Business Standard

Elections 2019: The Indian middle class has emerged as key electoral force

As the economy grows and incomes increase, people are moving out of poverty and joining the middle class

Bibhudatta Pradhan | Bloomberg 

general elections
Women voters show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting vote during the first phase of the general elections

The middle class is emerging as a key electoral force in India.

While political parties compete to attract poor people, they’re also trying to win over this new and growing segment, which makes up about one-third of the country’s 1.3 billion population and wields considerable clout in shaping public opinions.

Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the main opposition Congress party are targeting the dominant middle class bloc with speeches and campaign promises.

After providing tax relief in the February budget, the BJP vowed in its manifesto to further revise tax slabs and benefits to put more cash and greater purchasing power in the hands of middle-income families. It’s also pledged to ensure the middle class get access to education, employment opportunities and urban infrastructure for a better quality of life.

Upwardly Mobile

As the economy grows and incomes increase, people are moving out of poverty and joining the middle class. They’re aspiring to provide their children better education, ensure clean drinking water, start a business, own a car and credit card and take a vacation.

Its size varies between 20 percent to as much as 40 percent of the population. According to Centre for the Study of Developing Societies -- Lokniti survey, about 36 percent of population was middle class in 2014.

Class Divide

The 2014 elections witnessed a major shift in voting preferences. The middle class rejected the Congress-led coalition government because of corruption allegations, price rises and poor governance. The voters belonging to the poor and lower classes -- who were previously the core supporters of Congress -- also moved away from the party, contributing to its worst ever election performance.

The BJP, which is seen as largely a party of urban upper-middle class, also expanded its support base significantly in rural areas, contributing to Modi’s ability to secure the biggest mandate in three decades.

ELECTION & MARKETS:

After four phases of elections, the average voting percentage is 67 percent, almost comparable to 67.6 percent in 2014. A one percent increase from the current trend could produce the largest turnout since 1947, Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economist at State Bank of India said in a note.

First Published: Fri, May 03 2019. 08:53 IST
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