National elections are under way in India, a nation so massive voting occurs in nine separate phases. The numbers are barely comprehensible.
An estimated 815 million people will vote between April 7 and May 12.
India is a democracy, meaning both the uber-rich, along with the destitute and illiterate get an equal say in her future.
There are approximately 930,000 electronic polling stations throughout India. India is growing so quickly that for these elections, 100 million new voters are now eligible. The Parliamentary elections, for the Lok Sabha’s 534 seats (Lower Congress) take place every five years. A political party needs 272 seats to form a majority.
Illiterates will vote also, by entering a booth and picking a symbol representing the party and its candidates. While there are three bigger parties, only two have realistic winning chances. A Lotus represents the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while a hand symbolizes the Congress Party. A broom denotes the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), representing the ‘sweeping away of political corruption.’
Millions of election officials, including the military and citizen volunteers ensure the voting process functions. For a nation as corrupt as India, voting is one exercise it does impressively well. Vote-banks and other voter enticement schemes aside, the actual process of casting one’s vote in Indian elections is surprisingly straightforward and for its size, mostly ethical. The Election Commission is serious about preventing fraud. All voters leave the booth with permanent ink on one finger, a 52 year-old practice safeguarding against double voting.
This election is one of the most important in recent memory, pitting yet another Gandhi, Rahul this time, against the former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, whose very name is a lightning rod for controversy. People are generally tired of the Congress Party, which has seemingly always ruled India.
The most recent iteration of Congress rule saw slow economic growth and numerous billion-dollar national fraud schemes. Arvind Kejriwal leads the new AAP party, which lost national popularity and momentum after Kejriwal decided to abandon his post as Chief Minister of Delhi after only 49 days.
The two main parties portray their candidates in vastly different ways. Modi, already the former Gujarat Minister has a cult personality around himself, and his campaign centers around him more than his party. Rahul Gandhi on the other hand, preaches team and the benefits of working together.
Modi’s eyed the Prime Minister prize for years, while Rahul has reluctantly run out of a sense of duty to the party, rather than being passionate about leading India post-2014. No one but the most die-hard Congress supporter expects anything less than a victory for Modi and the BJP.
The mystery is; can the BJP garner more than 272 seats, forming a majority that does not require regional cooperation?
On May 16 we will know the answer.