Tag Archives | BJP

Economic conservatism vs. social conservatism

Mint has a great editorial today on the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological conflicts:

The BJP needs to get over this dichotomy. The bulk of Indians today are concerned with livelihood issues. Since the mid-1990s, cultural nationalism of the kind championed by Advani at one point has lost salience. It is time for the BJP to transform itself into a party of economic conservatism, one that argues for free markets, secure property rights and a minimalist state. India cannot afford to have a party in power that does not pay attention to sound macroeconomic management. [Livemint, June 11, 2013]

There are a few things that need to be elaborated on here. First, there is some subjectivity in the application of labels like conservatism and liberalism for economic philosophies, even before we bring in social concerns. There’s fiscal conservatism on one end, which advocates for healthy public finance with minimal debt spending, and moderate, balanced government budgets. There’s economic liberalism on the other end, focusing on strong property rights, a large role for free markets and individual action, limiting the state’s role to the provision of public goods and the correction of market failures. A lot of fiscal conservatives do believe in economic liberalism and a free market economy, but the two concepts are not necessarily wedded together.

Second, over and above these, there’s the school of liberal conservatism, that blends fiscal conservatism, economic liberalism and a socially conservative outlook. Social conservatives are often driven by the understanding that society (and institutions) are inherently fragile, precious and require safe-guarding. They believe that for social harmony, a certain amount of consistency needs to be maintained in the social fabric. They believe in preserving the ties that bind people together: family, religion and customs. Whether or not one agrees with this worldview, or be willing to compromise on individual liberty and justice for the cause of greater social harmony, there is certainly a political space for social conservatives to occupy in any healthy democracy.

In most rich nations, there are major political parties with the aforementioned liberal conservative base. The Republicans in the United States, the Conservatives in United Kingdom, the Christian Democratic Union in Germany are all examples of the same. Several of these liberal conservative parties are in power right now around the world. Thanks to this, people often assume that those who espouse the cause of social conservatism also care about economic freedom. Consequently, there are frequently calls for the Bharatiya Janata Party to do the same, and there is a lot of disappointment when they don’t.

Economic liberalism and social conservatism go hand in hand in richer nations as their social stability is dependent on them continuing to be rich and prosperous. This is not the same for a growing country like India. As the Mint editorial rightly states, “Embracing free markets and its cognate political position—liberalism —is bound to weaken cultural nationalism.” Economic freedom and growth are very likely to empower new groups of people (like Dalits), chafe at established social orders, and overturn social mores – be it women working during late hours or filing for divorce more often.

So can the BJP transform from a socially and economically conservative party to one that socially conservative but economically liberal? How will it chart the course to get there, given that the ordinal axes that explain Indian political ideologies are very different from western ones? Or is a new, yet-to-emerge political formation the best vehicle to champion the liberal conservative cause? Or, is fiscal conservatism minus a support for free markets and property rights a compromise platform that the BJP can take up?

The coming months and years will tell us.

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Visualising Karnataka’s municipal elections 2013

Urban Karnataka took to the polling booth earlier this month to vote for their corporators and municipal councillors. The elections were to be a four-way contest, with the Indian National Congress (INC), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (Secular) and Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) being the large political parties in the fray. Congress had a significant victory in the elections, securing 1960 of the 4976 seats contested: over 39% of the total. BJP and JDS were far behind, securing but 905 seats each, about 18% a piece of the total seats. The breakaway former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa’s new party the KJP could manage only 274 seats, less than 6% of the total. Independents won a significant portion of the seats as well.

The Karnataka municipal elections are happening at a rather critical time, with state assembly elections due in a few months and with the national parliamentary elections due in 2014. The results here will have a significant impact on both the impending elections. Twitter and other social media are already abuzz with speculations and assertions on what this would mean for the coming elections, on whether the municipal voters represent the entire state’s dispositions, on the signaling value of Congress’s early win, on anti-incumbency as a driver within the state, and much more. This article limits itself to a brief analysis of the municipal elections and their results, with an attempt to understand who will be governing much of urban Karnataka over the next five years.

Out of a total of 61 million residents of Karnataka, 208 cities and towns with a total of 13.9 million residents had local elections this month. At 22.8% of the state’s population, this covered all of urban Karnataka with the exception of Bangalore and a few minor towns. While most news stories are talking about the total number of corporator/councilor seats won by political parties, what matters is who has been able to win a majority of seats in individual local bodies such that they can form the local government there. Like in assembly and parliamentary elections, city mayors are elected indirectly by allowing elected municipal councilors to select their mayor.

The above graphic shows how many cities and towns of different sizes have been won by individual political parties. Overall, the Congress won 79 of the total 208 seats, with JDS and BJP with 25 and 24 each. The KJP managed only 5 seats, but it is interesting to note that there were 12 urban local bodies where all independents put together won a majority of the seats. Also, a good 30% of the local bodies had no clear victors. These 62 cities and towns will be where a lot of negotiations will take place over the next few weeks so that coalitions can be cobbled together to reach a simple majority.

Click on the map to know more about election results in individual towns.

A quick look at the above map tells us about the geographical spread of each party’s victories in Karnataka’s municipal elections. The congress (blue) appears to be well spread out throughout the state. The majority of JDS victories (green) are clustered in Southern Karnataka, conforming with their traditional strength in the Old Mysore region. The BJP (red) appears to have won towns in the eastern half of Karnataka – ranging from Belgaum and Bagalkote all the way down to Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu.

In all, the Congress has won a significant victory in Karnataka – be it in the number of corporator seats won, cities with majorities and their size. Below is a set of major cities and towns won by each of the political parties in the fray.

Notes. In this article, victors have been declared if they have won more than 45% of the seats in any given town or city. This is with the assumption that by taking on board one or two independents, the party can attain a simple majority. As of writing of this article, 24 seats out of the total 4976 are yet to be declared on the NIC website: most of which are seats from Terdal TMC, Bagalkot district. 

Data used in this post is available here.

You can also take a look at my fellow blogger Karthik Shashidhar‘s work for other visualisations of the election results: Congress Sweep |  Overall resultsDistrict-wise results | Party-wise performance on a district map | 

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