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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs