Incumbency and Churn-II: India’s first-time MPs more than most peers | Lok Sabha Elections News

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Illustration: Ajay Mohanty

India has a higher share of first-time parliamentarians than many of its peer countries.


After France (51.6 per cent) and South Africa (50.9 per cent), India ranks third in the sample of eight countries with 49.9 per cent of its members of Parliament (MPs) elected in 2019 elections for the first time. All other countries in the sample had a lower number of first-time parliamentarians than India.


Based on data from Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the sample includes emerging market peers from the BRICS group and the top seven economies of the world. Data for countries like Russia and China is unavailable because of reasons that include differing forms of government.


Nearly half of total representatives elected in the 2019 general elections in India are first-timers.



The trend is not unique to 2019. The median share of first-time winners in the Lok Sabha since 1967 has been about 53 per cent, according to an analysis of data from Ashoka University’s Trivedi Centre for Political Data. The peak was recorded at 69.7 per cent in the 1977 elections, held in the aftermath of Emergency, which led to a non-Congress government at the Centre for the first time.

The lowest share was recorded in 1999 when 33.7 per cent elected MPs were new. The elections marked the formation of a BJP-led government that could last for the full term for the first time.


“The first-time MPs have a novelty factor, people expect them to do well. New faces are given tickets to neutralise anti-incumbency sentiments,” said Amitabh Tiwari, political strategist and commentator.


Anti-incumbency is more visible to people in the digital age, said Pratik Jain, co-founder and director, Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC). Information on the wrongdoings or failures of incumbents can spread faster than before, he says.



“When the government is changed, the number of first-time MPs is more as seen in 2014. If (the government remains) unchanged, the share declines as seen in 2019,” Tiwari says.


In 2019, the share of new MPs out of the total elected from a state was the highest in Andhra Pradesh at 76 per cent, followed by Tamil Nadu at 71.8 per cent. The lowest share was in Karnataka (35.7 per cent) and Gujarat (38.5 per cent). Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra also had less than 40 per cent first-timers among those elected from the state.


Someone with anti-incumbency is given a ticket if there is no better option, and ultimately they win, Jain of I-PAC explains. He says the Lok Sabha elections are fought more on narratives and less on local issues. “It also depends on what the first-time MP has to offer to the people.” 


First Published: May 31 2024 | 12:38 AM IST

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