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Incumbency and Parliamentary Elections in India

Borooah, Vani (2006): Incumbency and Parliamentary Elections in India. Published in: Economic and Political Weekly , Vol. XLI, (2006): pp. 739-746.

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A recurring theme in commentary on parliamentary (Lok Sabha) elections in India since the 1990s is that of “anti-incumbency”: at every election since 1991, voters have cut a swathe through incumbent members of Parliament by choosing to replace a large number of them with a fresh set of faces. In this paper, the author refines the concept of “antiincumbency” and then, based on this concept, measures the extent of anti-incumbency, in the ten Indian parliamentary general elections between 1967 and 1999 towards the historically most significant of political parties in India – the Indian National Congress. In addition, the paper examines the electoral performance of the INC in its marginal constituencies, both as an incumbent and as non-incumbent. Lastly, the paper examines the effectiveness of vote mobilisation by the INC in constituencies in which it was the incumbent and in constituencies in which it was not the incumbent. Based on all these approaches, there is little evidence of incumbency bias against the INC.

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