India Insight

Facts and figures for India’s 2014 general election

Voting in the 2014 election begins on April 7. More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — will be eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.

Voting will be held in 10 stages, which will be staggered until May 12, and results are due to be announced on May 16. Elections to state assemblies in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim will be held simultaneously.

Around 930,000 polling stations will be set up for the month-long election using electronic voting machines, first introduced in 2004.

Uttar Pradesh has the most eligible voters (134 million); Sikkim the lowest (about 362,000). Male voters constitute 52.4 percent of the electorate but women voters outnumber men in eight regions — Puducherry, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Daman & Diu, Meghalaya, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh.

About 23 million eligible voters have been enrolled in the 18 to 19 age group, nearly 3 percent of India’s voters.

India’s election forecast: the street or the punters?

India’s bookies are still holding out on the Congress party scraping through a largely issueless election with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the firm favourite to retain his post. They have given L.K. Advani, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a 3-1 chance to win the top job.

But are the bookies, who operate below the radar, missing out on a possible late advance by BJP?

Shares rose 4 percent to their highest close on Tuesday on investor speculation that the BJP, seen as business-friendly, may have gained momentum in the final stages of a mammoth election.

The no-vote option: Will Indians ever exercise it?

Democracy is all about choice and there have been calls to introduce a “none of the above” option in electronic voting machines so that guardians of the election process in the world’s largest democracy can reject candidates who don’t pass muster.

And if this is likely to get sucked into political wrangling – the fate of most pertinent issues in India – some say the Election Commission (EC), political activists and those urging the “sleeping population to wake up and vote” should  advertise the virtues of Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Elections Rules, which allows you to register your disapproval.

A peek into the election rulebook reveals the following about 49-O: “Elector deciding not to vote – If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.”

Are frequent elections a waste of time and money?

The general elections in India, due shortly, may not throw up a clear winner.

This could mean weeks or even months of political uncertainty as parties negotiate for power.

Of the past six prime ministers, only three could complete their term.

In this context, the idea for a fixed term for parliament or the government may be floated again.

Indeed, the Chief Election Commissioner recently suggested a fixed term of five years for the government to cope with the increased frequency of elections, which hinders governance.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Indian, Pakistani op-eds show signs of softening

After a month of hurling insults across the border over the Mumbai attacks, newspaper editorials in both India and Pakistan are softening their rhetoric and asking -- still quietly and tentatively for now -- whether the two countries might perhaps be able to sort it out.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, in an editorial headlined "War hysteria abating on both sides" welcomes a report that India is not setting a timeframe for Pakistan to act against the groups it blamed for the Mumbai attacks. "There is always a risk of exaggerating the prospects of peace breaking out between India and Pakistan, just as there is that irrepressible tendency to overplay the fear of war lurking round the corner," it says.  But it adds: "At the moment all the pointers from New Delhi raise hope. Or, shall we say, they don’t look bleak?"

The Daily Times goes further, arguing that with the threat of war receding, Pakistan must act against anyone launching militant attacks outside its borders and collaborate actively with India to pursue anyone found to be involved in Mumbai.

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