Between April and May, at least 900 million voters are expected to participate In the seven-phased election, which will determine who'll be the country's new parliamentarians as well as prime minister.

Voters queued in 2014's general election in India. 
Photo credit: AP
Voters queued in 2014's general election in India. Photo credit: AP (AP)

A total of 900 million Indians have registered to vote for the April 11 general election in seven phases. Spread over more than five weeks, the voting will continue until May 19 2019, and the counting is expected to be completed within four days, with the results scheduled to  be declared on May 23.

It is typical for a democratic country of 1.3 billion to hold elections in multiple phases.

How will it take place?

The Election Commission of India (ECI), an autonomous constitutional authority, will  conduct the voting process. The ECI has a staff capacity including more than 300 full-time officials who work out of its New Delhi headquarters. They work in collaboration with the local administrations of each state, assigning electoral work to five million government officials.

The competition between the parties is for 543 of the 545 seats in India's lower house of parliament, Lok Sabha.

The remaining two seats are held for the Anglo-Indian community, which traces part of its ancestry to Europeans who intermarried with Indians in the colonial era. India's president nominates these members.

What it takes to conduct such a massive election?

About 900 million eligible voters, above the age of 18, have registered for the general election that will be held next month. Five years ago, in the 2014 general election, only 553 million Indians out of 830 million came to the polls.

The number of polling stations set up for the 2019 Lok Sabha election is 1,035,918 across the country. According to ECI guidelines, no voter should be more than two kilometres away from a polling station.

In India, the minimum age to vote has been lowered from 21 to 18 through the Sixty-first Constitutional Amendment, 1988.

For such a colossal election, apart from roping in five million government officials, tens of thousands of security forces are deployed to conduct violence-free elections. They travel by foot, road, special train, helicopter, boat and sometimes elephant.

The polling stations are usually run in remote areas. More than 80,000 stations surveyed by the ECI lacked mobile connectivity. An estimated 20,000 stations were located in forest or semi-forest areas.

For just one voter, the ECI set up a polling station in the Gir forest of western Gujarat state in the 2009 general election.

The voting process in India is completed in several phases. Usually, the deployment of government officials and security forces takes more than one month. However, the vote counting for all 543 constituencies is finished within a day.

The ECI estimates the cost of the entire process in the 2014 general election was $552 million.

In this election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to secure a second term with his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. 

The first historic election in India, which took place in 1951-52, was completed in three months.

Key Issues

Critics say, with more than half of India’s population under 25 years of age, the votes of the jobless youth could derail Modi’s chances of securing a second term in the upcoming general election.

According to a report published by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate in India rose to 7.2 percent last month, up from 5.9 percent in February 2018.

The CMIE Managing Director Mahesh Vyas, said data based on household surveys shows 31.2 million people were actively looking for jobs in February, 2019.

Employers in India often complain about the lack of skilled engineering and technology graduates, Varun Aggarwal, who is an electrical engineer and co-founder of the skills assessment firm Aspiring Minds, told Reuters.

“We need to start there, at the beginning of the educational system,” he said.

Besides unemployment, India's economy has also taken a hit with the Indian rupee becoming Asia's worst performing currency in the later part of 2018.

But the Modi-led BJP has deployed aggressive rhetoric against Pakistan and all the opposition parties. Soon after a suicide bomber hit a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces in India-administered Kashmir, the BJP was quick to beat the war drums, even launching an airstrike in Pakistan and bringing south Asia to the brink of a full-blown war. 

Although military tensions between India and Pakistan have calmed down in the last week, the BJP and its supporters have stoked fears of terrorism and gain an upper hand.

Source: TRT World