Congress and BJP have polled the majority of the votes in the district

On the day of elections, voters here will find the names of seven registered parties – the most the district has seen since independence – lining the electronic voting machine.

However, with every election, the district appears more and more bipartisan, choosing either the Congress or the BJP. Not only has no other party been able to position itself as an effective “third” alternative, the general decline of vote share of non-Congress, non-BJP parties – especially the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – has made the electoral process into a near “two-party system” here.

When The Hindu trailed CPI(M) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) during their electoral campaign in the district, voters had expressed a sense of sympathy for the two parties. However, most believed their votes “would be wasted” if it went to these parties.

“This is a Congress, BJP district. We know only one of these will come, and so we support either one. Not only will our votes be wasted on the other parties, but we may end up spoiling the chances of either Congress or BJP,” said Abdul Nasir, a fruit seller in Kabaka.

Even Brinda Karat, CPI(M) polit bureau member, during her visit to the city, had admitted that numerous supporters identifying with the party had cast their votes to others.

M.R. Vasudev, AAP candidate, was optimistic and believed that the anger against the two major parties was on the rise, and the AAP would create a base among them; while K. Yadav Shetty, CPI(M) candidate, said it was about “educating” the electorate to ensure sympathy votes were capitalised.

Rise of two-party system

The rise of the BJP here in the mid-80’s coincided with the decline of the Janata Dal (then undivided) and the CPI(M). And even the marginal vote shares of other candidates during this period was largely due to current Belthangady MLA (representing Congress) K. Vasanth Bangera’s candidature in the 90’s as an Independent and then from the JD(S) after having left the BJP.

“The trend of bipartisanship is not good…The two-party set up has weakened democracy here as the idea of plurality of perspective has gone,” said Rajaram Tolpady, Chairman, Department of Political Science in Mangalore University.

He believed that while the strengthening presence of Hindutva in the district in the 80’s was associated with the BJP, the non-Hindutva space, though undefined, was allotted to Congress because of a lack of options. In the wake of this, parties providing economic alternatives such as CPI(M), socialist parties, Swatantra party began to fade out, he said.

“The two parties share similar views on economic policies, and the relatively similar stance on Hindutva with the veneer of secularism…voters had been deprived of perspective and debate,” said Mr. Tolpady.

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