The 16th general elections in India, due to be held from April 7 to May 12, 2014 has captured world attention.
Voting will be held in 543 parliamentary constituencies to elect as many Members of Parliament to the Lok Sabha (Lower House). Results will be declared on May 16, about a fortnight before the current (15th Lok Sabha) completes its constitutional mandate on May 31, 2014.
According to the Election Commission of India, the current electoral strength is 814.5 million, the largest in the world. There is an increase of 100 million newly eligible voters. This will also be the longest and the costliest general election in the history of the country – $673.50 million excluding the expenses incurred for security and individual political parties. Parties are expected to spend about $5.85 billion, according to the Centre for Media Studies, a prominent think-tank based in Delhi studying elections in India.
With the announcement of the dates, the campaign pitch has increased, with triangular contest among the incumbent United Progressive Alliance (UPA) headed by the Congress Party which will go to polls without announcing their Prime Ministerial candidate, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) offering an alternative to the two established parties.
A survey of first time voters by a well-known media organisation in India suggested that Mr Modi is the most popular candidate for the post of Prime Minister, followed by Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress Party.
The Lok Sabha has 543 constituencies, with separate seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The elections, held every five years, follow the simple First-Past-The-Post system. The geography of each constituency is divided on the basis of the population rather than the actual size.
Uttar Pradesh is India’s bellwether State, which has the largest proportion of seats in the Lower Sabha (80 seats). It is the State that has hosted a majority of India’s Prime Ministers, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee.
The BJP has planned to field Mr Modi from Varanasi in the Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
With renewed vigour and energy, the BJP think-tank is burning the middle night oil to develop plans and programmes that would genuinely appease the voting public. The Party is also keen not to repeat the mistakes of complacency as it did in the past.
BJP was a forerunner under Mr Vajpayee as the Prime Minister, but lost to the Congress Party in 2004 and 2009, despite the transfer of leadership to Lal Krishna Advani.
Mr Modi offers a paradigm shift from the way the BJP and the Government functions in the service of the people. He brings freshness and honesty to the political life of India, which are critical at the country’s current stage of development. India has always steered clear of extremist forces but the forthcoming elections would spell its future and give it a new direction.
The world awaits the outcome with bated breath.
Please read another report and our Editorial, ‘More than Democracy at stake in India’ under Viewlink.
Balaji Chandramohan is our Delhi Correspondent