The Festival of Democracy in India – Editorial Two

Issue 411, March 15, 2019

The Election Commission of India has announced that General Elections to the 543 seats (plus two seats to be nominated by President for the Anglo-Indian community) in Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) will be held in seven phases from April 11, 2019 to May 19, 2019. Votes will be counted and results announced on May 23, 2019.

About 900 million voters (15 million between 18-19 years of age) will go to about a million polling booths over the six-week period to exercise their franchise in the biggest event of its type in the world.

Leaders’ salvos

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on March 10, calling the forthcoming General Elections ‘A Festival of Democracy.’

Urging his fellow Indians to vote, he said, “I hope this election witnesses a historic turnout. I particularly call upon first-time voters to vote in record numbers,” he said.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi has called for a ‘Change of Government,’ indicating that his Party will put up a tough fight.

While the heat begins, the election campaign will witness a war of words.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is confident of winning the elections, although no one seems to be under the illusion that it would have the same majority as 2014.

Rival Visions

The rival visions confronting India’s voters have rarely been so sharply defined.

While some see the BJP as protagonists of the Hindu Movement, there are others who say that India’s extraordinary strength rests on its diversity.

According to the Economist, under Mr Modi, the project to convert India into a fully fledged Hindu nation has moved ahead smartly.

“But given that in 2014, the BJP grabbed its big majority with just 31% of the popular vote, how far would Mr Modi be able to push the Hindutva project, even if he does get a new mandate? And if he loses, can a secular India be rebuilt?” the publication asked.

We will watch and report the developments with interest.

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