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The 2014 Indian general election was unique in 3 different ways:
The 2014 general election was also first time in the democratic history of the world when 55+ Crore (550 Million) people exercised their franchise to elect a popular government. This number was 13.6 Crore (136 million) more than the previous record set in the Indian general election of 2009. The jump in voter participation between two general elections of 2009 and 2014 was also the highest in India’s history both in terms of raw numbers (almost 140 million additional votes) as well as the percentage (34 percent jump).
For the first time, general elections in India witnessed a complete shift of political order as the Congress party—which had been directly in power for 55 of 67 years of Indian democracy—fell below the 20th percentile while the BJP became the first non-Congress party to cross the 30th percentile regarding vote-share. The BJP also became the first party to win an outright majority by winning more than half of 543 MPs (Member of Parliament) in the lower house of Lok Sabha since 1984, when the late former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi-led his Congress party to a thumping majority.
Majority Difference-graph (1984-2014)
Table of Contents
The members of the Lok Sabha hold office for five years or until parliament is dissolved by the president. The 15th Lok Sabha elections were held in April–May 2009 in five phases. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II) led by the Indian National Congress (INC) had formed the government in 2009. The INC had won 206 seats out of 440 contested, and the UPA overall had won 322 seats.
The UPA-II Government, in its five-year term, only completed few of the promises it made in 2009 manifesto. One of the major negatives for the UPA-II was its inability to do anything about the dramatic downward spiral of the Indian economy. The UPA-II government’s time in power was also marred by numerous scams and corruption charges, with a 2013 poll by The Hindu stating that 69 percent of survey respondents believes the UPA government to be corrupt. Many ministers from the UPA-II had to resign after facing corruption charges.
The anti-corruption movements launched by Anna Hazare and the subsequent formation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2012 by Arvind Kejriwal also made the corruption issues come to fore. With growth below five percent for four straight quarters, the Indian economy was also suffering its worst slowdown in over a decade. According to Girish Vanvari, partner and co-head of Tax at KPMG India, internal factors like persistent inflation and low investments due to policy inaction coupled with certain external factors like the roll back of stimulus, by the US Federal Reserve dampened the growth of the economy.
In February 2014, “Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014” was passed by the Parliament for the formation of Telangana state and the state officially came into existence on 2 June 2014. Another agenda in the final session of parliament was the passing of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 on 1 January 2014.
The Campaign for the 2014 General elections were the most expensive Lok Sabha elections in India, costing the national exchequer INR 3,426 crore. The cost of the 2009 elections was INR 1,483 crore, which means the jump incurred in expenses was quite substantial (131 percent). The increase in cost was attributed to inflation as well as measures undertaken to increase voting figures like voter awareness campaigns, distribution of voter slip ahead of the election dates, use of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) for the first time. The number of independent candidates had also increased, resulting in more expenditure.
The government had raised the cap of spending by a candidate from INR 40 lakh to INR 70 lakh in bigger states and from INR 22 lakh to INR 54 lakh in smaller states, which pushed up the total expenditure of polls.
The campaigns of BJP and INC, the two main rivals, were focused on the welfare of the poor and the development of the industries, but it was also marred by political mud-slinging. While the BJP accused the INC of dynastic rule and corruption, the INC, in turn, questioned the capabilities of the BJP leaders and accused them of communalism.
Role of Technology
The 2014 general election campaign by the BJP saw extensive use of technology like social media and digital platforms like 3D hologram projection. It helped the BJP’s to extend its nationwide reach, especially among the younger generation. The strategy proved to be a successful practice as the number of mobile phone owners, internet usage and social media users have been exponentially increasing year by year.
There were over 200 million internet users in India in 2014 and the number of mobile phone users was 581.1 million. As per the data collated by ‘We Are Social’, there were 185 million active mobile internet users and 70 percent of internet traffic in India was through either phones or tablets. Further, in 2014, the smartphone penetration as a percentage of the total population was 13 percent, out of which 95 percent users were searching local information via their smartphone.
The numbers of active social media users were 106 million in 2014. BJP capitalised on this heavily by enlisting online volunteers to make use of technology, especially social media. Special training sessions were conducted to teach the volunteers about the contents of their message and the use of technology. INC too had constituted special teams to use a range of digital platforms with party leaders to build an online presence similar to that of Narendra Modi.
In a way, the 2014 General elections seemed to have paved a path for the means, by which technology will be used in future elections.
State of Economy
In December 2013, the Indian economy reportedly suffered the worst slowdown in over a decade with economic growth failing to reach 5 percent for four straight quarters, leading to threats of a downgraded rating. In the first three quarters of 2013, the gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 4.8 percent, 4.4 percent and 4.8 percent respectively, making an average growth of 4.6 percent. India’s GDP growth during 2012-13 was 4.5 percent.
Agriculture and its allied sectors saw high growth in 2013 owning to favourable monsoons. There was a persistent slowdown in industrial growth due to a deceleration in the mining and quarrying. The manufacturing sector also experienced a slowdown in growth, averaging 0.2 percent per annum for 2013 and 2014.
In 2013-14, the growth of private final consumption declined to 4.8 percent from 5 percent in 2012-13. The fixed investment rate (investment in physical assets such as machinery, land, buildings, installations, vehicles, or technology) declined steeply in 2013-14 due to a waning private corporate investment. The fall was due to high-interest rates and tight liquidity, resulting from monetary policy to control inflation and prevent depreciation of the rupee.
The share of exports in the GDP increased from 24 percent in 2012 -13 to 24.8 percent in 2013-14, whereas the share of imports declined from 30.7 percent to 28.4 percent, resulting in net exports improving by 3.1 percent of the GDP.
According to the Doing Business report 2014, prepared by the World Bank, India ranked 134 out of 189 countries in the ‘ease of doing business’ category.
Corruption was always a key issue for voters in India. A majority of Indians were dissatisfied with the widespread corruption in the country. According to a survey by Gallup, three-fourths of Indian adults aged 18 to 34 stated that corruption was widespread in the government. The same sentiment was echoed by adults aged 35 to 54 (76 percent) and 55 or older (72 percent).
Further, nine out of ten North Indians believed corruption to be prevalent in the government compared to 65 percent South Indians. Although in 2012, 82 percent South Indians saw government as corrupt. Around 51 percent Indians said that the government was not doing enough to fight corruption.
These feelings against corruption were further accentuated by the fact that the tenure of UPA-II was embroiled in various scams and scandals like the 2G scam, chopper scam, coal block scam and the CWG scam. The anti-corruption drive by Anna Hazare and the crusade against corruption by Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also kept the corruption issue at the forefront.
A study carried out by The Hindu, to check whether corruption influenced voter choice, found that the lower strata of society and majority of women were unaware of the details of scams, probably because the corruption at local level institutions mattered more to them.