Monday, 20 April 2009

India votes for her 15th Parliament

The world's largest exercise in democracy, India's general election, will take weeks to complete and involve hundreds of millions of voters. BBC News explains the process.
When is the vote and who is involved?
People walk past shop selling political party flags
For logistical reasons, polling to elect a new Lok Sabha (lower house) will be staggered over five dates: 16 April, 23 April, 30 April, 7 May and 13 May.
Voting in some states will take place over several stages.
Counting is due on 16 May.
Some 714 million voters are eligible to cast ballots, with almost four million officials taking part.
How is the vote organised?
The Election Commission had to negotiate a long list of potential obstacles when scheduling the poll: it took school exams, holidays, festivals, the harvest and even the monsoon into account.
Eligible voters: 714 million
Polling centres: 828,804
Voting days: 16, 23, 30 April; 7, 13 May
Vote counting: 16 May
Leading candidates: Manmohan Singh (Congress), LK Advani (BJP), Mayawati ("Third front")
The organisational challenge of the polling is huge. There are 828,804 polling centres, including one in Gujarat's Gir lion sanctuary for a single voter.
Many new centres have been set up to reduce the time voters have to travel, often across hills and rivers.
There will be extensive security measures in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where separatist militants have been operating for almost two decades.
Electronic vote counting, introduced in 2004, will be used for a second time.
Photo electoral rolls will be used for the first time on a national level to help voter identification and help prevent fraud.
Many Indians are illiterate, and identify parties by their symbols.
Who is competing?
There are two coalitions competing for power: the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which has been in government for the past five years, and the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The UPA is led by the Congress party, which dominated Indian politics for a long time before a decline, while the NDA is led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
But the main parties are coming under pressure from an alliance of left-wing and regional parties who have united to form a "third front". It could coalesce around the Dalit chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati.
What are the issues?
Voters will be casting judgement on Congress's policies over the past five years, including a $2.2bn (£1.6bn) rural employment guarantee programme, arguably the world's biggest such scheme, and a landmark right to information law.
Electronic vote counting will be used for the second time
Congress will point to rapid economic growth during its tenure and its investment in social policies and the country's power infrastructure. But growth has been hit over the past year, with job losses and rising costs likely to weigh on voters' minds.
The BJP/NDA has focused on India's internal security situation in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai (Bombay) attacks, claiming the government has been ineffectual in cracking down on terrorism.
The opposition has also criticised Congress for what it says are slow and ham-handed economic reforms, while claiming that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is ineffectual and under the thumb of Congress head Sonia Gandhi.
What are the possible outcomes?
The increasing fragmentation of Indian politics and rising power of regional parties has caused problems for both the Congress- and BJP-led coalitions.
Neither has been looking especially strong in the run up to the elections, observers say, and both have been scrambling to bolster their positions through regional alliances.
If the two main coalitions fail to win a clear majority, regional and leftist parties could play a crucial role. The third front could try to form a government itself.
Large scale boundary changes since the last elections contribute to the difficulty of predicting the outcome.
Will the vote be free and fair?
India has a long track record in organising peaceful and orderly elections on a massive scale.
Voter intimidation and vote buying have decreased dramatically in the past decade.
The build-up to this year's poll has also been marked by a row at the Election Commission, where election chief N Gopalaswami accused his colleague Navin Chawla of pro-Congress "bias" and recommended his removal.
Mr Chawla has denied the charge and refused to quit.
Lok Sabha
Lower house of parliament
543 constituencies each elect one member
The president can appoint 2 extra Anglo-Indian members
131 seats reserved for poor castes and tribespeople

World's largest democracy
Has increased by 41 million since 2004
24% are under 35
48% are women
82% will be identified by photos on the electoral roll
(source BBC News)
This is one of the campign songs of the Congress Party which I support

The first phase of the polls took place on April 16th.
Here is a report.

18 Fertilize my soul:

Paresh Palicha said...

Hi! We don't realize how big we're as a Nation until we read something like this. It is a month long exercise. I've already cast my vote; when is your date?

Lille meg said...

I understand you have a big election in India! It is important to do the right choise then......
Hundreads of millons! I cannot imagine how big it is!
I wish you a good election!
God bless!

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Gracious, India is a BIG BIG BIG country!!! I would love to see more social programs in place; I feel that with the right programs available, India can come into its own and take its place as a world leader, the people have such fine minds and determination. But it must be so hard to govern so many, I think even at 300 million the U.S. is just getting giant and hard to handle...

Anonymous said...

I knew about "an" election, but I didn't realize what a big deal it was or truly understand it until reading this. Some American kid will steal this as a social studies report. ~Mary

Kathryn said...


I'm curious, Amrita, do you feel democracy works?

I get discouraged in the States sometimes as it seems our way of voting brings in only the lowest of the low. The media has such a pull in what people see. And then folks say, "Well they are who we voted in!" There are times i get discouraged with the whole thing.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Amrita :)

I have already cast my vote. I think the ink mark on my left index finger will take at least one year to go. I don't know why they are using such a terrible ink to mark the voters finger.

I is surprising that 714 million voters will elect representatives for more than 1 billion people.

I hope a stable government comes at the centre which is non communal, progressive in out look devoid of criminal politicians.

Have a nice day Amrita :)

Van said...

You are a great teacher. I stepped into your other blog and watched your videos. What were the boys singing - they are so handsome!

Amrita said...

Hi friends,

India is huge and very over populated - that 's why our problems also multiply. If I am correct it is the most populatec country after China.

Paresh our voting day is April 23rd.I still haven 't received my voting card. Lets see what happens.

Hello Van, good to see you.
This a campaign song for Congress Party which was a part of the last coalition govt. Theya re singing about the successes of their govt.

Amrita said...

Hi Mary, the kids can use this material as long as they give BBC the credit.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

I hope the elections will be generally peaceful and will reflect the true sentiments of the electorate. Thanks for the informative post. God bless you always.

Ash said...

Interesting post, Amrita!

David said...

you tube took down that video - HEY WHAT GIVES??!

Amrita said...

Oh now I know why they have disabled the video. According to the Indian Election Commission a political party has to cease from campaigning 24 hours before the polls. They will enable it after the 23rd I guess.

Sorry for that.

My voting day is the 23rd. But I can 't cast my vote as they not issued my voting I-card.

monsoon-dreams said...

i'm tired waiting for the result.i just cantwait.hope ur favourite wins here ;-)

madison said...

Wow, what a long process! I knew India was big, but I don't think I really realized just how big it really is.

Technonana said...

Political processes can be so dizzing!! Praying for you and your nation in this time of Political upheaval!!!
May God's will be done!!

Renae said...

Thanks for sharing this, Amrita. Very interesting! Praying for you, your family, and your country during this election.

Danielle&Hannah said...

Hi Amrita,

I wonder if you have your card yet?

This is a very complete and informitive post. Thank you for sharing!