Dear Adarsh Liberals, look, First Past The Post system is not that bad after all

This article is written not to whine about First Past The Post (FPTP) election system that we have in India. I think the right wing is mature enough to take it on the chin. You win some and you lose some. However, if you are an Adarsh Liberal, this article is written to give you some solace.

I know you are distraught ever since you realized that the system under which “secular” parties had been winning for decades could also be used by non-idea of India forces to their own advantage. If this article is not enough to make you feel better, OpIndia has published a detailed manual to help you make the right choice of talking (whining) points on social and mainstream media.

Let’s start with the results from the 60 member assembly of Manipur.

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With 28 seats out of 60, the Congress party is in pole position, merely 3 short of a majority. The BJP on the other hand is at a mere 21 and needs to cover some ground to realize its dream of having a Chief Minister in Manipur. But look at vote-share pizza in this ECI (Election Commission of India) graph!

The BJP has actually polled 36.3% of the vote, more than a full percentage point above the 35.1% secured by the Congress. But hey… Manipur is a tiny state and these statistical aberrations can happen. After all, in terms of absolute numbers, the BJP polled only 20,000 or so votes more than the Congress. Didn’t I say you win some and you lose some? This is not enough balm for the wounds of Adarsh Liberals.

Umm… okay. Let’s move on then. To Punjab.

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What? The NDA (SAD+BJP) polled 30.6% of the votes, which is as much as 7% more than the AAP’s voteshare of 23.7%! In terms of absolute numbers, the NDA polled some 47 lakh votes, which is a massive 11 lakh votes more than AAP’s 36 lakh votes. Yet, the NDA trails the AAP with just 18 seats, while the AAP won 20 seats.

In fact, the SAD alone won nearly 3 lakh more votes than AAP, but it secured only 15 seats. The post of Leader of Opposition won’t go to SAD, but to AAP.

In terms of public perception, the headline seat numbers will make AAP appear like the principal challenger to Congress when it clearly isn’t. This perception will certainly affect NDA prospects in future elections in Punjab. And it all happened because of the inefficiencies of the FPTP system. Take heart, Adarsh Liberals.

Wait, there’s more. At least it was about 2nd and 3rd position in Punjab. Whether in votes or in seats, the NDA was losing in Punjab anyway. But here’s an absolute shocker for the BJP in Goa where its incumbent government has been “voted”  out.

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A clear lead of over 4% in vote share and still BJP ends up as the loser to Congress. A lead of 2-3% is generally enough to win a clear majority. A lead of 4-5% begins to push a party closer to the 2/3rd majority mark. Here the BJP won less than 1/3 of the seats despite having a 4.1% vote share lead. If the FPTP ever produced an absurd result, this is it!

It would be quite interesting to sift through India’s electoral history to find out if any other party has ever lost a state despite leading its nearest rival by over 4% of votes.

In contrast, the BJP won its victories in UP and Uttarakhand by massive margins. It had as much as an 11% lead over the SP+INC alliance in UP and a staggering 13% lead over the Congress in Uttarakhand. Nothing for the Congress to complain about over there.

In fact, thanks to the FPTP system, the scoreline from the 5 states reads 3-2 in favor of the Congress! Adarsh Liberals please take heart. FPTP can’t be all that bad. It’s won you numerous victories for over 6 decades.

Throughout this article, I have run with the theme of “you win some and you lose some”. I am okay with that. Perhaps because I am a supporter … even a Bhakt if you want … of a leader who began his life selling tea on a railway platform. As such, I understand the inherent randomness of life. I understand that sometimes life gives you lemons. You can try to make the best of the cards you have been dealt, but sometimes the lemonade just doesn’t sell. You shrug it off and keep working for a better tomorrow. And that tomorrow may never come, despite your best efforts.

I understand that this article may still be cold comfort for Adarsh Liberals. I understand that they and their Shehzada do not see life the same way we do. When success is presented as a birthright, rather than an outcome of talent, circumstance and hard work, failure can feel like an injustice. Perhaps like the result of some grand conspiracy involving space aliens and tampered EVM machines.

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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