Although corruption rarely becomes the central issue in an election, it always informs voters’ assessment of governments. In Gujarat, with the possible entry of the AAP, which launched an anti-corruption movement a decade ago, the issue of corruption becomes even more pertinent.
Also read: A note on methodology
Our survey reveals that voters’ assessment of the government on corruption is not very positive. Over three-fourths of the voters in the State said corruption has increased in the last five years. This sentiment has increased by 15% points since 2017 (Table 1).
A corrupt government
Additionally, when voters were asked a direct question on how corrupt the BJP government in Gujarat is, more than seven in every 10 said the government is corrupt on some levels (very or somewhat corrupt), while close to two in 10 felt that it is not very corrupt or not corrupt at all (Table 2). In a past survey, Lokniti had asked a similar question on corruption in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal at the time of the 2021 Assembly elections. Gujarat has the highest share of voters who feel that the State government is very corrupt or somewhat corrupt, closely followed by Kerala (71%), Tamil Nadu (67%), Assam (63%) and West Bengal (56%) (Table 3). Considering that these States have had governments led by different parties, it is clear that the perception of corruption transcends party barriers.
The issue of corruption has made the BJP the target of Arvind Kejriwal, who promises a ‘corruption-free’ government if voted to power. To understand if corruption is a significant election issue, we tap into the vote choices of those who believe that corruption has increased in the State. The data reveal that the BJP has an advantage even among those who believe that there has been a rise in corruption. A significant share (44%) of those who said that corruption has increased in the State said that they would vote for BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections. The vote of the remaining voters with a similar view on the rise in corruption was divided among the AAP (25%) and the Congress (21%) (Table 4).
The BJP was slightly on the back foot only among those who had a strong opinion that the BJP government is very corrupt in the State. Among them, 37% said they will vote for the AAP and a more or less similar proportion said they will vote for the Congress and the BJP (Table 4).
The preferred choice
Mr. Kejriwal’s strategy to use corruption to attract the voters in the State seems to be only marginally succeeding. The BJP was the preferred choice for over half of those who said the government is somewhat corrupt. Hence, despite being rated negatively on corruption, the BJP may not be adversely affected on this count during the time of voting.
Vibha Attri and Aaliyia Malik are researchers at Lokniti-CSDS