High Turnover Marks Membership Of Indian Legislatures

(MENAFN- NewsIn) By K/Daily News

Colombo, May 21: India's electoral democracy is marked by a high turnover of legislators, both in the national parliament and the State or Provincial Legislative Assemblies, a recent study has found.

The study, done by Gilles Verniers for the Carnegie Endowment, found that because of the high turnover of legislators, the pool of“experienced” legislators is small. The shortage of experienced law
makers adversely affects the performance of the legislatures.


Over time, poor legislative performance gives rise to disenchantment among the voters. The government then begins to face what is known as“anti-incumbency” which could lead to electoral defeat.

If parties keep changing their MPs and MLAs at every election, legislators do not get enough time to garner experience and hone their skills. When the next election comes, voters accuse them of non-performance and expect a replacement. Election watchers term this the“anti-incumbency” factor.

The fear of an electoral defeat due to“anti-incumbency” makes parties change the candidates. But the fresh faces inducted also do not get enough experience. They too fail and are replaced in the subsequent election. This process continues inexorably making anti-incumbency a persistent feature of Indian elections.

Gilles Verniers studied 90,583 candidates who contested general elections in India from 1962 to 2019 to come to his conclusions.

Concentration of Power

Given the lack of experience and competence among incumbent legislators, power gets concentrated in the hands of a minority of experienced legislators and government ministers, and the rest are reduced to being yes men.

As the scope for debate shrinks, the need for parliament to meet for longer periods and more frequently, is obviated. Major bills are passed without a proper debate. This is a clear disservice to the voter and the country too.

In the on-going April 19-June 1, 2024 parliamentary elections more than 8,000 candidates are competing for 543 seats. But most of them, including those fielded by major parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, are contesting for the first time, Verniers points out.

In the 2019 elections, only 41% of the MPs (226) were“incumbents” that is, who were elected in the 2014 elections also.
This, to Verniers, is a low figure. Only half of the BJP's MPs (154 out of 303) were incumbents (having won in in the 2014 elections also). 139 were first time MPs.

Among the 228 elected opposition MPs, only 67 were incumbents, and 132 were first-time MPs.

This phenomenon of parliament's having so many freshmen is not new. The share of re-elected MPs was even lower during the first two decades after independence when the Congress Party was dominant.

Though politicians or political aspirants are dime a dozen in India, the country's political class comprising experienced people is small. In India's 17th Lok Sabha, only 120 of the 543 MPs could be considered experienced.
Of those 120 MPs, 69 belong to the BJP, and only 14 belong to the Congress.
There are only 36 regional party MPs who can claim to have significant legislative experience

Reasons for High Turnover

From 1967 to 2019, fewer than 70% of all MPs ran in an election again, Verniers says. And only 55% of the rerunning MPs got re-elected.

The share of rerunning MPs tends to increase when general elections are held in close proximity, as was the case in the 1990s when a series of fractious coalition governments failed to complete their full five-year terms in office.

In recent years, the share of rerunning MPs has declined. In 2019, only 67% of all incumbent MPs stood for re-election. In the 17th Lok Sabha, elected in 2019, only 22% of the MPs were elected for a third term or more. Thus, most of the current MPs are quite inexperienced.

The rate of incumbency (retention of MPs) varies across parties. The Congress tends to retain more of its incumbents than the BJP.

There are regional variations too. Some of the largest states-including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal-exhibit a high rate of re-running incumbents. However, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana saw very few sitting MPs rerunning in 2019. None of Chhattisgarh's eleven MPs elected in 2019 were incumbents (and ten of them were first-time MPs).

The BJP in Gujarat, under Narendra Modi's leadership as chief minister, used to discard 50% of its MLA s in every election.

Parties often give tickets to non-party people either based on their ability to finance their election or their ability to get local support. When this comes into play, a legislator who is a party man may be replaced.

The system of giving tickets to defectors from other parties also enables the party leadership to replace a sitting MP or MLA .

Significantly, during Narendra Modi's tenure as Prime Minister, the share of experienced MPs has significantly decreased to levels not seen since the 1970s, Verniers says. In the 17th Lok Sabha, elected in 2019, only 22% of the MPs were elected for a third term or more. Thus, most of the current MPs are quite inexperienced. This is one of the reasons why Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have so much power over BJP MPs.

Parties use the threat of non-renomination to maintain party discipline and to punish faction leaders and their affiliates. Parties may also discard sitting MPs because of alliance arrangements with other parties.

MPs may themselves induce turnover. Some may leave their parties and try their luck with a different party. Others may drop out of the electoral race altogether if they are unable to sustain the cost of remaining in politics.

MPs may also choose to shift to a different legislative body, such as a State Assembly or the upper house of parliament (the Rajya Sabha).

Finally, voters also play a role in ensuring that few sitting MPs get re-elected. Across states, the“strike rate” (winning rate) of re-running MPs is low. In 2009 and 2014, the incumbents' strike rate dropped below 50%. Since 1977, on an average, only 55% of rerunning incumbent MPs have been re-elected.

India's stable political class (those legislators serving two terms or more) is small. And the caste, class and gender composition of this class shows the high degree of concentration of political power in India.


There are very few women among the experienced political class.

In the 2019 general election, 78 women were elected to the Lok Sabha (the highest number ever), but only twelve had been elected for a third term or more, Verniers points out.

The other notable feature of the experienced political class is that its members are more likely to hail from dynastic political families. Furthermore, they are more likely to belong to the upper or intermediary castes than historically disadvantaged groups.

Hindi Belt

Around 40% of MPs from the stable political class come from the Hindi belt (ie:
the States of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand); 23% from the Southern States; 19% from the Eastern States and the Northeast, and 15%
from Western India.

As on date, the BJP has more than half of India's stable political class. Up to the mid-1990s, it was the Congress which accounted for the bulk of the stable political class, Verniers says.




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