Election bugles are blown for one of the most exciting battles on modern earth and largest democracy to choose its Prime Minister. This time, the General Election will be contested in nine phases, spread over 36 days from April 7 to May 12. Polling will be held on April 7, 9, 10, 12, 17, 24 and 30 and May 7 and 12. The model code of conduct has flexed in with instantaneous effect. Growing social and economic empowerment has led to women asserting political choices, sometimes in defiance of patriarchal diktats. Though, women are not a homogenous vote bank but contribute to major success. The meteoric rise of the new political party on an anti-corruption platform has had an impact beyond Delhi. AAP’s brief spell in office has left mixed feelings, but it has become a talking point everywhere. How many seats it will win is unclear, but the larger challenge for established parties is to regain credibility in the face of criticism that they are all part of collusive politics that spares big business and nurtures nepotism. Certainly, no party can afford to ignore it. Indian elections have been essayed in uncertainty since 1967 when Congress’s hegemony faced its first serious challenge. However, indications are that the coming election may be even more exciting. While Congress and BJP are locked in a gladiatorial contest, the entry of AAP has inserted an X factor in the battle. Going by opinion polls, Congress seems to be heading for it’s worst-ever performance with some estimates indicating that its tally may shrink to double digits. If that were to happen, the transition of the Congress leadership to Rahul Gandhi could become a wrenching process. BJP appears poised to make big gains this time. Narendra Modi’s arrival has energised the party’s base and triggered hopes of a comeback after a decade-long power drought at the Centre. Unless BJP falls victim to its historical inability to live up to its promise, this Modi-led resurgence, coupled with a deep disenchantment with Congress, raise the possibility of his rightwing, growth-centric political model spreading to new constituencies.
It is unknown that how far sentiments on social media will translate into votes, but it is clear that the internet has become influential in shaping perceptions and opinions. While this was seen as BJP’s and Narendra Modi’s strength, a new player like Aam Aadmi Party has exploited the medium adroitly too. Television is seen as part of 24×7 politics where offering bites or influencing ticker tapes is part of the game. The votes will be counted on May 16 and within a day or two it will become apparent who will form the next government — Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi or a surprising Third Front. Along with the Lok Sabha election, three states — Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim — will also go to the polls. This election is going to be fought between BJP and Congress directly since there is no alliance with any major regional parties. The small parties will only scatter the votes and no useful purpose is going to be served. When there will be no clear majority, then regional parties will come into picture to negotiate or we can say blackmail to give their support. They will ask for better or creamy ministry. If India wants to utilise the election process properly, the system needs to be changed. If no party gets clear majority in the election result then EC should re-conduct the election with only two parties who had secured first and second position in the first election. This formula can give stable government in centre as well as state.
Ten years of UPA rule have virtually undermined the livelihoods of millions of farmers and the poor as the Congress gradually forgot the aam aadmi and moved toward safeguarding the interests of the corporate world. The Father of the Nation said India lives in its villages. In order to revitalise a sustainable village economy, the nation has to vote out both the corporate-servile Congress and the BJP. The elections marks an opportunity to do this. It is astounding that 81.4 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise through 9.13 lakh polling stations, and that 10 crore more voters have joined the ranks of voters since the election five years ago. The Election Commission deserves rich praise for being in charge of such a complex exercise. But I wonder how many of us will go to vote, to make sure that there is 100 per cent voting. More than the election, it is the Election Commission of India that has to focus the whole exercise. It has discharged its constitutionally assigned role with great distinction, emerging as one of the few credible institutions and winning public trust hands down. In 2009, there were around 71.6 crore voters. Now, the figure is closer to 76 crores, more than the population of America and even Europe. In 2009, about 59 per cent of the 71.6 crore eligible voters cast their ballot in some 8,34,000 polling booths, using 1.3 million electoral voting machines. This shows to what extent the Election Commission needs to do its homework.
With the announcement of the dates for the general election, it is also time to change things.