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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.