Friday, April 11, 2014

Indian general election, 2014


general election is taking place in nine phases, the longest election in the country's history, from 7 April to 12 May 2014 to constitute the 16th Lok Sabha in India. Voting will take place in all 543 parliamentary constituencies of India to elect members of parliament in the Lok Sabha.[1] The result of this election will be declared on 16 May, before the15th Lok Sabha completes its constitutional mandate on 31 May 2014.[2]
According to the Election Commission of India, the electoral population in 2014 is 81.45 crores, the largest in the world.[3] There is an increase of 10 crores newly eligible voters.[4] This also will be the longest and the most expensive general election in the history of the country with the Election Commission of India estimating that the election will cost the exchequer INR 35 billion, excluding the expenses incurred for security and individual political parties.[5] Parties are expected to spend INR 3.05 thousand crores (about US$5 billion) in the election, according to the Centre for Media Studies. This is three times the amount spent in the previous election and is the world's second highest after the US$7 billion spent on the 2012 U.S. presidential election.[6] Though unelected, incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ruled himself out as a prime ministerial candidate.[7]

Background

By constitutional requirement, elections to the Lok Sabha must be held at most every five years or whenever parliament is dissolved by the president. The previous election, to the15th Lok Sabha, was conducted in April–May 2009, and its term will naturally expire on 31 May 2014. The election is being organised and conducted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) and are normally held in multiple phases, to better handle the large electoral base and security concerns.
Since the last general election in 2009, the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement by Anna Hazare, and other similar moves by Baba Ramdev, have gathered momentum and political interest.[8] The BJP also made inroads by winning a majority of the Vidhan Sabha in the Goa election and winning despite a tradition of anti-incumbency in Punjab. However, it lost governing in UttarakhandHimachal Pradesh and its southern bastion of Karnataka to the INC. It also failed in its having its nominated candidate with the 2012 presidential election, particularly because allies such as the Shiv Sena and Janata Dal (United) failed to follow coalition lines. Similarly, the Telangana movement for a separateTelangana from Andhra Pradesh also continued with agitations, including the initial central government decision to grant statehood and then rescind it after counter-protests. The move was accompanied by calls for other separate areas including Vidharba and Gorkhaland. Andhra politics was further shaken following death of its chief minister, Y. S. R. Reddy. His son, Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy, then broke from the INC and founded the YSR Congress taking several politicians with him.
On 8 December 2013, four legislative assembly elections resulted in victories or pluralities for the BJP in all provinces. The BJP won Rajasthan from the INC, it won a plurality in the INC bastion of Delhi (where there was a hung assembly) and held on to Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, was generally credited in the media for the result.[9][10] However, in Madhya Pradesh the party's national vice-president and MP Prabhat Jha said of the Muslim vote: "Definitely they voted for us. More than 70% of the Muslim voters backed BJP's programmes and policies." Indore's Qazi Abdul Rehman Farooqui suggested that it was Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhanthat ensured the result was an even bigger BJP majority saying that "had Modi not been projected as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Chouhan would have got more votes."[11] The BJP's Arun Jaitley suggested the INC-led UPA government was now a lame duck.[12]In January 2013, the Election Commission of India announced that it would be using an SMS based alert system called Communication Plan for Election (COMET) during the election. The system, aimed at sending messages to the lakhs of government officials on election duty, was successfully deployed in the provincial assembly elections in Goa, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur in early 2012 and in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat in late 2012.
The COMET system "uses coded text messages through mobile phones to collect data about officials, information about scheduled events like staff reaching the polling station, mock polls conducted, start of polling, voting percentages every two hours, number of voters in after voting time was over, and whether the poll party reached safely at the high security Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) deposit centre." The system would also send alerts to the local police in case of disturbances at any polling station.[13]

Changes

Satendra Singh, a doctor with a disabilty,[14] showed the lack of preparedness by the Election Commission of India (ECI) towards electors with disabilities through the Right to Information Act .[15] The Chief Electoral Office in Delhi, Vijay Dev then started a campaign on providing accessibility for the disabled, along with him. Singh conducted sensitisation workshops for election officers and helped in setting up a registration link for voters with disabilities to register to vote and provide their requirements.[16]

Dates

The election will be held over multiple phases during the months April and May.[17] The final session of parliament started on 6 February and ended on 21 February. Amongst the agenda in the final session is passing the The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013 in tackling corruption and the creation of Telegana.[18] Electoral Commissioner V. S. Sampath said that Tamil Nadu could vote in one phase, while also considering DMK's proposal to transfer Tamil Nadu Deputy General of Police K. Ramanujam, who is serving as extended terms after his superannuation to ensure a free and fair election.[19]
Simulataneously, elections will be held for the Vidhan Sabhas of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim.[20]
The Chief Election Commissioner of India (CEC), V. S. Sampath announced the polling schedule on 5 March with voting to be held in nine phases from 7 April to 12 May. The result of the election will be announced on 16 May.[21]

[hide]RegionTotal constituenciesElection dates and number of constituencies[22]
  • Phase 1
  • 7 April 2014
  • Phase 2
  • 9 April 2014
  • Phase 3
  • 10 April 2014
  • Phase 4
  • 12 April 2014
  • Phase 5
  • 17 April 2014
  • Phase 6
  • 24 April 2014
  • Phase 7
  • 30 April 2014
  • Phase 8
  • 7 May 2014
  • Phase 9
  • 12 May 2014
Progress
Andhra Pradesh421725
Arunachal Pradesh22
Assam14536
Bihar40677776
Chhattisgarh11137
Goa22
Gujarat2626
Haryana1010
Himachal Pradesh44
Jammu & Kashmir611112
Jharkhand14464
Karnataka2828
Kerala2020
Madhya Pradesh2991010
Maharashtra48101919
Manipur211
Meghalaya22
Mizoram11*
Nagaland11
Odisha211011
Punjab1313
Rajasthan25205
Sikkim11
Tamil Nadu3939
Tripura211
Uttar Pradesh80101112141518
Uttarakhand55
West Bengal42469617
Andaman and Nicobar Islands11
Chandigarh11
Dadra and Nagar Haveli11
Daman and Diu11
Lakshadweep11
National Capital Territory of Delhi77
Puducherry11
Constituencies contested54367*917121117896441
* - The date of voting in Mizoram has been deferred to 11 April.[23]Social media played an increasing role in the election.[29] In regards to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riotscommunalism played a role in the election.[30]

Issues

Important issues during the campaign included rising prices, corruption, the economy, security, infrastructure such as roads, electricity and water. In a survey[by whom?] for about 14% of people corruption is the main issue of the election.[31]

Economy

Bloomberg also highlighted India's slowing economy amidst a record high current account deficit and a falling rupee in summer 2013. It pointed out to a lack of infrastructure investment and a government increasingly likely to give subsidies the national finances cannot afford just before the election. Other points it mentioned were stagnant policymaking and an inefficient bureaucracy.[32] The economy was the main issue in the campaign.[33] The lack of a clear mandate as a result of the election could lead to an increase in the price of gold in the country.[34][35] Modi also brought up the issue of farmer suicides that resulted from high debt and poor yield on their crops.[36]

Price rise

The price of onions, a staple in Indian cuisine, also faces a dramatic price increase.[37] In the lead up to the election, consumer price inflation increased more than expected while, paradoxically, industrial production fell by more than expected causing a dilemma amid slowing growth.[38] The price of salt was also indicative of general food inflation.[39]

Telangana

On 30 July 2013, the Congress Working Committee unanimously passed a resolution for the creation of Telangana. It formally requested the INC-led central government to make steps in accordance with the constitution of India for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and the re-creation of Telangana. This was seen as an attempt by the INC to merge theTelangana Rashtra Samiti into itself for the general and provincial election after being marginalised in the Rayalseema and coastal regions by the YSR Congress. All-India Congress Committee general secretary for Andhra Pradesh Digvijay Singh said that TRS leader K. Chandrashekhar Rao had "repeatedly said that once Telangana was announced, he would merge his party with the Congress. We will await his decision and will be favourably inclined to accept the offer of a merger."[40] TRS welcomed the decision, with Rao saying that his party was fine with Hyderabad being the joint capital for 10 years;[41] Ongole was then suggested as the new capital of Andhra Pradesh.[42] YSR Congress party leader Jaganmohan Reddy said that he opposed the decision and would agitate against it,[43] as all its MLAs resigned over the issue.[44] However, former party member Konda Surekha attacked the party and its leader saying that he had backtracked on plenary party meeting supporting the issue.[45] Andhra Pradesh BJP president G. Kishan Reddy gave credit for the move to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in saying that the INC took active interest in the issue after Modi had announced a tour to Hyderabad for 11 August.[46] The BJP national spokesperson Prakash Javadekar suggested that the INC move was under pressure and "that's why we will watch carefully and see whether the intention again to backstab or to really give Telangana, and will watch till Telangana is formed."[47] He added that the BJP supports the creation of "Telangana and Vidarbha's demand. [The] announcement is the victory of the people of Telangana. BJP has always been in favour of Telangana. Congress promised it in 2004 but dilly-dallied for nine years. It has been a story of the struggle of the people of Telangana and nine years of betrayal by the Congress. The NDA's agenda in 1999 promised creation of three states, and it was honoured. The Congress, in contrast, made a promise in 2004 but betrayed people for nine years." BJP national President Rajnath Singh re-iterated support and added, in regards to requests for the creation of Gorkhaland and Bodoland, "We were in favour of the Second States Reorganisation Commission earlier too. We now demand that the government should set it up and seek a report within a specific timeframe.[48] The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha also reacted in announcing an indefinite strike in calling for Gorkhaland.[49] Meanwhile, the national Home Ministry said that due to the lack of development in the proposed areas and the proximity to other hotbeds in Chhattishgarh's Bastarand Maharashtra's Gadchiroli regions it could turn into a hotbed for the activities of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) if the administration is not quickly consolidated.[50] In February, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Kiran Kumar Reddy resigned over the proposal to partition the region. He would launch the Samaikyandhra party on 2 March. Three of his cabinet colleagues – Erasu Pratap Reddy, T. G. Venkatesh and Ganta Srinivasa Rao – were set to join the Telugu Desam Party. Further, Satrucharla Vijaya Rama Raju quit the INC and was considering a similar move.[51] Men's rights organisations have submitted their demands to all major[which?] political parties under a "Men-ifesto."[52] to press their demand for gender equal laws.

Celebrity candidates

As is customary, token celebrity candidates from non-political spheres were nominated in the election. These included: Mohammad Kaif (INC), Ravi Kishan (INC), Nandan Nilekani(INC), Gul Panag (AAP), Moon Moon Sen (TMC), Dev (TMC), Bhaichung Bhutia (TMC), Biswajit Chatterjee (TMC), Indranil Sen (TMC), Paresh Rawal (BJP), Kirron Kher (BJP), P. C. Sorcar, Jr. (BJP), Babul Supriyo (BJP), Pawan Kalyan (JSP)[53] Kamaal Rashid Khan (Samajwadi), Mahesh Manjrekar (MNS), Rakhi Sawant (Rashtriya Aam Party),[54] Jaaved Jaaferi (AAP),[55] and Bappi Lahiri (BJP),[56] General Vijay Kumar Singh (BJP)
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