After weeks of waiting for the dates to be announced #IndiaVotes2014 is finally confirmed. From April 7th until May 12th more than 800 million voters will vote in almost 1 million polling stations over 36 days (using electronic voting machines), making, what one of my colleagues termed #thelongestelectionintheworld an appropriate hashtag. Votes will be counted on May 16th.
India is the world’s largest democracy, with an unblemished record (at national level at least, other than Indira Gandhi’s Emergency of 1975-77). These are the 16th national elections since independence in 1947. India has changed much in that time – from a polity dominated by the Indian National Congress (although dominated more in terms of seats won than votes gained, even in the first national election, it won 76 per cent of the seats on only 45 per cent of the vote) to one now characterised by coalition politics and a plethora of political parties. National political parties do still exist, the Indian National Congress and the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can still claim this mantle (even though they received 29 per cent and 19 per cent of the vote respectively in 2009) but they are unable to come to power on their own, relying on regional and caste based allies. Turnout varies, around 60 percent, making the Election Commission’s prediction of an over 70% turnout this time, an ambitious one (although for the first time, voters will be offered a ‘none of the above’ option – which will surely present Indian psephologists with some interesting new data).
The Ballots and Bullets Blog from the School of Politics and International Relations and the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies will focus on the Indian elections in the coming weeks, covering the campaign, salient issues and the importance of understanding state level politics in India (the aggregation of votes from which will ultimately decide India’s next government). It will feature blog posts from academics in institutions across the world, including Pakistan, India itself, Europe, America and the UK. And of course, there will be analysis of the results as well.
Much has been made of the clash between two leaders. The first is Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, controversial because he presided over the massacre of at least a thousand Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002 (popular with others for exactly the same reason), but also because the state that he is Chief Minister of, Gujarat, has been one of the most economically successful in India. The second is Rahul Gandhi, son of Sonia and Rajiv (assassinated in 1991), grandson of Indira Gandhi (assassinated in 1984) and the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. But is a national leader dominated analysis the appropriate lens through which to view an election in such a diverse and differentiated country? Regional leaders, not least the indomitable Jayalalitha from Tamil Nadu are just as important. And issues are also paramount – the blog will feature posts on important issues such as corruption, gender, the environment, the economy and health.
Posts will begin in the week of March 10th and will gradually increase in frequency as the election draws closer. We hope you enjoy the blogs.
Professor Katharine Adeney is the Director of the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies at the University of Nottingham. She is author of Federalism and Ethnic Conflict Regulation in India and Pakistan (2007) and Contemporary India (2010) (with Andrew Wyatt). She has also co-edited (with Lawrence Saez), Coalition Politics and Hindu Nationalism. She tweets @katadeney