Delhi AAP conducting poll about whether to form government

…and the results are in: The Aam Aadmi Party of Delhi has polled and obtained “a sense of what the people want”, which is that it form a government with the backing of the Congress Party.

In the assembly election on 8 December, the Congress Party’s 15 years of governing Delhi came to an end, with the party falling to just 8 of the 70 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the most seats (31, plus 1 for a pre-electoral ally), and the AAP, a brand new party focused mainly on anti-corruption, won 28.

With no party having a majority, the options were a post-electoral coalition or a minority government–or, failing agreements, an early election following a period of what is known as President’s Rule. (During President’s Rule, the assembly would be kept in “suspended animation”–truly a lovely political science concept!) The latter was seen as likely, after the BJP refused the day after the election to stake a claim to forming a government, and the AAP initially did likewise.

However, the AAP’s decision caused some controversy, because Congress had stated on 13 December it would support an AAP minority government “unconditionally“. The Congress observed on the 17th that most of the eighteen issues on which the AAP sought “clarification” from Congress and BJP do not require assembly support, so essentially the Congress simply said: just form an administration and do it. (In the same statement, the Congress also backtracked on the idea that support would be “unconditional”.)

It is not hard to see why the party would be torn. It campaigned against corruption and might be reluctant to depend on the very party it just defeated to remain in office. It’s a parliamentary form of government, and thus the support party could pull the plug whenever it found it convenient. On the other hand, AAP was the big winner of the election, even if it fell short of a majority, and one can’t effect much change from the opposition benches. Complicating matters further, a new election might have been held concurrently with the federal election due in April or May, 2014. With a BJP wave anticipated at that election, the AAP might not do better than it did this month.

So the AAP announced it would conduct a poll as to whether it should accept the Congress offer of support to form a government. It appears it will accept yes for an answer after all.

In the election itself, it should be noted, the BJP’s seat gain came in spite of a loss of votes. (That calls into question a coming BJP wave, of course.) In other words, in some constituencies, the AAP’s cutting into Congress’s votes resulted in the district being won by the BJP, even though the AAP presumably cut into the latter party’s vote as well. (India uses the first-past-the-post rule both in federal and sub-national elections, so correspondence between votes and seats is not guaranteed, especially with multiparty competition.)

Meanwhile, the AAP surge may have been what finally pushed both chambers of the federal parliament to pass a long-delayed bill to establish a “Lokpal”, which will be an anti-corruption ombudsman.

12 thoughts on “Delhi AAP conducting poll about whether to form government

  1. This is an interesting situation. Has the option of a BJP minority government with support from the ADA been considered?

    • Ed, I think you mean the AAP. I saw nothing about such a possibility discussed in the press, other than that AAP apparently sent its list of “clarifications” to both parties. For various reasons, I don’t imagine either party would want such an arrangement.

      Rob, I am not aware of any serious discussion of PR, though don’t take that as definitive by any means. I know two-round systems have been discussed at high levels, and I think MMM has surfaced. But I think India does pretty well with FPTP. That might seem like a heresy to some folks, but I think it is arguably true. For one thing, the recent Delhi situation is not the norm. Most states see an essentially two-party competition to a degree that Canadians or Brits last saw quite some time ago!

  2. Interesting, hasn’t their been any talk of in India with experimenting with Proportional Representation? This would probably reduce corruption in India, cheaper to administer than FPTP because districts don’t have to be redrawn, only the district magnitude needs to be adjusted, and saves on the cost of by-elections.

    If the Delhi election had been re-run under PR with a moderate multi-member district magnitude system, what would the result have been? Would it have been easy to form a government with PR rather than the distorted FPTP system?

    • Although I’m a supporter of PR (the simplicity of FPTP is only superficial because of the complexity of districting) I must object:

      Heresy!

      Why would PR reduce corruption? (Remember pre-mani pulite Italy)
      How can we know how people would have voted under PR?

    • By the way, Lok Sabha constituency boundaries have not been redrawn since the 1970s!

      {correction, they were finally re-drawn prior to the 2009 election.]

      • Never redrawing the boundaries certainly reduces the transaction costs of FPTP, although at the cost of certain other values.

        You’d expect PR to reduce communal and religious violence. If Lijphard is to be trusted you’d also expect PR to reduce corruption. Somebody needs to sit down with violence and corruption indexes for India and post-reformasi Indonesia, and perhaps post-apartheid South Africa..

      • The literature on electoral systems and corruption is split, and I don’t think we are anywhere near a conclusion. I would not expect a strong relationship, as corruption is likely influenced by other variables that are more important. (I hope that was not my second heresy in one thread!)

        On internal violence, I think there is a stronger argument to be made that PR tends to reduce incentives to bad behavior, but whether that applies in India or not is unclear to me. After all, in India parties representing different linguistic, religious, and caste groups trade districts within the multiparty alliances of which they are a part. The result is a greater degree of proportionality of group representation than one might expect under FPTP. It is not obvious to me how PR would work in such a context.

        (A large exception to the alliances observation made above is Uttar Pradesh, where important parties exist outside of the alliance structure and where state assembly majorities have been won on small pluralities. UP is also one of the most violent states. Which is the “independent” and which the “dependent” variable is unclear to me.)

      • I actually remember them being redrawn in 2002, with boundaries first used federally in the last elections (2009).

  3. For the record, the AAP minority government won its confidence vote in the Delhi assembly on 2 January, backed by all eight Congress legislators as well as the one JD(U) member and the lone independent.

    This gave the government 38 affirmative votes in the 70-member assembly.

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