Sunday, 11 May 2014

Indian elections 2014: Why is India voting

A supporter saving himself from the heat in a political meeting
Tomorrow is the last phase of India's marathon 2014 national elections. The last few weeks have been very exhausting for not only the political parties and journalists who have been constantly producing and whipping electoral news but also for citizens who have been consuming only electoral news through these weeks. On the 16th of this month we would know who would get an opportunity to 'rule' India for the next five years, the challenger BJP, the incumbent Congress or the dark horse (a concoction of several smaller parties).

However, as the voting ends and India moves towards the next government I thought it might be a good idea to look at the issues around which the electorate has organised itself:

Roads: Roads, bridges and other such infrastructure is a critical issue, especially for the rural and non metro voters. While several parties have been constantly organising 'road shows' (the latest being in the historical city Banaras), they forget the roads on which these shows are organised.

Water: Clean drinking water but also clean rivers like the Ganges in Banaras and Yamuna in Delhi have come to the forefront this year.

Electricity: Electricity is a critical issue every year (and still doesn't get solved). This year to electricity is a paramount issue especially in states like Bihar which perform very badly in this area. I have written earlier on this blog on the energy, electricity and politics nexus.


Education: This is not about the poorly educated or uneducated politicians. This is about education facilities especially again away from the big metros and especially for the poor.

Jobs: Again, this is not about the politicians, although they are seeking jobs for themselves too. Lack of jobs and creation of jobs continues to be a big issue for people.

Corruption: I don't really want to say anything about this. Just put India corruption in Google and the 'about 138,000,000 results (0.38 seconds)' would be enough to tell a story. This is possibly the single biggest issue in the elections 2014.



Now, these were the broader, superficial development issues that some people in India would vote on. There are other subterranean issues that are much more important in the Indian elections every time and this election is no different:

Religion: Religious polarisation is one tool that both the so called 'communal' and 'secular' parties of India use, whether it is the religion of the majority community or the religion of the minority community. A special feature of this election has been a strong emphasis on the religious bias of Mr. Narendra Modi (the BJP's prime ministerial candidate) and his comparison to Hitler.

Caste: Caste alignments in several parts of India, especially UP and Bihar often take precedence over any other issue because of the underlying theory that the government of a different cast would exclude the other castes from the development net. So, theoretically then development follows caste empowerment. In 1995 a Congress politician V. N. Gadgil said "In India you do not cast your vote, you vote your caste". This still stands true.

Region: In the last three decades several regional parties have emerged and become very powerful in India. These not only promise to fulfil regional aspirations but also cater to regional pride and honour.

Cash, laptops, TVs: More recently political parties have started distributing freebies like TV sets, laptops and of course cash to voters who vote for them. This by the voters is often seen as a compensation against the lack of roads or electricity. Many don't expect the development activities to reach them and often see these shot term gains as a better option. After all, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.

Husbands: Although there is now talk of a more independent female vote, many rural women still vote along with their husbands, guided and often coerced by them. So, politicians focus on the demands of the males and the female votes automatically come along.

These according to me were the main factors based on which India voted during these elections. Let the counting commence!

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