India's national elections will begin April 7 and continue on nine separate dates until May 12 with results expected to be announced May 16, according to the Election Commission of India.
The vote is the world's largest, with 814 million eligible voters slated to choose 543 members of the lower house of parliament. This election is widely considered to be India's most consequential since 1977.

No party is expected to win an outright majority in parliament, although the right-of-center Bharatiya Janata Party and its controversial leader, Narendra Modi, enjoy a substantial lead in opinion polls. A total of 272 seats are needed to elect a prime minister, and a potpourri of regional parties will probably be needed to get a majority.

Early polls suggest that the Gandhi family, which has dominated Indian politics for most of the country's 67-year history, could suffer its worst defeat, with some surveys predicting a rout for the family's Indian National Congress party. A slowing economy and repeated corruption scandals have tarnished the family's image.

Sonia Gandhi, the family matriarch and president of the Congress Party, has suffered unexplained illnesses and is expected this year to pass leadership of the party to her son, Rahul Gandhi. But Rahul Gandhi's equivocal public statements and lackluster campaigning have led many to wonder whether he truly wants the job. The family's response to the results will be watched closely.

Results from Uttar Pradesh, the country's biggest state with 80 seats, are expected to be crucial in determining the election winner, and the state will vote on five separate dates. State elections in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim will be conducted simultaneously.

India's national elections are a huge administrative undertaking involving 11 million government workers, 930,000 polling stations and 1.7 million electronic voting machines, with administrative costs expected to exceed $645 million. The Election Commission sends personnel and supplies to every corner of India using cars, trains, planes, elephants, mules, camels and boats, V. S. Sampath, the chief election commissioner, said Wednesday.

"Elections free and fair, peaceful and participative are the life force of democracy," Sampath said.

Problems are routine. Voters are sometimes openly paid for their selections, and candidates often exceed their allowed expenditures, although a higher spending cap of $1.1 million per seat may reduce such illegal expenditures this time.

Despite widespread corruption in Indian society, elections here are widely considered to be fair, and powerful legislators routinely go down to crushing and unexpected defeats.

One of most extraordinary elements of the process is the substantial turnout among India's poorest. Voting patterns in India have long been heavily influenced by caste and religious affiliations, leading to decades of legislative efforts to appease one group or another r.

But this year, both the Bharatiya Janata Party and a new entry, the Aam Aadmi Party, hope to break those patterns. The Bharatiya Janata Party expects its message of good governance and development to have universal appeal, and the Aam Aadmi Party has emphasized an anti-corruption platform that has led to enthusiastic responses in diverse urban areas.

Post a Comment