The recently concluded 2016 Assembly Elections in states of Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have shown some surprising results. While the winners claim these are expected and losers complain things went completely wrong for them, there are few lessons that can be applied to any election in general. There could be exceptions here and there, but definite pattern is coming out clearly.
Perceived corruption is not a poll issue
What is “perceived corruption” now? 2G, Coal block allocation, Sarada Chits, Vyapam, Solar scam, disproportionate assets and many more – while these are all scams, none of them are proven in a court of law or people sentenced for their crimes. Media mentions a lot about this and politicians do their best to politicize. But what is generally forgotten is people understand the difference between cases where culprits are actually punished and those cases where there is just noise. Political parties during their poll strategies should not put lots of hopes on defeating their opponents on such cases of “perceived corruption”.
Hatred for one party is not enough for vote consolidation
So, you hate Modi and hope to consolidate the votes of all Modi haters. People do not support someone because they both share a common enemy. A person can be a Modi hater but that does mean this person will support Congress. Support for Congress will happen only if that party can convince this person that it is a better party and can promise better future. India voted for Modi in 2014 NOT because they hated Rahul Gandhi or his mother, but they really believed Modi has the potential to take the peace and development story of India forward.
Launch mass campaigns
It is important to create campaigns of mass interaction with voting public over a longer period of time. YSR Reddy did that very effectively in 2004 to dislodge CB Naidu. Akhilesh Yadav did that in 2012 to go past Mayawati. There is no easy path to winning an election – parties have to work hard at the ground level and that too for an extended period of time. The speeches and other noisy stuff that takes place 2 or 3 weeks prior to an election is just an icing on the cake. Cake itself has to be prepared much much earlier.
Respect what came before
It has very rarely happened in Indian politics that a new party has stormed into power in their very first election. TDP did that in 1980s but I cannot think of any other party which did it at such a scale. AAP did a similar thing in Delhi but the scale at which it is done is really minuscule. Delhi is not even a full fledged state. While the smaller parties in an election always dream of making a big impact, it has been seen more often that they fail miserably. If there are already 2 major parties, it is illogical to expect other smaller parties to influence the final outcome of any polls. Any party that gets into alliances with these smaller ones must also realize the extent to which it will help. Parties that have been in active politics over a longer period of time will have stronger presence at grass roots and these will be difficult to dislodge. And here lies a future lesson for AAP – they do not stand a chance in Punjab. If people do not re-elect SAD-BJP, they will go with the Congress. AAP has no support at grass root level and people will not vote for them simply because of AAP’s hatred for Modi.