The Study Of Electoral Analysis And Psephology In India

The Study Of Electoral Analysis And Psephology In India

                 Studying elections in India have always been a challenge compared to other nations. Because of the size of the population and the geography of our country, it has been a challenging task to understand most electoral exercises. Since 1952, there have been many elections, but one thing to keep in mind about India is the vast cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity that makes our society all the more diverse. Added to that is the complexity of approaching a subject like elections and psephology when one goes about studying political issues and events. It is definitely multi-faceted and multi-layered in nature as one has to thoroughly understand the intricacies of an entire election cycle.

               Election studies is a scholarly science that has many strands. One cannot look at it from just one perspective. The right way of classifying electoral analyses can, in fact, be very restrictive. In any representative democracy, one has to understand the various phases of an electoral process right through campaigning and voter-behavior until the government is formed. Election studies are a sub-stratum of understanding democratic systems in terms of the ‘operations’ and ‘mechanics’, rather than the substance which links theory to the reality on the field. It has both theoretical and normative applications. It is both an academic endeavor and it is also used practically for field studies. One can analyze elections based on quantitative methods, and also qualitative approaches to understand the political phenomenon. In election studies, data and surveys are also used extensively.

              Psephology is the study of analyzing and examining elections and polls. It is a part of the political science discipline. Voting data, public opinion behavior, electoral polls, finances used for campaigning are all studied in a systematic manner by psephologists. Psephology is a science studied and practiced by psephologists. In the year 1948, W.F.R Hardie, a famous Scottish philosopher and academic had coined the term as he was discussing it with a fellow academician Ronald Buchanan McCallum, another well-known Oxford historian and political scientist. Today, some psephologists who are well known internationally are Antony Green, Michael Barone, David Butler, Robert Mc Kenzie, Thomas Ferguson, and many others across the world. Psephology is studied by political scientists, and many other scholars from allied fields also do contribute to this discipline. All good psephologists must have a sound understanding of demographics, politics and statistics as one needs to sift through the vast amount of data while correlating, interpreting or say predicting conclusions for a given study.

The current trends of Psephology and elections in the context of India-

              David Butler was the world’s first psephologists. He did have a unique relationship with our country. An Oxford scholar who understood the tenets of swinging patterns in elections, and a grandmaster who could interpret the nuances of elections and political behavior! This scholar understood the patterns in most elections of Britain, and after a whole lifetime of scholarly pursuit in political science particularly elections, he made a startling conclusion. He opined that politics is an art and not a science! Today, most scholars agree that no matter how scientific or rigorous the process of study is based upon, every election has different patterns, parameters and a new set of variables that puzzle psephologists. This is because there is no clear-cut formula for gauging political behavior. Today, in India there are challenges. One needs to develop paradigms and models for categorization and the data collected needs to have an apt assessment with the right index applied to every study.

              David Butler had also compared Indian elections with Britain. He had said that in Britain the pattern of candidature and the names of parties don’t change, whereas in every election of India these changes are conspicuous. This only adds to the complexity of studying elections. Today, in India, we might not have psephologists like Butler, whose core specialization is in predicting polls but there are media analysts, journalists, political scientists and people from the market research background who do give an incisive analysis on various elections. Some prominent figures in India are Prannoy Roy, G.V.L Narasimha Rao, Yogendra Yadav, Shekar Gupta and many other scholars from different backgrounds.

             Another factor to remember is that, in India, most surveys conducted by media houses do have an element of bias. In media debates on television, panellists are selected which suit a particular viewpoint. Media houses are mostly run by conglomerates that have larger political and business interests with politicians. So, everything one witnesses on mainstream media might not always be true. However, scholars spend time analyzing media reports of what is not being said with what is being reported and then make conclusions for every case. This is why Indian elections are so complex wherein it’s easy for many voters to get influenced without going deep enough into aspects of policies and governance, and many of them end up choosing the wrong candidate.

The future-

                With the greater proliferation of mass media, especially the influence of the web on other media platforms, there seems to be a lot of confusion with regards to the authenticity of the news. Which is why in this generation one finds many citizens who are polarized and biased in their views, despite prominent leaders not performing. This is not always the case, but the pattern is becoming visible. Today, we also have fake news that has made the rounds of debates internationally on major news outlets. The credibility of the mass media internationally and even in India has taken a beating. But one should also realize that technology can be a level playing field with the democratization of news.

           Despite hits and misses, many governments have tried to keep reforms ahead in the backdrop of global influences on India. The political landscape is also changing, not just in India but in many nations across the world. Citizens are becoming more aware. Political awareness is a good thing for any democracy. Elections still do matter today, because the leadership which governs a country will have a huge impact on the lives of various citizens.

            Psephology as a subject is also gaining attraction and many youngsters are taking an active interest in the electoral process of India. What India needs is good universities which offer courses on election studies and a platform for youngsters to take an active interest in politics. The only way to bring change in our country is education and participation. This can be done both formally and informally. When all the citizens become politically enlightened, then we will have better-elected representatives who can take the challenge of leading the country to greater heights on the international map.

Related Posts