Indians go to polls from April 7 to May 12 to elect 543 candidates to represent them in Parliament. Results will be declared on May 16 and a new Government will take office immediately thereafter.
The nine-phase polling exercise in the world’s largest democracy has generated worldwide interest as India has become a major economic force and an important destination for global trade and investment.
These elections will see the incumbent United Progressive Alliance (UPA) trying to win a third term in office. But all evidence suggests that it would be an uphill task.
The present Government has been mired in a series of allegations and scams.
Growth of the Indian economy has stalled and the worldwide investor confidence in the fourth biggest economy of the world has dwindled. The Congress Party, led by its Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, has struggled to capture the imagination of the people. When he took charge of the Party, he promised more representation of youth in the Congress hierarchy and ridding the Grand Old Party of Indian polity rid of dynastical politics. He has done neither and Congress appears bereft of a strong second rung of state leaders who can hold sway in their regions.
Getting into post poll alliances with powerful regional parties to bolster its governing prospects seems a possibility for UPA.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be in good shape. It has tried and succeeded to a large extent in turning the campaigning into an American Presidential style election.
It declared its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi early, and since then has tried to project him as a results-oriented leader, pitching him directly against Mr Gandhi.
Mr Modi, who is in his third five-year term as Chief Minister of Gujarat, has led an exhaustive election campaign across country .His campaign was solely focused on development and weeding out corruption from the Indian society.
He is also being helped by many State Governments, creating a pool of local leaders and a strong organisation on the ground. But Mr Modi would need the support of more parties during the post-election period to form a Government.
A third dimension to Indian Polity was added when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) a fledgling, one-year old party won the Delhi assembly elections last year.
This is an organisation channelling the anger and frustration of the common Indian at the rampant corruption. Led by Arvind Kejriwal, former Income Tax official, it captured the attention of all Indians.
Since then, AAP has relinquished power in Delhi, when its promised Anti-Corruption Bill (Jan Lokpal Bill) failed to pass in the Delhi Assembly, and has acquired national ambitions. It is fielding candidates all across India, but it remains to be seen whether the Party has the political, financial and organisational acumen to succeed in the general elections.
But the Party has succeeded in changing the discourse of Indian politics, making politicians more accountable. All Parties have tried to field taint-free candidates, to highlight their economic credentials. Social Media can be very effective to capture the mind space of the youth.
Election 2014 promises to be a watershed political event for India.
It would be an election to determine the path that India wishes to traverse in its quest to become a world superpower. The prevalent mood suggests that voters have made one thing clear: Any alliance which wins has to provide inclusive and accountable growth.
Political parties have to run like corporate organisations, give results and function in a transparent manner.
They are answerable to their shareholders, namely the voters.
A related story appears under Businesslink
The India Today Group Poll January 2014