Many commentators and observers of Karnataka politics have pointed out that corruption became a crucial issue for the voters in the Assembly election. The full page advertisements by the Congress about “40% Sarkara” did create ripples even as national news. What does the data tell us in this regard?
To be sure, voters were concerned much more with economic issues, but the mention of corruption did resonate with them. More than three weeks before election day, Lokniti conducted a survey on what voters thought about governance and election issues in the State. Asked a direct question, more than half the respondents agreed that corruption had “increased” in the past five years (Table 1). While diehard BJP voters would still have liked to believe that the Congress was more corrupt (36% said so), a large majority of almost six in 10 respondents (58%) said then that the BJP was the “more corrupt” party.
Interestingly, even among those intending to vote for the BJP, only a handful (16%) said corruption had decreased, while more than four out of 10 (42%) BJP supporters conceded that corruption had increased.
No wonder, much before the election, we saw a clear association between the perception on corruption and vote choice. Among those who believed corruption had increased, Congress had a substantial advantage of 13 percentage points over the BJP, whereas among those who believed that corruption had decreased (though a small proportion of respondents), the BJP had a huge advantage (Table 2).
The author taught political science and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics