Stringer Asia Logo
Share on Google+
news of the day
in depth
India: the biggest election on Earth
  • India, the biggest election on Earth
    India, the biggest election on Earth
Nine hundred sixty-nine million eligible voters, including eighteen million 18-year-olds, 471 million women, and sixty million new voters. Going to vote in India, between April 19 and June 1, will be practically ten percent of the world's population-the largest voting machine in history, with voter numbers equal to the populations of the United States, Brazil, Russia, Japan, France, England, and Belgium combined. The mother of all past elections and a model for all those who think such huge numbers and democratic process are irreconcilable. People go to vote during seven days spread over forty-two days. Necessary for security reasons and so as not to make the queues at the 1.5 million polling stations that have been set up across the country to, as Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar put it, "bring democracy to every corner of India." And necessary, above all, to be able to make the five and a half million electronic voting devices available to the entire population. "Our teams will travel any distance to reach every voter, whether they are in the jungle or in snowy mountains. We will go by horse, elephant, mule or helicopter. We will get everywhere," Election Commission officials declare. And since Indian law stipulates that no voter must travel more than two kilometers to vote, it follows that election officials must indeed transport ballots to remote regions by whatever means necessary, including camels, mules, yaks or elephants, depending on the region. Some of these journeys can take days: in 2019, the highest polling station in the country was located nearly five thousand meters above sea level in the Spiti Valley in the Himalayas, reachable only on foot. In 2009, a group of five people trekked into the Gir forest in Gujarat to reach the sole inhabitant of a remote Hindu temple. Election officials also set up a polling booth at an altitude of 4,650 meters in a Himachal Pradesh village, making it the world's highest polling station. And for the first time, the Election Commission said the elderly and disabled can vote from home by postal ballot. Fifteen million clerical and security personnel will be mobilized for the vote, some of them from various sectors of the civil service and temporarily assigned to polling stations. The government, given the high number of young people going to vote for the first time, has launched via social media a campaign called "Turning 18." The campaign is aimed at young people and those voting for the first time and aims to make them aware of the importance of exercising their right to vote, to promote civic engagement and a sense of responsibility, and to emphasize the key role of young voters in building a democratic future for India. Election results will be announced on June 4. All polls give current Premier Narendra Modi the winner, who is seeking a third (and historic) reappointment to his term. Contending for him, without much expectation, is a colorful Brancaleone army christened the 'Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance' whose acronym would be 'India' and which immediately led Modi's supporters to use the Hindi term 'Bharat' to refer to the nation. Inside the coalition are local parties and leaders who have little or nothing in common except a desire to win elections at any cost. Leading opposition candidate, once again Rahul Gandhi in whose veins runs the blood of India's most famous political dynasty: great-grandson of Nehru, grandson of Indira, son of Rajiv and Sonia. Once again, the golden boy child of the elite seeks to defeat at the ballot box the embodiment of the American dream in Indian sauce: Narendra Modi, the son of a chaiwallah, a tea vendor. Modi, who according to his detractors is a Hindu nationalist and supremacist who seeks to undermine democracy to its foundations, according to his supporters is the one who has restored India's national pride by making it able to sit at the table with the West on an equal basis. But above all, beyond geopolitics and international politics, for millions of people he is the one who guaranteed free supplies of grain and gas cylinders to eight hundred million poor people. He who brought electricity where it had never come before, who built toilets where they did not exist improving the lives of millions of women in villages. Who guaranteed women from destitute families a monthly payment of 1250 rupees (about 15 euros, but that counts in a village) to get by. Once again, fighting are two worldviews: the world of urban elites educated in England or the United States, which talks of ideology, democracy and creeping fascism, forgetting, however, that the only time civil liberties were paused in India was by Indira Gandhi. And the India of the common people, the petty bourgeoisie, the India of the villages: which has finally entered the twenty-first century, which can send its children to school and have a bank account. The India that can finally dream of the future.