Thursday, March 5, 2009

Indian elections, the biggest democratic exercise on planet earth

This April-May the world is going to witness the biggest democratic exercise on planet earth, with India going to the polls to elect the ruling party or coalition of parties to govern the country for the next five years. This election is going to be especially important because a major chunk of voters are of what we call Generation Next, say, in the age group of 18 to 35 years. And interestingly most of them are first-time voters.

Apart from the ruling coalition of the Congress lead by Sonia Gandhi and the opposition coalition lead by BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) lead by their leader and the Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani, a third front, mainly of the leftist parties, CPM - Communist Party of India (Marxist) - and other communist or socialist parties and powerful regional parties like Telugu Desam are also in the fray.

The third front may not be able to pullout a win by itself, but they are definitely going to decide who is going to rule India for the next five years. These parties used to be in one or the other of the main coalitions in the past and the swing of their votes usually decided the next ruling coalition, just because in the last few elections no single party could win a majority of its own.

Most of the third front parties were in the outgoing coalition of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Now, if they fight against their current allies the left parties and their allies in the coalition are definitely going to drastically reduce the winning margins and the number of seats won by the Congress lead coalition. The BJP may not have to worry much because the leftists were always against them. BJP has so many other factors to tackle if its coalition has to win.

All the major players are campaigning this time in the high-tech path, rather tech-savvy with the aggressive use of the Internet and social networking sites. For instance, Sonia Gandhi’s YouTube video of the kisan rally saw thousands of hits on the first day. BJP’s PM candidate L K Advani’s website ( features his blog and the Advani Campus Program. BJP wants to do some Obamagic by hiring Kevin Bertram, the man behind Obama’s poll campaign. Bertram was in India recently and BJP wants to do a cellphone campaign similar to the one that lead Obama to victory, informed sources report.

Any way, young India, the major chunk of the electorate, will have a final say. There is very much the possibility of a hung parliament and post-poll re-alliances and regroupings of political parties and even elected members of parliament switching sides.

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