India is now undergoing a massive election to its 16th parliament. The facts look humungous, when compared to other nations. India is the world’s largest democracy and there are nearly 814 million voters, of which 100 million are exercising their franchise for the first time.
To add to these, is the fact that there are 543 parliamentary constituencies, and nearly $ 573 million will be spent in conducting the elections. The money spent by the parties does not fall within the purview of this figure.
The election will be conducted using the latest technology. Electronic voting machines are being used throughout the country, which obviates the need for manual counting of votes, as before.
This time the incumbent centrist party Congress is facing the right-wing party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Congress has ruled the country for most of its six decades of existence of the country but is facing a big challenge from Bhartiya Janata Party. The latter party is led by the hard-line Hindu politician Narendra Modi who is expected to be the prime minister if the BJP comes to power. The Congress is being led by Rahul Gandhi the grandson of the former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Personal attacks and exposing of financial indiscretions of politicians is common during Indian elections. The parties and their spokespersons are therefore slinging mud at each other accusing each other of things such as infidelity, financial misappropriation, crime, etc.
The atmosphere is thick with accusation. Which makes Indian elections all the merrier!
India is going through a phase which can only be described as a transition period. Politically, the uncertainty has been heightened by the victory of Aam Admi Party (AAP), which had emerged on the political scene only a year ago. The hitherto largest parties – The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – have been humbled at the elections to the New Delhi state legislature. The dark horse, the AAP in this case, won 28 seats which doesn’t ensure that it can form a government. Most of the seats were wrestled from the Congress which could only manage 8 seats. However, it can join with another party to form a government. The dilemma is which one to join: collaboration with the BJP would give it the stamp of being a communal party, and going over to the Congress camp would mean it is compromising on its ideals. The idealistic platform on which AAP was set up was that the Congress party is corrupt and therefore it should be dislodged from power.
It is at once a sensitive and grave situation which will also determine the fate of all parties at the national elections to be held four months from now. The ruling Congress party has many agendas to deal with: price rise, poverty, welfare project implementation. Its food security bill is one that would ensure food for the poor but would involve a huge expenditure at a time when the current account deficit is huge. Inflation is driving up prices of items of everyday use such as onions, potatoes and vegetables. People are grumbling and voicing their displeasure across the country. They are waiting to be decisive and show their choice of leadership in the national election. This election will be a game changer for all parties concerned: the UPA (the coalition led by Congress) and the NDA (the coalition led by the BJP). The emergence of a third front which will probably constitute the regional parties is being discussed in earnest, but, so far, nothing substantial has emerged out of it.
Thus, the only option for the Indian citizen is to wait and watch.