News / Asia

India Begins World's Largest Election

A woman (L) casts her vote with an electronic voting machine as others get their voting slip from an officer at a polling station in Majuli, a large river island in the Brahmaputra river, Jorhat district, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, April 7
A woman (L) casts her vote with an electronic voting machine as others get their voting slip from an officer at a polling station in Majuli, a large river island in the Brahmaputra river, Jorhat district, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, April 7
Anjana Pasricha
India’s general election has begun with voters casting ballots in two remote northeastern states. Billed as the world’s largest democratic exercise, the staggered election involving some 815 million voters will conclude in five weeks. Opinion polls say the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to emerge the winner on its promise of economic revival.  
 
There were long lines at polling stations in the northeastern states of Assam and Tripura as people waited Monday to choose their lawmakers for the national parliament.  
 
  • An elderly woman watches as she stands in a line to cast her vote during the first phase of elections in Dibrugarh, in the northeastern state of Assam, India, April 7, 2014.
  • An Indian election official applies an indelible ink mark on the finger of a Mishing tribal woman voter during the first phase of elections at Misamora Sapori, an island in northeastern Assam state, India, April 7, 2014.
  • A woman adjusts her sari as she casts her vote during the first phase of elections in Dibrugarh, in the northeastern state of Assam, India, April 7, 2014.
  • An election official checks the identity of a voter during the first phase of elections in Agartala, in the northeastern state of Tripura, India, April 7, 2014.
  • A first time voter displays his voting pass as he stands in a line to cast his vote during the first phase of elections in Dibrugarh, in the northeastern state of Assam, India, April 7, 2014.
  • A Kashmiri woman activist of the ruling National Conference party dances during an election rally on the outskirts of Srinagar, India, April 7, 2014.
  • A security official stands guard as people line up to cast their vote in Nakhrai village in Tinsukia district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, April 7, 2014.

The first round of voting involves only six of the 543 parliamentary seats for which the ruling Congress Party, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and a host of regional parties are vying.
 
India's Election

-The largest democratic election in the world
-More than 814 million people are registered to vote
-23 million of those voters are 18-19-years-old
-Voting is held in nine stages over five weeks
-All 543 seats in the lower house of parliament are being contested
-There are more than 930,000 polling stations
-Results are expected May 16
The Congress Party has a strong presence in much of the northeast, and this is one of the few places where it is expected to retain its hold. The underdeveloped tea and rice growing region is home to many ethnic communities.  
 
The head of the Centre for North East Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, Sanjoy Hazarika, says the situation has improved in the region, which has been wracked by insurgencies.     
 
“The Congress has over the last 10-12 years been able to deliver a semblance of stability, peace if not complete peace, a fractious peace, there has been some basic delivery of services," said Hazarika. "These are the things that matter.”  
    
However the situation differs markedly in many other parts of the country, where the opposition BJP is forecast to make major gains on its promise of rebooting the country’s plummeting economy and providing corruption-free administration.
 
The man who polls say could be the country’s next prime minister, Narendra Modi, repeated that promise on Monday as his party, the BJP, released its election manifesto in New Delhi.  
 
Modi says his party is forging ahead on two issues: good governance and development. He pledged to leave no stone unturned to deliver these.  
 
The BJP manifesto lays out a plan to rejuvenate Brand India, which it says suffered under the decade-long rule of the Congress Party. It focuses on building modern infrastructure such as high speed trains and new cities, and reviving manufacturing to create jobs.  
 
The party says it will encourage foreign direct investment in all areas except the retail sector. The BJP has long opposed the entry of foreign super retailers such as Walmart.   
 
Controversial issues such as a pledge to build a Hindu temple at the site of a mosque torn down more than two decades ago in Uttar Pradesh state also figure in the manifesto.  
 
But the BJP strongly dismissed concerns that the party will push a Hindu nationalist agenda, known as “Hindutva.”
 
Murli Manohar Joshi is a top leader of the BJP.  “This is nothing to do with Hindutva," said Joshi. "This is simply a developmental program and the issues which are also culturally important have been also adumbrated in it. Hindutva has never been an issue for elections you see.”  
 
The ruling Congress Party and other critics have raised fears that the BJP is divisive. They point to riots which wracked Gujarat state under Narendra Modi’s watch in 2002 and killed nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. He has been cleared by the Supreme Court of any involvement.
 
But political observers say for most voters that issue is on the backburner.
 
They say the question is not whether the BJP will win the election, but whether it will win enough votes to form a stable government.
 
There will be eight more rounds of polling ending more than a month later on May 12th in the country’s heartland. Although there could be as many as half a billion votes to be counted, results are expected to be out in just a day on May 16.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: hiralal from: Vadodara, gujarat
April 08, 2014 8:24 PM
Yesss! Let's fix the infrastructure and make new plan for the future ahead of us.

by: Hindutva from: India
April 07, 2014 10:31 AM
excellent comment BJP, we are a Hindu nation...!!! and you right to point out that we have been suffering Islamic atrocities for far too long. Its time to reclaim our heritage and our country from the malicious contamination of the squalid Muslims. Like you said, BJP, we are united, we are growing - and the Islamic depredations on our own People will stop.

by: Khalid from: Oxford
April 07, 2014 2:11 AM
Hi, in relation to the last comment - you are in complete contradiction to how your founding Father of your nation saw the future and wished for peace and harmony with one another. He (Gandhi) was a simple, yet immensely bright and courageous man and all you seem to be extolling is separatism, in-fighting, greed, super-power dreams and aspirations - when the vast, vast majority of your nation live in dire poverty. Shame on you and your kind.
In Response

by: Jethlit from: India
April 07, 2014 12:54 PM
the truth here is that the Muslims have been taking advantage of our kindness for too long..!! you are right to point out that our founding fathers tried their best to make a country fit for all... but look at your response to our kindness... you spat in our face. islamic atrocities will not be tolerated here - no more. now, you have your own country called Pakistan - and to there you should go.

by: David from: Indiana
April 07, 2014 1:57 AM
Wow! No one has voted for mammoths in at least 12,000 years!

by: BJP from: India
April 06, 2014 7:28 PM
The whole of India is so happy..!! it is way past time to let the Muslimes here know that their terrorism is going to have dire dreadful and terrible consequences for them. India will not tolerate Islamic terrorism any longer. We are a Hindu nation. We are a growing Superpower. We are an Industrial Superpower. and - We love Israel..!!
In Response

by: Ranjith from: TamilNadu,India
April 07, 2014 5:57 AM
India is not a country for Hindu,Muslims....,It is a country for MAN KIND. I think the post is fake.someone is trying to make diversity among us.
In Response

by: Joseph from: Chennai
April 07, 2014 4:21 AM
Also you are a lunatic or a person in coma for 65years. India is not a Hindu nation. India is a nation for all Indians.

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