The results of 16th Lok Sabha pose a serious challenge to the conventional distinction between voting behavior in urban and rural India. The findings of the Lokniti-NES survey 2014 indicate that the rural-urban distinction does not have any drastic impact on the vote share of almost all the political parties (at least at the national level). The survey, more specifically, points toward three important aspects of urban voting. First, the findings offer us a broad outline by which the changing support base of political parties can be reevaluated. For example, the BJP, which is often described as the party of urban middle classes, got a significant rural support this time (though the party’s urban vote share remained expectedly higher). The Congress’s support, on the other hand, did not fluctuate and the party received a somewhat stable response. The case of the Aam Aadmi Party is quite interesting. AAP, which emerged as a ‘metro phenomenon’ after its remarkable victory in the Delhi assembly elections last year, did not deviate from its city-centric appeal.
As a result, the party’s performance in rural India was almost depressing. This national picture needs to be seen in its fragments too. The uneven trajectories of urbanisation at the State level also played a significant role. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, the difference between national-level performance and State-level vote share in urban areas for all the main political parties is virtually identical. The BJP secured 42 per cent votes in cities and towns of U.P. and around 43 per cent votes in rural areas. But the political scenario in Bihar is quite different. The BJP and its allies got 44 per cent of the votes in urban Bihar; in rural areas, the party’s vote share was 38 per cent. This significant difference underlines the specificity of State-level competitive politics.
Use of technology
Finally, the survey also highlights the changing modes of political mobilisation in urban India. Political parties used technology quite extensively for reaching out to urban electorates in this election. The BJP, unlike others, employed modern media techniques more creatively for political canvassing. This helped the party secure more urban votes throughout the country. However, one cannot ignore the critical space offered by the social media in urban centres, which also raised the level of electoral consciousness. The relatively higher turnout in metros and most of the cities is a reflection of this.
(Hilal Ahmed is a faculty at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi)