May, 2015

Is India one Nation?

Samridh Kudesia, an undergraduate student explains the high points of a guest session conducted by Praveen Chakravarty, Visiting Fellow in Political Economy at the IDFC Institute

Winston Churchill once very famously remarked, “India is as much a nation as the equator is a place”. A recent guest session by Praveen Chakravarty at Ashoka also took up a question on similar lines- “Is India really one nation?” He tried to answer it by rephrasing the question in his own way- “Does India vote as one nation?” What ensued in the lecture was an enlightening debate over regional political trends and the blind spots that our media falls prey to.

The lecture highlighted the “national” waves of sympathy or anger that erupted in 1977, 1984, 1989, and in the 2014 elections. We discovered facts that led us to question whether it was justified to call these waves a “national” phenomenon, as, evidently there was no single trend which was common in the entire nation (read India) in any of these major elections.

Mr. Chakravarty then steered the conversation to the question whether voters are smart or not. Based on the data which he had analysed over years, he showed us how seemingly insignificant factors like the time difference between the central and state elections play a crucial role in determining their outcome. Particularly interesting was deconstructing way the number of individual candidates increased with every election, even as it became increasingly difficult for them to win against a well-established political party.

Campaigning of elections without social media is unavoidable in today’s day and age. Mr. Chakravarty shared an interesting analysis of social media penetration during elections and interrogated whether it had the reach to actually influence outcomes in Indian elections. Why was it a Modi campaign, and not a BJP campaign? If social media was so important, why didn’t the other parties come up with a similarly effective campaign of their own? Do we tend to generalize just because one person had a huge impact on social media? These were some questions which were thrown out for discussion, and both sides of the debate saw some great arguments from Mr. Chakravarty and the audience comprising the Young India Fellows and the Undergraduate students.

If there was one thing you had to take away from the session, it was the realisation that data has no colour, and hence should be the only measure to identify trends. We should not get blown away by short sighted conclusions derived by the media, as they often tend to be- intentionally or unintentionally- misinformed.

 

 

 

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