India decides: Behind the scenes on the world's biggest election


  • Share via facebook
  • Tweet this
  • Bookmark and Share

It’s the world’s largest democratic election. More than 814 million voters across 543 constituencies – so large it’s held in nine phases spanning more than a month. Almost half a million Indians have voted from the Gulf, one of the country’s largest sources of remittances.

With the second-biggest population and one of the most significant emerging economies, India’s election is not one many can afford to ignore. And now, only days until the results of the 16th national election for the Lok Sabha - or the lower house of the national parliament - are announced on May 16, it is time to sit up and watch.

And what a show it has been. India has had everything an election could possibly throw up. Celebrities, including former cricket heroes (who are literally worshipped in this cricket-crazy country), movie stars and top businessmen have entered the fray; candidates, including prime ministerial, have been assaulted; plush multi-million-rupee campaign vans have been revealed; scores of voters have complained their names are missing from the electoral roll or polling machines have broken down; and, tragically, religious violence has killed dozens.

There are several firsts as well too. More than 100 million people have been eligible to vote for the first time; a third party is threatening to make forming an outright government nearly impossible; a “none of the above” option has been added to ballot papers; and slick advertising campaigns have transformed the election into a presidential-style race.

This is the longest and most expensive election in India’s history, with the Election Commission of India estimating the total bill will add up to $577m just to run the polling. Such is the security drain, the national cricket competition, the IPL, has been played abroad.

Political parties have spent $5bn on campaigning, according to the Centre for Media Studies, the second-largest total in world history, behind only the $7bn American election in 2012.

In tune with the surge in spending, this election has been far more akin to a US presidential campaign than the Indian Westminster system that usually sees the contest played out between parties.

The hefty budgets and man-versus-man campaigning has been pushed by the business-backed opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has pitted its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi against the Indian National Congress’ Rahul Gandhi.

As is customary, the Congress has not officially declared that Gandhi will be prime minister if the party wins power. The 44-year-old, whose mother Sonia is the party president and grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi were former prime ministers (both of whom were assassinated), seems uncomfortable in the personal face-off with Modi.  He has made far fewer public and media appearances compared to the controversial, yet dominating, 63-year-old Modi.

Article continued on next page...

Related:
Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Waheed

GulfNews write much worse about Pakistan and People of Pakistan. What would you say about that Kamal?

Posted by: Kamal

A biased article, it seems author do not have knowlede about India as a country as such and trying to potray India and Indians in Bad light.

Enter the words above: Enter the numbers you hear:

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait shared zone tensions underlie oilfield closure

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait shared zone tensions underlie oilfield closure

Crude output from jointly-run offshore Khafji oilfield has been...

The billion dollar war

The billion dollar war

As US president Barack Obama seeks to slash the Pentagon’s budget...

End of Gaza war doesn't translate into peace

End of Gaza war doesn't translate into peace

A week after the guns fell silent in the Gaza war, Israel and...

Most Popular
Most Discussed