News / Asia

India Set to Begin World's Largest Vote

An election staff member pastes a hologram on a voter identification card at an election branch of a district administrative office in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, April 4, 2014.
An election staff member pastes a hologram on a voter identification card at an election branch of a district administrative office in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, April 4, 2014.
Anjana Pasricha
— India begins the mammoth task of choosing its next government Monday when its nine stage, five-week parliamentary election gets underway. The polls pitch the ruling Congress Party against the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and are widely expected to usher in a change of government in the nation of 1.2 billion people. 
 
Devraj Singh is a 19-year-old resident of a slum tucked in between sprawling bungalows where top politicians live in the Indian capital. He has not been able to get a full-time job since he finished school two years ago.  

A resident of a slum in New Delhi, Devraj Singh (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)A resident of a slum in New Delhi, Devraj Singh (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)
x
A resident of a slum in New Delhi, Devraj Singh (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)
A resident of a slum in New Delhi, Devraj Singh (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)
Singh wants to cast his vote for a government that will lower prices and generate employment for people like him.   
 
As an undergraduate student at Delhi University with a middle class background, Shambhavi Vats, wants attention paid to issues such as women’s safety and much more.

“I think we need help with almost each and every sphere of governance, we need changes, we need development in everything,” said Vats.

Voters in India will head to the polls starting Monday to choose 543 members of the lower house of parliament. Some of the key issues that will likely take prominence include controlling inflation, creating jobs for a growing young population and ensuring better governance.
 
In a strong bid to unseat the ruling Congress Party, and win over voters like Singh, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party headed by its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has made development its key campaign issue.
 
Sanjay Kumar at New Delhi’s Center for Developing Studies says good leadership has emerged as a key voter concern, which will likely benefit the BJP.
 
“They [voters] want a strong leader, they think that a person who is capable of delivering development, and giving a stable government. That is the sheer notion among a large section of voters at this moment…their vote is getting motivated by their attraction to the leader of the BJP, Narendra Modi,” said Kumar.
 
On the other side, the incumbent Congress Party has failed to project a prime ministerial candidate, although its campaign is led by Rahul Gandhi, heir to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.

The party is promising more benefits to poor people, as it tries to win back the public support it lost during its second term in office due to corruption scandals and high inflation. But polls indicate the Congress Party is set to lose power in one of its worst electoral performances.  
 
In a diverse country with some 815 million voters, social divisions will also play a key role in the election, with many communities preferring to opt for candidates who represent their caste.
 
The performance of a host of regional parties that dominate large, populous states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the north and Tamil Nadu in the south is also crucial. These local parties have spoken of putting together a so-called Third Front to challenge the two main parties if together they win enough votes.
 
And seeking to make its debut in parliament is a new party (Aam Aadmi Party) born on an anti-corruption plank which put up an impressive performance in local elections held in Delhi last December.  
 
With security a key challenge, polling is spread over nine days - until May 12 - to give millions of security forces time to move around and protect the 930,000 polling booths spread from the high Himalayas to heartland states such as Bihar.   
 
Of particular concern are areas prone to violence such as Kashmir, the northeast and a large swath along the country’s eastern belt dominated by Maoist rebels, who have called for a poll boycott.
 
Amid concerns that hundreds of candidates with criminal charges are in the fray, the Election Commission has appealed to the country’s voters to not only come out and vote, but also scrutinize the records of candidates carefully. It is hoping for a higher voter turnout than the 58 percent recorded in 2009. And although millions of Indian voters are poor and illiterate, officials feel they have come of age.
 
R. Balakrishnan is a top official at India's Election Commission.  “The awareness level has increased tremendously and the voters have become more participative. The Indian people, our voters are deeply committed to electoral democracy,” said Balakrishnan.
 
It will be only on May 16 when votes are counted that the country will know who will form the next government and whether its rallying cry for change was heard at polling booths.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid