India Abroad January 10, 2014 A17 COVER STORY
The Congress has 149,362,120 rea- sons to fear the looming general election of 2014. Those are 14
crore*, 93 lakh**, 62,000, 120 causes for
failure that they had the chance to avoid.
And therein lies a tale of missed opportunity.
When the Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam walked out of the United
Progressive Alliance March 19, 2013,
the Congress had a simple game-plan. It
would rush the Food Security Act
through Parliament, wait for the results
of the Karnataka assembly polls (which
the Bharatiya Janata Party was expected
to lose) May 8, and then call for a dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
The chief reason, which was discussed
at a meeting of the most senior Congress
leaders in the wake of the DMK’s decision, was the deteriorating economic situation.
The second reason was that they felt it
was better to have a general election
after victory in Karnataka rather than
after (suspected) losses in Madhya
Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and
Third, the Congress feared the outcome of more scandals.
Would the Congress have performed
badly had elections been held in
November or December of 2013 as
opposed to April or May of 2014?
Yes, but things will now be far worse. Seven months ago,
there was no clarity on who would lead the BJP and the
Aam Aadmi Party was still finding its footsteps.
Today, Narendra Modi is in full command, and the Aam
Aadmi Party has reduced the Congress to splinters in
And up on the horizon are those 14 crore, 93 lakh,
62,000, 120 reasons that I mentioned.
Take a look at the Election Commission’s photo identity
cards. At the bottom of the photo side of the card are the
words ‘Age as on 1. 1.’ followed by a year.
To participate in the general election of 2014 an Indian
citizen needs to be 18 years old as of New Year’s Day of
2014; anyone who turns 18 on the second of January, 2014
must wait until the next election.
So, how many new voters shall there be in 2014 as over
the 2009 Lok Sabha polls?
When I left Delhi a few weeks ago the Election
Commission was starting the process of updating the voter
list; huge banners said the revision would run from
December 16 through December 31. There are no exact figures as I write because the exercise still has some days to
But another institution, namely the Census of India,
offers some intriguing clues.
The Census, unlike the updating of the electoral register,
is conducted just once every 10 years, and the last time was
I went through the numbers, and plucked out the figures
given for those who were 15 years old in 2011 up to those
that were listed as 20 years old in that year.
Why? Because there is a possibility — not a certainty —
that those who were 15 years old in 2011 shall be eligible to
vote three years later, while those who were 20 years old
might not have been listed as adults in 2009 (because of
the January cut-off date mentioned earlier).
There were 25,891,864 — 2
crore, 58 lakh, 91,000, 864 in the
Indian notation — 15-year-old
Indians in 2011.
There were 24,584,341 — 2
crore, 45 lakh, 84,000 thousand,
341 — 16-year-olds in 2011.
There were 21,210,681 — 2
crore, 12 lakh, 10,000, 681 — 17-
year-old citizens in the last
There were 27,949,127 — 2
crore, 79 lakh, 49,000, 127 —
Indians listed as 18 years of age in 2011.
There were 20,852,240 — 2 crore, eight lakh, 52,000,
240 citizens that were 19 years old in 2011.
Finally, there were 28,873,867 — 2 crore, 88 lakh,
73,000, 867 Indians that were 20 years old in 2011.
That tots up to 149,362,120 potential voters who did not
vote in 2009, but might be eligible to do so come 2014.
It is possible that several citizens did not bother to enroll
themselves during the process of revision. But let us take
that 149,362,120 as a working estimate.
Most political parties make it a point to run down opinion polls, but I know for a fact that the larger outfits conduct them for their own purposes. Only the Aam Aadmi
Party is honest enough to admit that it conducts such surveys.
Two of these opinion polls — one conducted by the BJP
and the other by the Aam Aadmi Party — arrived at a similar conclusion, namely that roughly 80 percent of these
first-time voters (as far as a Lok Sabha poll is concerned)
are strongly anti-Congress.
Almost all of the rest were undecided, but only an
insignificant number were prepared to vote for the
Congress. Private conversations with Congress leaders sug-
gest that they agree with
Assuming the BJP and
Aam Aadmi Party surveys
are correct, that 80 percent
of first-time voters comes
to over 11 crore and 94
In 2009 the Congress
won 119,111,019 (11 crore,
91 lakh, 1,019) votes.
Briefly, the potential
number of dissatisfied new
voters is greater than the
total number of pro-Congress voters in 2009.
Going by the trends in
Rajasthan and in Delhi —
Even in 1999 — when the Atal
Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP returned
to power — the Congress actually
had more votes than the BJP,
28.30 percent of the whole compared to the BJP’s 23.75 percent.
The BJP then contested only
339 seats while the Congress put
up candidates in 453 constituen-cies.
Apart from the post-Emergency debacle of 1977 — when
the Congress was outpolled by the Janata Party, 34.52 percent to 41.32 percent — the general election of 2014 could
be the first time that the Congress receives fewer votes than
the major anti-Congress party. And the Janata Party of
1977 was not so much a unified organization as it was a
hastily cobbled-up coalition.
The Congress leadership lacks charisma. The Congress
cadres are non-existent. Crores of first-time voters will vote
against the Congress — and tens of crores of existing voters
shall do the same.
The challenges the Congress shall face after the general
election of 2014 may be the most severe that the party has
And more than one Congress leader is ruing the loss of
nerve that prevented a winter election in 2013 rather than
a summer poll in 2014.
Happy New Year, 10 Janpath!
T V R Shenoy is a well-known Indian commentator
* 1 crore = 10 million
** 1 lakh = 100,000
2014 may be the worst year
in Congress history
T V R
Congress party President Sonia
Gandhi, left, and her son, party
Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, at a
news conference in New Delhi,
December 8, 2013, after the
Congress party suffered a
humiliating defeat in key state