By Swarnima Gupta
“A son of a poor man is standing in front of you today. This is the power of democracy”
– Narendra Modi
The 16th Lok Sabha was constituted almost a year ago, when the world’s largest democracy went to polls. The magnanimous elections witnessed 814.5 million voters, 9,30,000 polling stations, and 10 million officials. It was then that the Narendra Modi led BJP made history by winning an overwhelming majority, capturing 282 seats in the lower house of the Parliament.
Such is the power of the Indian elections and the magic word of democracy, that an anti-incumbency wave swept away the Congress, the ruling party for two terms and the leading party in the Indian political scenario since Independence.
More recently, Delhi went to polls. Its streets quite literally witnessed nothing short of a celebration, with supporters and volunteers actually dancing on the streets to propagate their party. The colours of saffron contrasted with the ‘Kejri-magic’ that swept over Delhi. Delhi elections not only became dining room conversation for the educated elite, but also proved to be the favourite topic of discussion among the autowalas and rickshaw walas, as their vehicles carried banners of their leaders. They were unapologetic about pledging their loyalties – fearless even, because elections had given them a power- the power to choose their destiny for the next five years.
They exercised the power and how. The Aam Aadmi Party would have expected a victory after the opinion polls poured in, but the mandate that was announced was totally unpredictable and unexpected. AAP managed a sweeping victory, by winning 67 out of the 70 seats, practically wiping out the opposition.
Indian elections have always been a celebration of sorts. The country’s democracy took a giant step forward with the first General Election held in 1951-52, over a four-month period. These elections were the biggest experiment in democracy, anywhere in the world. India became the first country ever to grant Universal Adult Franchise, i.e., voting rights to everyone- irrespective of gender, religion, language – every Indian above the age of 18 had the right to cast their vote. There were over 173 million voters, most of them rural dwellers, poor and illiterate, with no experience of elections.
When India announced its decision to become a democratic nation, the Western world was skeptical. Nobody thought that an illiterate, poor electorate was capable of choosing the right leader for themselves. India, a country of diverse religions, races, ethnicities and languages, could never rise over divisive politics and focus on real issues. A benevolent dictatorship was seen as appropriate and the elections were described as “a leap in the dark” and as “an act of faith”.
But since then, elections have been held and to what an extent!
In the first General Elections, over fourteen national and sixty-three regional or local parties, and a large number of independents contested 489 seats for the Lok Sabha, and 3,283 seats for the state assemblies. Today, 1766 parties are listed with the Election Commission.
The last General Elections, or the recently concluded Delhi elections, made one thing clear- either a ‘chai-walla’ or a man from a middle class background – anyone can be the people’s neta.
Indian elections are a spectacle as they truly transcend the barriers of class- and a maturing electorate is making sure that elections in India are gradually transcending the barriers of religion and caste as well.
Be it ‘pad-yatras’ or digital rallies, print ads or social media, our political parties are evolving and devising new techniques to encompass the masses.
India takes pride in being the world’s largest democracy and our elections are truly a celebration. A celebration that proves that when the ‘janta’ gives its mandate, no party, no leader, no dynasty can afford to underperform.
Swarnima Gupta is a final year student pursuing B.A.(Hons). Economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce. very early age, she developed a passion for penning her thoughts on paper. Being a member of the Editorial Board of The Economics Society, SRCC developed her passion to write about current economic and political issues. As a member of Enactus SRCC, an international non profit organization, she has worked on various social entrepreneurship models. She also enjoys playing chess and is a die hard Shahrukh Khan fan!
Edited by Anjini Chandra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist