On April 7, the world’s largest democracy begins what is being hailed as the world’s largest election. India, a country of various cultural and geographic distinctions, plans to continue a tradition of free, fair and incredibly large elections. Eight hundred and fourteen million eligible voters make decisions on the 543 members of the Lower House of Parliament.
The election is too large, however, to occur in one fell swoop. The process will consist of nine phases. In all, the elections will cover 543 constituencies, four main political parties in addition to dozens of marginalized ones, and thousands upon thousands of candidates.
The size of the country and the corresponding number of candidates necessitates the lengthy election, slated to conclude on May 12 in time for winners to be announced on May 16. Due to an exponentially growing Indian population, 97 million voters have been added to the list of those eligible since the 2009 general elections. That means almost 12% of those capable of voting between April and May will experience this enormous process for the first time.
The Election Commission, in charge of the entire process, has taken on a lofty challenge in organizing what is to be the most important and largest election since 1977. While individual candidates are permitted to spend no more than an equivalent $120,000 in Indian rupees, the Commission is expected to spend almost $600 million supervising the event.
Because they have determined that no person should have to travel more than two kilometers to cast a vote, the Commission will be setting up 930,000 polling stations across India’s vast territory. Everywhere from Rajasthan in the desert to the heights of the Himalayas, voters will have convenient access to polling stations.
In 2009, an isolated temple caretaker in Gujarat got his own voting booth.
India prides itself on free and fair elections, and regularly has a high turnout among the country’s poor. This year in particular, two parties have run on platforms catering to this demographic. The Bharatya Janata Party campaigns on good governance and national development, and the Aam Aadmi Party campaigns with an emphasis on anti-corruption.
These positions have rendered fervent support among those less privileged and should contribute to a continuation of a high voter turnout for the world’s largest election.
– Jaclyn Stutz