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India — Mass Democracy

What makes India’s elections an event of global political significance?

April 20, 2004

What makes India's elections an event of global political significance?

When India’s 670 million-strong electorate goes to the polls this month, the whole process will take three weeks — ending with vote counting on May 13, 2004. Politics aside, India's election is a colossal endeavor with global significance. Our Globalist Factsheet looks at the world's largest democratic process in action.

Why are India’s elections an event of global political proportions?

Each time India goes to the polls, it becomes the largest electoral exercise in history.
(Financial Times)

How many people will be involved?

In April 2004, an estimated 60% of India’s 670 million eligible voters — about 400 million people — will cast votes in the 14th national election since independence in 1947.
(Financial Times)

What sets current Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee apart?

As of 2004, at the age of 79, India’s Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is by far the oldest elected leader of any major country — yet he leads a youthful democracy.
(Financial Times)

How does India’s electorate compare to other major democracies?

The number of India’s likely voters in the 2004 parliamentary elections is larger than the entire U.S. population —and about 90% of the population of the soon-to-be 25 EU member states.
(The Globalist)

How young is India’s electorate?

As of 2004, almost 70% of India’s 1.05 billion population is under the age of 35 — and more than 50% is under age 25.
(United Nations)

What makes India’s democracy special?

In 1998, more than 50% of voters in India voted for regional, language or caste-based parties. This resulted in making India the most fragmented democracy in the world — ruled by a coalition government consisting of altogether 24 parties.
(Financial Times)

How well founded is India’s history of party politics?

India’s National Congress — which, as of 2004, is 116-years old — is one of the largest and oldest political parties in the world.
(Times of London)

How often in the past has the Congress Party ruled India?

As of 2004, India’s Congress Party has ruled India for 46 of the country’s 57 years. It was out of power between 1977 and 1980 and between 1989 and 1992 and has not ruled since 1996.
(Financial Times)

And who dominates the Congress Party?

For a total of 37 years, India has had a prime minister from the Nehru-Gandhi family.
(Times of London)

How strong is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s grasp on political power?

As of 2003, India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds 183 seats in the Indian parliament, while the opposition Congress Party holds only 112 seats. In order for it to control the majority of the 543-seat parliament, the BJP’s coalition government contains 24 parties — more than any other government in the world.
(Parliament of India)

Did the BJP get off to a shaky start in 1996?

Back in 1996, the first term of BJP Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee lasted less than two weeks. His second term — in 1998 — lasted a little more than 18 months.

Despite this, has Mr. Vajpayee managed to confound his critics?

By 2004, Mr. Vajpayee had completed a full term in office at the head of a multi-party coalition — which is the first time since India’s independence that a non-Congress Party government has completed its term.

On what platform is the BJP running?

For the 2004 general election, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is running on the slogan “electricity, roads and drinking water.”
(New York Times)

What else does the party promise to do?

In 2004, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is planning to implement overall tax cuts — and a tax exemption for people who earn less than 150,00 rupees ($3,300) a year.
(Wall Street Journal)

How is the Congress Party planning to turn around its fortunes?

As of early 2004, 70% of Indian voters supported the entry of Rajiv Gandhi’s children into politics — and 67% said it would enthuse young voters, who make up half of India’s one billion people.
(The Guardian)

Which Indian state will be crucial in the elections?

As of 2004, Uttar Pradesh is one of the poorest Indian states and has a population of about 170 million — more than Russia. Its predominantly Muslim population rarely votes for BJP candidates.
(New York Times)

And finally, why do India’s elections promise to be more accurate than the 2000 U.S. presidential election?

India’s vote is entirely electronic. More than one million electronic voting machines will be used by the expected 400 million voters.