India gears up for world’s biggest elections
India today began voting in the world’s largest election, as the ruling Congress party face the Hindu nationalist BJP opposition on the global centre stage.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh, former leader of the Congress, announced his withdrawal from the head of the assembly, stating Rahul Gandhi, the newest member of India’s influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, would be taking his place.
The compelling and controversial Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi is leading the BJP. Mr Modi, who is ahead in pre-election surveys, is the leader of Gujarat state, an area that saw one of India’s worst anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
Over 800 million Indians are eligible to vote in the poll, which ends on the 12th of May 2014, with votes being counted on the 16th.
However the nine-phase ballot faces an influx of dispute, as already the poll is deemed to be highly corrupt and dominated by high inflation.
A recent anti-corruption party, the Aam Aadmi, or Comman Man’s Party (AAP), is already contesting the elections following a remarkable result in local polls. The party made a solid presentation at the state assembly polls in Delhi, and is standing for all the seats in the parliament.
Various other peripheral parties are also tied into the mix, posing to play a significant role in government formation if no single party succeeds in a clear majority.
India’s assorted electorate and parliamentary system married with prominent local issues such as ethnic group, means that local leaders still hold substantial authority. In fact, in some areas this could deadlock the BJP, which has namely organised a campaign focused entirely on Modi.
The first day of voting will see polling happening in six constituencies in two states in the northeast, five of these in Assam and one in Tripura.
In total, some 814 million voters, over 100 million more than the last elections in 2009, are eligible to cast their vote at 930,000 polling stations.
“We need good people in government,” said a woman voter, who had queued up outside a high school for girls where polling was taking place today.
Assam offers more than six million keen voters. Many of them comment about their despondency regarding the seeming neglect of the area, because of its distance from Delhi.
The stronghold Congress party has promised “inclusive growth” if it returns to power.
However the BJP aim to usurp the voting direction as polls continue.