots) and coloured them green. The Congress has been coloured blue while the BJP is saffron. Seats won by independents/others have been coloured in black.

Source: http://www.partyanalyst.com/
Source: http://www.partyanalyst.com/


1. Before the Janata Dal split in 1999, the JD had a significant presence even in Bombay Karnataka, where it is now supposed to have absolutely no presence.
2. The growth of the BJP has been outward from the Mangalore-Udupi area. One needs to remember that the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts are extremely diverse in terms of religion, so perhaps the Hindutva card works better there than elsewhere? Also, the coastal districts are where the RSS first set up its roots in Karnataka.
3. In 1999 and 2004, the BJP actually won some seats in the old Mysore region outside of Bangalore. In 2008, though, the BJP was decimated in this region. It is unlikely it will regain some base in this area in the coming election
4. The Congress won a whopping 178 seats in 1989. And what happened? Intense jockeying for the post of CM. Three CMs over the course of five years (Veerendra Patil, S Bangarappa and Veerappa Moily) followed by a humiliating loss in 1994 when the Congress came third!
5. The JD split in 1999 hit it badly. In most constituencies both the JD (U) and the JD(S) contested. That probably played into the hands of the Congress which won a simple majority. By 2004, the JD (U) was virtually non-existent in Karnataka, and the JD (S) managed to consolidate all the Janata votes and did well.
6. Even in 2004, you might notice that the BJP was virtually confined to the western half of Karnataka. In 2008, thanks to the efforts of the Reddy brothers, in addition to Western Karnataka they swept the regions in and around Bellary, which pushed them past the target. With the Reddys in jail and their right-hand-man B Sriramulu having formed his own party, the BJP won’t come close to a majority this time.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get my hands on the shapefiles of the delimited constituencies (2008 and later), so I’m unable to include the 2008 results in this chart. If any of you can supply me the shapefiles, or at least the constituency map of the new assembly constituencies, I’d be most grateful.

Women’s Reservation and Roving Bandits

There are two kinds of bandits – stationary and roving. Roving bandits (eg. Mahmud of Ghazni) attack an area, plunder it to the fullest and then abandon it and move on to another area to rape and pillage. They seldom attack the same area twice, at least not in quick succession, because of which they don’t really care about the medium-term consequences of their actions. Similarly you have shifting agriculture.

Stationary bandits, on the other hand are interested in plundering an area over a longer time period (eg. British in India). They too pillage, but given that they know that they will stick on for a reasonable amount of time, they make sure that they don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. And it is a possibility that they will feed the goose well, take steps to increase production of eggs and so on. In other words, they do contribute to general development of the area (though they tend to take away a large portion of the benefits), build institutions, etc. This is more like settled agriculture.

Now, it is clear that given a choice, it is in the interest of the region for it to be attacked by stationary bandits rather than by roving bandits. Yeah, the stationary bandits do stick on for longer and pain you for longer periods of time, but the damage inflicted by roving bandits is usually so severe that it will take a longer time to recover from this.

In democracies like the UK or India, what keeps the legislators honest is the possibility of re-election. It is the possibility of re-election which incentivizes the incumbent to do good for his constituents, rather than just plundering away the region’s funds (in whatever ways possible). In other words, legislators do try to act like stationary bandits, because of which some good does happen for the region.

Now, with the new women’s reservation law in the process of coming into force, what will happen is that once in three elections, constituencies will get reserved for women by rotation. The implications of this are severe. In two out of every three parliaments, the incumbent knows that there is zero chance of him/her retaining the seat in the following election (yeah, women can still continue to get elected from their constituencies when it becomes general by rotation but I’m sure parties won’t allow that). With the possibility of re-election being taken away, this will play havoc with the incentives.

There will be more incentve now for legislators to maximize their benefits in the one term they get rather than to try and put gaaji on the constituency and take benefits off it for the rest of their lifetime. This, I think will lead to overall poorer performance by legislators, irrespective of gender of the legislator and whether the constituency is reserved or not.

This is unfortunate.