April 7, 2014.
People casting their vote in Jorhat in Assam
New Delhi: The world's biggest election, to elect 543 members to the Lok Sabha (parliament), begins today with voting being held in six constituencies in two northeastern states - Assam and Tripura. (India Votes 2014: full coverage)
Voting is being held in one of Tripura's two seats and five of the 14 seats in Assam. (Track LIVE updates)
Polling will be held in nine phases over the next 36 days and votes will be counted on May 16. A staggering 81.4 crore voters are eligible to vote at 930,000 polling stations across the country.
This general election has focused more on individual leaders and is distinguished by its wide use of social media and the huge number of first-time voters.
Relatively young leaders are now leading the two main parties - Congress and BJP. Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate is 63; Rahul Gandhi leading the Congress charge is 43.
There is also in the fray the unconventional Aam Aadmi Party, an entity just over a year old, led by taxman turned activist turned politician Arvind Kejriwal, who has fielded more than 400 candidates across the country. Mr Kejriwal is 45.
A number of powerful regional leaders like J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal also expect to perform well in these elections. These leaders are said to see a chance at getting the top post if the general elections throw up no clear mandate and post-poll alliances are called for. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms Jayalalithaa is 66; her Bengal counterpart Ms Banerjee is 59.
This election thus raises the prospect of a leader born after Independence becoming the Prime Minister.
Analysts see the real battle for control of Parliament being fought in two states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which account for 120 seats - UP sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, Bihar sends 40. Also expected to play a crucial role are other big states like Maharashtra, Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
National capital Delhi votes on April 10.
The BJP has hinged its campaign completely on what it calls a "Modi wave." Mr Modi has sought to tap into the apparent discontentment over the ruling Congress' performance by promising a better governance and a resurgent economy.
The Congress, battling a stagnant economy and allegations of corruption, has rubbished the notion of a "Modi wave" and has accused the BJP leader of "divisive politics".
Read original article here.
****Comment: The scale of this election is massive and and then some. Voters will elect 543 members to the lower house of parliament. Those voted in will decide who the next prime minister will be.
It is unlikely that there will be an outright winner in terms of party dominance so it is more likely that the next prime minister will be elected by means of a coalition vote.
But even before we get to who the next prime minister will be consider the prospect that 814 million voters will decide to gets into the Lok Sabha (parliament). This is mind boggling you will agree.
The number of voters this year is up from the last election in 2009 by 100 million eligible voters.
First-time voters will make up 10 percent of the electorate and it is said that this election is remarkable for its extensive use of social media.
The shear scale of the election means that voting will continue for the next 5 weeks and conclude on May 16.
South Africa by contrast will vote on May 6 and we should know in days (if not hours) who the winner is and by what margin.
Last week and Monday in Delhi I asked several political scientists and other social scientists who the next prime minister will be.
The one person (a leading political scientist at a major university in Delhi) whose opinion I respect the most had this to say:
"It will be Modi of the BJP party not because he is the best candidate. But because he is the best among the poor choices we have. He will not be a good thing for India especially in light of his record of sowing trouble among Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat."May this election be peaceful.