General Elections 2014: a Game Theoretic Analysis

With less than 20 days left for the first phase of elections, each party has almost finalized the list of candidates; giving a final touch (Congress has already declared) to their manifestos, busy in bridging the gaps between like (?) minded parties for opportunistic alliances, and making advertisements in the print and electronic media. Campaigning is becoming crucial for all political parties.

One strong trend which is emerging clear from the campaigning- candidate selections and the alliance formations – winning the election by hook or by crook –  that’s the ‘Game‘;  a zero-sum or/and a non-zero-sum game but mostly with opportunistic coalitions. The outcome of this game is the real face of our democratic form of government, in which some times the major national party sits in the opposition and a the leader of a small party with 20 odd members can become the Prime Minister of this country. (Please do watch the above video link to see a beautiful illustration of Indian democracy by (Late) Shri Pramod Mahajan.)

And the saying “every thing is fair in love and war” is becoming a reality for this election game-war. It is a game in which political Parties, Media, Election Commission, Police and the Voters are the major players with many strategies for a goal – ‘Rule’ – with and without coalition in which Nash-Equilibrium may not be guaranteed !!

Like every other game, here too, the strategies are very important not only to form a government but also to form a stable and sensible government at the centre and in the states. Strategies are mostly formed by the active players – Political Parties, many in number and extremely divergent in characteristics; propagated by the passive players – Media; judged by the unique players of the world’s largest democracy – the Voters.

Lets analyse few of the common strategies –

Candidate Selection: It is indisputable to say that candidate selection depends majorly on the polarization factor – caste, religion, outsider vs. insider, etc. More than qualities like honesty, capability, loyalty and integrity, importance is being given whether the candidate is from Urban or Rural area, a Hindu or a Muslim, a Brahmin or a Yadav or a Kurmi or a Dalit, a Lingayat or a Vokkaliga or a Kurba, a Jat or a Thakur, an Iyer or a Mudaliyar, son/daughter of some “big” man or an aamjunta, and many more. Change of parties to earn a party ticket are common; for many candidates getting a ticket is more important than the ideology of the party. If the political parties are to be blamed for this kind of polarization and division of the society, then the media is also equally responsible for generating their masala-news and live analysis.

So far as the voters are concerned – we too are biased for our caste and religion sentiments. Remember- neither making a holy dip in Varanasi will make some one a Hindu-sympathizer nor wearing a skull-cap will make some one close to the hearts of Muslims.

Are we going forward to bridge the gap or going back to the era of un-touchability ? The choice is ours !!

Hate/Love Speeches: Making a hate speech is very easy these days. Reason – the conviction rate is very low and the convictions are not exemplary ! Hate speeches targeting religion, caste, community, migrants, etc. are threatening the peace and sovereignty of the country. The words or phrases used by the politicians are sometimes derogatory and flaring. Moreover, these days personalized comments are pathetic and in utterly bad tastes, mostly used to polarize voters and to stop some one from even doing good at any cost. What surprises me more is the negative publicity – parties are busy in finding out others’ faults, not in publicizing their own good governance. Criticizing others for their failures is not bad but laying the foundation of good future is more important. This is not only happening in party manifestos but also in reality. We fail to observe any party or leader sincerely or humbly accepting their mistakes and offering to find remedies for it; rather it appears from their statements that doing wrong things are their deliberate actions and their birth-rights.

If hate speeches are bad, then what about love speeches ? Saying “I love to be in the midst of tribal people” and doing nothing for them; or saying “I will go from home to home and sleep in villages” who had once mocked other leaders for eating and sleeping in Dalit homes. All for the benefit of TV cameras – these are merely romanticizing the election bids !

Freebies: We all love freebies and indisputably this becomes a major strategy during elections. The ‘one-kilogram per rupee’ Rice concept, re-adjustments in the number of of Cooking-gas cylinders, free Ration, Laptops, TVs, Cycles, Washing Machines, even free Electricity, free Water, loan-Waivers and many similar things are common these days. Irrespective of the class and affordability of the people, the freebies are very popular these days. Its as if these are all literally raining from the heavens. Political rallies, party manifestos and advertisements are saturated with freebies – “If you vote for me, I will give you this” ! … Are you really giving from your pocket ? NO !! Then who allowed you to do so ? … Let us understand that freebies are making us nikarma (indolent) and are being distributed from the tax-payers’ money which was meant for the development of the country. If any political party wants to give any substantial gifts to the society by making election-oriented promises, then let them promise us good governance – not generate or do nothing about tackling policy paralysis and corruption; let them create for us a system of quality education,  quality jobs, sustained opportunities to earn our livelihood at our native places (no migrant-labour), good roads, green environment, continuous supply of clean water, electricity, necessary and regulated material resources at reasonable prices, transparent accounting system, ample safety and security for all its citizens, and so on and so forth. Not freebies… Freebies will not eradicate poverty; rather it will keep re-orienting using foolish methods and then reinforce the downward-spiralling of poverty.

A true leader must have the vision to empower its nation by building on every available resource and not callously aim at the gaddi (seat of power) !!!

Alliance: Both pre-poll and post-poll alliances are becoming crucial these days. The pre-poll alliances we see these days are actually not based on a common agenda; rather these are based on political compulsions for a post-poll government formation. Moreover, no one (political parties as well as their leaders) is untouchable. On a critical analysis, we can see that most of the pre-poll alliances are actually converting a zero-sum game to a non-zero-sum game. Here are a few instances – LJP-BJP in Bihar, Shiv Shena-BJP-MNS (?) in Maharashtra, BJD-JMM in Odisha, RJD-Congress in Bihar, TDP-BJP in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, flip-flops of TRS-Congress in Telangana, DMDK-PMK-MDMK-BJP in Tamil Nadu, AIDMK-Congress, DMK-Congress in Tamil Nadu, BJP-BJD in Odisha.

Parties with a strong vote base sometimes do not form pre-poll alliances, so that they can get maximum window while forming the post-poll alliances. Examples – BJD in Odisha, AIDMK in Tamil Nadu, TMC in West Bengal, etc.

Alliances are good if they are formed to truly serve the nation or the state. But bad if these are formed to stop a party or a group to form the government, may be in the name of secularism, corruption /anti-corruption, language, regionalism, etc.

Contrary to pre-poll alliances, post-poll alliances are formed mostly with a compulsion (with political excuses) and with invisible agendas – which are selfish in nature. The compulsions of post-poll alliances will rise with the increase in small and regional parties, and the undesired effect (w.r.t. voters) will be echoed as in 1989, 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2009,… and the recent post-poll alliance of Congress and AAP in Delhi which only lasted for 49 days !!

For an ideal case, alliances should not be dictated for egoistic and selfish reasons but should be committed only and only for the benefit of the people !!

Reservations based on Caste and Religion: This is another big strategy the political parties play, both before and after the elections. To gain vote shares, parties promise reservation for particular castes and religions which needs to condemned right away. Though the concept of reservations was decided and rightly offered for creating a short-term balance in the society, now it has become a major political sword for winning elections after elections, without actually balancing the caste and religion differences in a society particularly like India.

Division of States or Special Status Category: Recently, the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, and the demands for ‘special status category’ to Bihar and Odisha have fuelled this strategy of forming a coalition (pre or post) and winning sympathy-votes based on “step-motherly” treatment by the Centre. If such divisions and categorizations are not justifiably carried out by the Centre (but only for coalition parties to gain sympathy-votes), then we will soon see further territorial divisions and non-beneficial alignments.

Bribing: Bribing voters and candidates are not new. Wine, Women and Wealth play important roles in bribing the voters and political rallies. Critics and analysts say that any thing in the range of Rs. 700/- to Rs. 10,000/- is being spent per vote by many of the candidates. On an average, some of the candidates are reportedly spending more than Rs. 30 to Rs. 50 crores per constituency. I still remember the punch line “Give me 10 votes and take a new bike” – very commonly seen and heard during the Local Bodies Elections-2012 in Maharashtra.

As mentioned before, the political parties are playing the election Game with their positive and negative strategies, and the media (paid or fair) is a party to it in propagating the political agendas in various forms. Both positive journalism as well as negative journalism are part and parcel of the game.

But the outcome of the Game depends on our ultimate decision- whether to fall for the cheap and divisive politics or rise and stand-up for a self-reliant, stronger India which can give corruption-free governance and sustained employment ! If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a selfish and baseless favour or meagre cash or a bottle of wine or freebies,  or a reservation based on caste /community /religion, or a loan-waiver… then whom should we blame but ourselves ? And therefore, it also lies in our hands – what ways we pave for our children – the future of our society !! In this regard, we must appreciate the efforts of countries like Japan and China which have been utterly careful and diligent to correct wrong practices and sustain good ones.

This is the right time or opportunity to show our strength, to redress defects in the system and make it clean and strong. Its our time to play our own Game; let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of “MCR” – Money, Caste and Religion but on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morals and right knowledge. We need to do something substantial, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let us prevent corruption, bring in good governance and create sustained jobs for a better life. Let’s respect our dignity, our state and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!! It is not that far… just couple of weeks more!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Jai Hind!

Advertisements

12 Responses

  1. So, math can be used in election also. Good read 🙂

  2. Hmm.. The life is a game and we all are players in Shakespeare’s way.

    Bribing is dangerous and shoud be curbed, else Nash Equilibrium will never be achieved.

  3. 2 points:

    1. That video link is superb.
    2. You analyzed the game very well. But all parties are the same. Whom to vote then? Selecting some one with with less corruption?

  4. Excellent analysis. How about making some modelling like regression?

  5. Modelling this game is very clmplicated and with many players the game some time become stagnant.

    With the additional player AAP, the zero-sum game is becoming a superb minimal non-zero-sum game. CEC as the referre and SC as the tribunal we see a sea change in the election process.

  6. The fake voters in the list and business of fake votes. *recent sting* Increasing the problems for the EC 🙂

  7. Very well analysed again… To add to the complex game 🙂 – what about the opinion polls? these may not be right all the time or could be even luring voters in the wrong direction!

  8. In short:

    Goal: To Rule India

    Strategy: Many (Ethical and unethical)

    Players: Many (alliances are possible and breakable)

    Pay-off: Win= self party vote + pre-poll alliance + post-poll alliance + buying power for trust vote + condition for defection + other factors

    Referee: Election Commissioner and Supreme Court

    Playground: Vote booth and Media house

    Winner: Politicians, irrespective of the party

    Biggest Gainer: Media

    Loser: The common man or aamjunta

    Biggest Joke of India’s Democracy.

  9. Yes, it is a big looting game.

  10. Bribing The Voters

    Retired Chief Election Commissioner , S Y Quraishi , is all set to release his book ,

    ” The Undocumented Wonder : The Making of the Great Indian Election ”

    Talking to DNA ( 15 April 2014 ) he listed some 40 different ways in which , Political Parties try to bribe voters

    Some of these are :

    > Cash
    > Depositing money in voter’s bank account
    > Liquor Bottles
    > LPG Cylinders
    > Free Rice / Food Packets
    > Payments of Electricity / Water Bills
    > Mass Feasts
    > Screening of films
    > Laptops / Tablets
    > Bicycles
    > Mangal Sutras
    > Gold Coins
    > Buffalos
    > Colour TV
    > Mixer – Grinder
    > Unemployment Allowance
    > Waiver of loans
    > Free Houses ……etc

    Political Parties are happy that Mr Quarishi , being an honest / straight forward person , could imagine only 10 % of the ways of bribing voters !

    And who cares that the EC has managed to seize a meager Rs 300 crores worth of cash so far during the current season , when all of the Rs 40,000 Crores worth of black money ( @ Rs 5 crores per candidate * 8,000 candidates ) , has escaped un-noticed ( looking other way ? ) by ,

    > Income Tax Department
    > Enforcement Directorate
    > CAG / CVC
    > Election Commission…..etc

    Even the almighty Supreme Court seemed helpless , when it held recently :

    ” Although promises of distribution of freebies may not technically constitute corrupt practice , under the Representation of People Act , they vitiate the electoral process by influencing voters and disturbing the level playing between contesting parties ”

    And since there is no difference of opinion between the political parties when it comes to exploiting the poverty of 400 million BPL ( Below the Poverty Line ) voters , I would not be surprised if the next government at the Centre , introduces a ,

    ” Bribe ( given ) Politically ( is ) Legal Bill ” ( for BPL people ! )

    in the very first session of 16th Lok Sabha !

    Expect it to be passed unanimously – and without a debate !

    Political parties are firm believer of what Kaushik Basu ( onetime advisor to PM ) once said ( – although in a different context ) ,

    ” Giving bribe must not be treated as crime

    Ordinary citizens are forced to give bribes when they are denied , service that is legitimately due to them

    If they are held innocent , they will come forward and report all instances when they were forced to bribe bureaucrats

    Only bribe-takers must be punished ”

    * hemen parekh ( 28 April 2014 / Mumbai )

  11. It was expected that this was going to be dirty game, this election around… Always it depends on the government which is bowing out.. When the PVNarsimhaRao Government lost (or was losing) it was not that bad, it depends on the captain and the stewards behave that way..
    Though it did turn dirty when the NDA lost the first time in 98 because of not getting the two-thirds majority; with SoniaG jumping the gun with her vitriol vocabulary and AB Vajpayee’s speech in the LS was and for years will be a legendary reply. With NDA bowing out yes there was pomp, but was not dirty though Congress came to power.
    But this has turned dirty so far with BJP-NDA giving it back word to word, stone to stone, barb to barb and mud slings, when congress turned it on. dont blame because if congress does not resort to these, it would mean it is pusillanimous and if BJP does not give it back, it would mean lack of vigor. But the media here will become the saint by showcasing this dirty picture when it is the one getting the most benefited and the way its going neither of them can pull back since now there is a theater audience which is or is seeming to enjoy this.
    This game is becoming dirty since the media wants it that way and none of the parties are staying low with all wanting to showoff and be the face of the camera.. These are virtual and is maya (illusion), but these days illusion is reality… and reality is a far illusion.

  12. Yes – it is a big game, played by all parties. And the winner is NaMo. Congratulations to NaMo and wish all success for him.

    AAP – the new party also played a big game, though they lost this time. May be they learn from this and rise from their mistakes. A strong opposition is required, not to oppose on every thing, but to analyse and bring the necessary points to the people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: