Who do the voters choose—Candidate or Party?

What matters more—who the candidate is or which party does the representative belong to? Some might ask what would be difference. The point remains that differentiating between two political parties has become difficult at the times when these parties aren’t following their own ideologies.

Cases in consideration being upcoming Uttar Pradesh polls and the upturns of political events in Arunachal Pradesh, the discussion about what the voters look for becomes important. In Arunachal Pradesh, 43 MLAs of Congress party joined People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh. Now, can we consider that either PPA now became virtually a party run by Congress minded men, or should one say that Congress dissolved and what now exists is PPA thinking?
Many studies show that sometimes the people of a constituency are not even completely aware of the names of all the candidates from their area, leave alone the background and the work done by them. But this isn’t a uniform phenomenon. There are constituencies with strong candidates which are seen as real influencers and considered an asset to the parties they belong to. These candidates are the ones who are known by their names instead of their parties’. They may switch on parties from one election to other, depending upon their say and vested interests.

In certain areas, the campaign takes a candidate-centred turn while in others of lesser importance constituency areas; the party-centred campaign is preferred. In candidate-centred campaigns the person holds the most influence. This way the person’s background, statements, opinions get more attention, defining what he/she is capable of. In party centred campaigns, the candidate usually follows what the party people ask him/her to say or what runs as the party’s philosophy of taking on different matters. This helps the party to focus on the areas of importance where their competitors are strong. And this is the reason why at some constituencies, people seem more aware about their options of representatives while at others it is not the same.

Looking through this glass, Uttar Pradesh elections might seem more sort of candidate-centred as it politically considered to be one of the very important states with the highest population and impact. Winning through the party campaign card is something that BJP will definitely try to cash in on. The party is all eyes on this state stating its “achievements” in past two years and strong hold with its RSS support in western areas of the state. However, voting patterns in UP are very fluid than standard analysis, with vote bases shifting their support. The state is characterized by deep multi-party competition. Here, parties will try to play on politics of memory by vouching for their credibility, leadership and identity. UP in true sense is politically volatile with divisions within.

For democracy to be true to its sense and effectiveness, the knowledge about the candidate standing for the representative position is important for every voter of that electorate. And owing to this, the Election Commission of India has taken it as its onus to provide all possible details of the candidates on their website so that people can access it, analyse it and see who fits the best for them. Quality of candidates becomes important at times when people are aware.

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