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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid