ONCE AGAIN, THE LARGEST ELECTION IN HUMAN HISTORY
900 million Indians, including 84 million who weren’t yet old enough to vote in the last election in 2014, are eligible. The elections are all electronic, with a paper trail. A typical turnout means more than 600 million will likely vote. Indian law requires that voters need not travel more than two kilometers to a polling place. Even with more than one million electronic voting machines (pictured) it will take six weeks to cover everyone. Elections started April 11. The seven “phases” end May 19, with results announced May 23.
The Indian Central Election Commission, an independent agency run by civil servants, has a reputation for conducting generally free and fair elections, and Indian voters, in turn, have a reputation for “throwing the rascals out.” Conventional wisdom has current Prime Minister Narendra Modi returning to office, but this time needing a coalition to govern.
The BJP is playing the “Hindu Nationalist” card in a big way this time. In 2014 Modi’s right-wing party, the BJP, won an absolute majority in Parliament. That hadn’t been done in 30 years. The opposition was then in disarray. However, just over a year ago the BJP won a reduced majority in Gujarat state elections; Gujarat is Modi’s home state. Last fall, the opposition Congress party, given up for dead, and its allies defeated incumbent BJP governments in three key state elections. Modi and the BJP seem to be running scared.
The BJP is a pro-business party, but also a Hindu nationalist one, so a BJP victory might well be good news for domestic business but not necessarily great news for foreign exporters or investors.