A Reuters image showing an Indian voter getting inked.A Reuters image showing an Indian voter getting inked.

Visions and Distortions: Pre-poll analysis of the 17th Lok Sabha Elections of India

It is all about leadership and vision. The government has access to power, in that rest the hopes and aspirations of the people who have faith in the social contract. The ability to represent rests supreme. For the next five years there are policies that are going to guide the entire country. The people of India diversely do have high hopes and aspirations. Creation of jobs, strengthening the agricultural sector by providing more financial security to the farmers and new infrastructure are prime concerns. New faces emerge as generations change. The Indian general elections are the biggest exercise for pluralistic democracy.

India is now in its final phase of the general election. The 6th phase polling completed with an average of 63% voter turnout for major deciding states. Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal will be crucial deciders for mainly the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 80% of polling has been successfully completed. Incidents of sporadic violence have been reported in various parts of the country by fringe elements and naxalites disturbing the democratic process. Tensions run high as to who would lead India for the next 5 years.

Exit polls and projections either have determined BJP and NDA with a majority of maximum 280 seats. There are polls that also have a hung parliament with a coalition likely on the cards.

Emerging faces: 

This election brings forth candidates young and old from varied sectors that will have an impact in the polls. Any new face that emerges brings within a ray of hope especially if the candidate is already known through his or her merit.

Major political parties mainly the ruling BJP and the Indian National Congress (INC) have fielded candidates accordingly to garner votes and strengthen their parties prospects for a decisive win.

The “Mahagathbandhan” (Grand Alliance, MGB.) aims to deter the NDA posing a formidable force that will be extremely competitive and cost both the INC and BJP. These regional parties have career politicians like Chandrababu Naidu, Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati. They have their presence in large states which make a substantial difference to the magic number of 272. Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar have numerous seats.

Similarly the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will continue to fight for their place in the state of Delhi, seats in Punjab, and Haryana on a seat sharing basis with an alliance with the INC.

Several young candidates have hit the centre stages that have uplifted their respective constituencies providing a ray of hope.

33 year old Padma Shri Vijender Singh is representing the INC from the South Delhi constituency. He is an acclaimed athlete with excellence in boxing. He has won many accolades representing India including an Olympic bronze. He is also a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

32 year old Dr. Kanhaiya Kumar is representing Begusarai of Bihar from the Communist Party of India (CPI). His electrifying oratory skills filled with in-depth knowledge has drawn large crowds. A pass out of premier Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dr. Kumar has also served as the student unions President.

33 year old Raju Bista representing the Nepali constituency of Darjeeling from the ruling BJP is an entrepreneur. Darjeeling has always been a cruising winner crucial for the BJP. Jaswant Singh who was previous Cabinet Minister from the BJP and Surenderjeet Singh Ahluwalia held this seat. Mr. Bista has his ties with Darjeeling, and for a change after over a decade we see a Nepali candidate.

28 year old Tejasvi Surya is veracious in live debates. He is representing Bangalore South representing the BJP. He not only is the party spokesperson but also the state general secretary for Karnataka BJP’s youth wing. His strength lies in digital political communication.

Starlit faces: 

Candidates have also been selected by major political parties from the Indian film industry popularly known as “Bollywood”.

Yesteryear beauty of the iconic “Chamma Chamma” fame Urmila Matondkar is representing Mumbai North from the Indian National Congress.

Bollywood actor Sunny Deol rallying for BJP.
Bollywood actor Sunny Deol rallying for BJP.

Similarly legendary actor Sunny Deol is representing Gurdaspur Punjab from the BJP.

South star Prakash Raj as an independent candidate.
South star Prakash Raj as an independent candidate.

South star Prakash Raj is running independently from Bangalore central. He was inclined toward politics after the gruesome assassination of his friend journalist GauriLankesh. He has received a formidable response to his candidacy and has also appeared in numerous talks, debates and discussions.

Is the dignity of democracy in danger?

Elections in India have been a thoroughly absorbing affair. People hope that their respective constituencies will move forward in development with equitable opportunity. Democracy provides for the safeguard against tyranny and allows people to come forward with merit irrespective of what their background may be.

While the general public does want impending answers on creation of jobs, healthcare and a secure livelihood, the projected speeches from the existing leadership has been wholly unsatisfactory. Speeches throughout campaigns of several political parties even Prime Minister Modi himself has revolved around personal name calling, who said what against who, levelling charges on one another and hate mongering.

This definitely has belittled one of the most important global exercises of the largest democratic population of the world, 900 million eligible voters. 45 million new eligible voters in this 17thLok Sabha Election, it is an ongoing spectacle. The ruling party BJP will pay heavily for having not discussed their previous manifesto accomplishments and their existing plans and actions on taking India forward.

In Delhi, democracy is at its lowest ebb. Candidate Atishi Marlena of the ruling AAP in Delhi was humiliated and practically dehumanized by the circulation of a pamphlet filled with obscenity. Although Cricketer turned politician Gautam Gambhir representing BJP denies the allegations, it has exposed a major flaw shaking the foundations of democracy. They are representing the East Delhi constituency and are contending each other.

The 17thLok Sabha Election had its own share of perplexities and continues to do so. Incidents of extreme violence including murder and arson from various parts of the country have been reported. Booth capturing and Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) tampering have also come into the forefront. Former Union Minister and the Chief of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Sharad Pawar has alleged of malfunctioning EVM’s, “I pressed the button against ‘watch’ (the NCP’s symbol) and the vote got cast in favour of ‘lotus’ (the BJP’s symbol). I saw it happening myself,” Pawar told reporters of the Indian Express. No wonder Former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and senior INC leader Digvijay Singh didn’t vote, but was going booth to booth in his constituency. He is a candidate from Bhopal but his voting area is Rajgarh.

Visions and Distortions- Parallels

Whether Congress will deliver, or will BJP full fill its promise is something that will be decided soon by the Indian public. Access to social media, multimedia and technology is playing a crucial role in determining voter preferences.

While India is moving ahead in space technology, and creating a unified system, it has also left educated masses out. There is a striding and rising middle class, but opportunities are scarce and extremely competitive.

At this juncture we expect leaders to provide a vision something like the newly introduced National Health Protection Scheme (Ayushman Bharat Yojana).

A vision will guide India forward with the support of its very educated young and rising base. It has to have a concrete plan of a rising educated class who have access to information.

Promises have been broken, and similar manifestoes are being produced every election from all political parties. New India and its generation want to know about opportunities and progress rather than divisive languages against one another and name calling. The new generation of India would unlikely be impressed with religious validations and ultra nationalism. Rather opportunities and security of livelihood is a compelling concern.

Leaders should take into account their work, and provide a vision for the next 5 years on what is to be achieved. Rather we have several distortions, some of which have seriously undermined and threatened the spirit of democracy. We will see what the public decide on the 23rd of May.

Birat Krishna Thapa holds a Masters Degree in Political Science with specialization in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is currently serving as the Director for the Soul of Healing Trust, a Bangalore based non profit for healthcare. He is also involved in Ed-Tech Entrepreneurship as the Co-founder of Literary Aisle, and My Smart Reader. He currently resides in South Delhi.

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