Making Sense of Voter Behaviour
KK Kailash
THE VERDICT: DECODING INDIA’S ELECTIONS by Prannoy Roy Penguin Random House, Gurugram, 2019, 289 pp., 599
June 2019, volume 43, No 6

In this timely book, The Verdict: Decoding India’s Elections, India’s original, most popular, and respected pollsters, Prannoy Roy and Dorab R Sopariwala unpack their story of elections in the world’s largest democracy. Spiced with anecdotes from the field and bits of dry humour, this deftly crafted, superbly researched volume presents ‘the characteristics, the experience, and the lessons learned from watching and studying Indian elections over the last seven decades.’

The story is presented in four parts. The first part examines what they call the turning points in India’s elections. Here they focus on issues around three dimensions, anti-incumbency, the woman voter and the signs of greater or deepening democracy. They divide Independent India’s tryst with elections into three phases, which include, the pro-incumbency era (1952-77), the anti-incumbency era (1977-2002) and the fifty-fifty era (2002-19). This threefold demarcation revolving around governmental turnover forms the backbone of their analytical framework. They do not make the mistake of focussing only on the Lok Sabha elections but simultaneously examine Vidhan Sabha elections as well. This is important because States and their politics are often ignored in the routine imagination of Indian politics. At the same time, they also categorize States into three groups, including big, medium, and small-sized based on their representation in the Lok Sabha.

Using a typology of governmental turnover as a marker is an original idea and makes sense from their perspective of understanding the ‘behaviour, motivation and mindset’ of voters as well as mapping the changing relationship between the voter and the politician.The dominant markers in the study of Indian politics currently revolve around party-system change and transformation. It will be interesting to see how governmental turnover helps us understand other dimensions of politics in India.

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