Did the then Davos-trotting Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu lose the 2004 elections owing to his ‘pro-urban’ policies, as is widely perceived? Did the UPA government come back to power in 2009 due to its rural employment guarantee scheme, as is currently believed? Answers to such questions will determine policy outcomes. It is thus vital to answer these questions accurately, with evidence. For example, the notion that Naidu’s reforms in Andhra Pradesh between 1999 to 2004 made him a rockstar among the urban rich, but a non-starter among the rural poor, thus leading to his electoral defeat, has been deeply entrenched in Indian political thought for more than a decade. An analysis, however, of 35 million votes cast in the 2004 elections in Andhra Pradesh across these 294 constituencies and 23 districts reveals that Naidu’s loss was uniform and spread evenly among urban/rural, rich/poor, young/old voters.
Simplistic electoral narratives that get accepted as fact can realign elected officials’ incentives, thus informing campaign strategy, and influencing public policy–often detrimentally, and with no connection to reality; in this case, there was a sharp pivot back to a rural-first policy. We follow this tenet to bust electoral myths and re-read electoral verdicts.
You can read a repertoire of our work in 35 op-eds across different publications like Indian Express, Business Standard, Mint, Outlook, etc. Forthcoming is the tentatively-titled book How India Votes which uses data on voting patterns to glean key sociological insights. Additionally, we aim to create a publically accessible, pan-India, interactive database for disaggregated Parliamentary, State, Municipal and Panchayat election results. The database will also host and overlay corresponding data on demographics, luminosity, financial inclusion etc.