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Have you heard of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)?  This NGO was established in 1999 by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad.  They are the ones who ushered in the concept of ‘Election Watch’ for the first time in India.

The first election watch was conducted by ADR in 2002 for Gujarat Assembly Elections whereby detailed analysis of the backgrounds of candidates contesting elections was provided to the electorate in order to help the electorate make an informed choice during polls. Since then ADR has conducted Election Watches for almost all state and parliament elections in collaboration with the National Election Watch. It conducts multiple projects aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the political and electoral system of the country.

We are giving all this background of ADR to establish that they are neither new blokes on the block nor are they run-of-the-mill kind of organization. They are one’s who literally created a storm, where even the BJP, then in the Opposition took their reports on financial details of MPs very seriously.

ADR on 25th March published a survey on Governance issues and voting behavior. The survey was conducted between October 2018 and December 2018. It covered 534 Lok Sabha constituencies with 2,73,487 voters participating in this exercise spread among various demographics.

The three main objectives of this survey were to identify the following: (i) voters’ priorities on specific governance issues, (ii) voters’ ratings of the government's performance on those issues, and (iii) factors affecting voting behaviour.

For assessing this, voters were asked to list their top five priorities. These voters’ priorities were further analyzed in relation to the performance of the Government on those issues as perceived by the voters.

Well, here are the findings:

  • The number one priority for majority, 46.80% of those surveyed was better employment opportunities.
  • Second biggest priority was better hospitals and primary health centers – this is something which we in the metro never think much about, isn’t it?
  • The third top priority, which should ideally ring alarm bells is drinking water.
  • This is followed by better roads, availability of water for agriculture, availability of agriculture loan, getting higher price realisations for farm products, getting agriculture subsidy for seeds/fertilizer.
  • The least, on rather the priority which came in at number ten was better law and order and policing.
  • The survey, much to the dislike of the Govt, rates its performance score on the top 10 voters’ priorities at below average, indicating that the voters are unsatisfied with the govts performance.
  • On Better Employment Opportunities, which is the top most voters’ priority, the performance of the government has been rated as one of the worst (2.15 on a scale of 5).
  • The worst performance of the government, as rated by the voters, was on the issues of Encroachment of Public Lands, Lakes etc., Terrorism, Training for Jobs, Strong Defence/Military, Eradication of Corruption, Lower Food Prices for Consumers and Mining/Quarrying.
  • Amongst the 32 states and UTs that were surveyed, in 29 of them, voters have given below average ratings to the government for its performance on all top 3 voters’ priorities at the state level. This is with the exception of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Puducherry.
  • Out of all the 8 Empowered Action Group (EAG) states, which are considered as most socio-economically backward, in 7 states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh) better employment ppportunities is the foremost voters’ priority.
  • Drinking Water is the topmost voters’ priority in 3 States/UTs like Odisha, Karnataka and Daman and Diu.

Now some insights into the voting behavior:

  • 5.11% voters disclosed that CM candidate was the most important reason behind voting for a particular candidate, followed by candidate’s party (71.32%) and the candidate (68.03%) himself/herself.
  • For 41.34% voters, distribution of cash, liquor, gifts etc. was an important factor behind voting a particular candidate in an election.
  • In relation to voting candidates with criminal antecedents, maximum number of voters (36.67%) felt that people vote for such candidates because they are unaware of his/her criminal records.
  • 35.89% voters are also willing to vote for a candidate with criminal records if the candidate has done good work in the past.
  • Almost half the respondents (48%) of the respondents also voted on the basis of the candidate’s caste or religion.

This is a survey from 2,73,487 voters; the BJP better pay heed to these findings as it shows what people on the ground really want. Modi’s re-election, as already discounted for the by the market, is a 100% likelihood. But if the Govt can actually give what is needed most and get over mere rhetoric and chest thumping, maybe next time the survey is conducted and we get an “above average” performance?

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