December 24, 2007

How the wisdom of the crowds trumped the stupidity of the elite few

Source: OFFSTUMPED

It was to be the “revenge of democracy”.

It was also to be the “political punishment” of Gujarat politicians, social scientists, civil society activists, bureaucrats and citizens.

It was supposed to be “Religion coming to the rescue of politicians”

It was also supposed to be an election where “many Gujarati voters view these very merchants of death as extra-judicial protectors of Hindus”.

It was supposed to be a ghettoised state where religion has divided people down the middle.

But then something went horribly wrong in this script that a bigoted media had been working overtime to spin.

The wisdom of the crowds trumped the stupidity of the elite few.

To appreciate how the wisdom of the crowds delivered Gujarat to Narendra Modi let us look at the voting patterns.

First in a repudiation to all those who questioned demoracy in Gujarat, an overwhelming 59.76% or nearly two-thirds of eligible voters in Gujarat exercised their franchise. This should put to shame even the oldest of democracies were participation rarely touches the half-way mark. With this phenomenal turnout Gujaratis have shown that democracy is vibrant in their state and they dont need certificates from armchair psuedo-intellectuals on their commitment to democracy.

Secondly for a state that has been repeatedly characterised as being structurally polarised 5 out of the 6 muslim candidates fielded by the Congress won the election. Those who won are Faruq Sheikh (Kalupur), Gyasuddin Sheikh (shahpur), Sabir Kabliwala (Jamalpur), Iqbal Sheikh (Vagra) and Javed Pirzada (Vankaner). The lone Muslim candidate who lost was a woman Shahnaz Babi who it is rumored was unacceptable to Muslims on account of her gender.

Let us analyse what happened in these 6 seats.

Kalupur had a high turnout of 64%. It had 4 muslim candidates in the fray and 4 hindu candidates. Congress polled 57.5% of the vote while the BJP polled 39.52% of the vote. Now contrast this with how the votes pared in 2002. 59% for the Congress’ Muslim candidate and 39.94% for the BJP. Thats not all, this is the BJP’s all time worst performance in Kalupur while it is the Congress’ all time best performance.

Shahpur had 65.9% turnout. It had 6 Muslim candidates and Muslim crusader Mukul SInha in the fray. The rest of the 11 contestants were Hindu. The Congress won with about 1.5% margin in a tossup election that saw sitting Minister Kaushik Patel lose. This is the first time the BJP vote share dipped below 50% since 1995 while the Congress vote share remained almost static. Interestingly two other Muslim candidates one from the BSP and the other an Independent polled about 1% of the vote. (Btw Mukul Sinha got just 250 odd votes).

Jamalpur had nearly 60% voter turnout. A seat that has never been won by the BJP. It had only 2 Muslim candidates in the fray. The Congress polled 58.5% of the vote while the BJP 33.8%. This is the best vote share the Congress had since 1985 and a 5% decline in vote share for the BJP since 2002.

Vagra had a 66.7% voter turnout. The Congress has been winning here for the last 2 elections. It had 5 muslim candidates and 3 Hindu candidates. The Congress won with a vote share of 47.68%. With the exception of 1995 this is Congress’ worst performance matching its performance in 1990. Its vote share declined from 2002. The BJP’s vote share declined from 2002 as well but its best performance was not in 2002 but in 1990.

Wankaner had 63.65% voter turnout. This seat has flip flopped between the BJP and the Congress last 4 elections. Predictably it went back to the Congress. Congress won with a decisive margin of 16%. Last time BJP won with a decisive margin of 8%. The election before the Congress won a tossup with a margin of 2% against an Independent, the BJP was nearly wiped out in that election. 2002 saw the BJP’s peak performance here. With the execption of 1998 this is the BJP’s worst performance matching 1990.

Now for the lone losing Muslim womas candidate from the Congress. Junagadh saw a relatively lower turnout of just 51.55%. The BJP won with an overwhelming margin of over nearly 26%. Important to note that an Independent polled a high of 14%. The BJP saw a 7% decline in its vote share, its lowest in 3 elections since it started to win this seat.

So where is the evidence of the so called structural polarization ?

In each of these seats where Muslim candidates have won, there is a different story to tell. Except for Kalupur where the vote shares mirror 2002 and the population divide, in the rest of the seats if there is anything common it is that the BJP had done worse than before and in some cases it was at its worst performance.

In closing while the Muslim vote may have consolidated in favor of Muslim candidates fielded by the Congress, the same can hardly be said of the Hindu vote consolidating in favor of the BJP which saw its vote share decline.


Offstumped Bottomline: To call Gujarat structurally polarised is a slur to the nearly two-thirds who participated in this election.

With a majority favoring Narendra Modi the mainstream media must learn to respect the wisdom of the crowds rather than insinuate its judgement.

Unless the psuedo-intellectuals in the media admit to their elitist stupidity and apologize to Gujarat they will be cast by the wayside into irrelevance.

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