What will determine India’s elections?

What will determine India’s elections?

Phase one of India’s month-long parliamentary elections kicks off on April 16. The 714-million-strong electorate appears to be split between myriad parties and their competing platforms, with the result that analysts predict a new government hamstrung by coalition politics.

What do you think are the issues that will be on Indian voters’ minds when they go to the polls? Employment? The economy? Communal issues? Or India’s global standing?


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54 Responses to “What will determine India’s elections?”

  1. Venkat says:

    commentators have to also present aletrnate views about BJP(as a non dynastic, nationalist party) and Modi(as an uncorrupt, eficient leader as indicated by India Today Opinion polls). Failure to do so will increase hatered on all sides and the suffrer will be poor Pakistani and Indian.

  2. Maritimer says:

    In the last 30 years, Indians have voted for change each time in the National elections with the exception of 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi swept the polls on the back of public sympathy for Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
    Voting out a government is a natural checks-and-balances in a democratic system. This trend is evident in recent State assembly elections, where non-performing governments are defeated, while good governance is rewarded by the voters.

    The main national issues in election ’09 will be unemployment and security from terror attacks. Local issues like development programs for the rural poor and infrastructure projects will be key considerations for many voters. People of India are not bothered about religion or caste. Parties that pursue vote bank politics -the grand old Congress party, the Communists and the Yadavs are losing ground this time. Will the BJP be able to stitch up a post poll alliance with regional parties in South India remains to be seem.

    Political stability in the last 10 years has resulted in India’s economy growing consistently at a rate of 7%. Voters will also consider the stability factor in this elections.

  3. Walker says:

    If only Air Marshal Ahsgar Khan was an Indian and was the Prime Ministerial candidate!. May be it is time to get Pakistanis and Indians to vote together a team of wise men of such integrity to guide entire S.Asia – what a world it will be. Will dawn mobilise the virtual netizens?

  4. Shankar says:

    Secularism is the separation of state and government not the abolition of religion or removal of religion based parties. There are a variety of political parties in India which are caste based. There are quite a few which are religion based. But if BJP comes to power, it will not have constitutional power to harm the Muslim’s or Christians. As a matter of fact BJP appointed Abdul Kalam as the President of India. The secular sounding parties like Congress will bend backwards to please the non-Hindu communities. The intelligentsia in India is purely secular. India as a whole acknowledges the enormous contributions made by the Christian community in education, health and social service. In summary, secularism, though a little tenuous, is doing well in India.

    That is why the rise of Taliban in Pakistan is the biggest nightmare for India. They will employ every strong point in democracy and secularism to their advantage until they gain control and then destroy everything, every temple, every church, every Gurudwara and every organization that is even remotely secular. We pray to God to give your country the courage to fight them!

  5. Venkat says:

    I find Pakistani(and many Indian too) commentators call BJP as just a Hindu fundamentalist party ad nauseum hoping that it will become the truth is truly abhorrent. There are fringe elements in BJP just as there are fringe elements in Congress or Communists. While anyone has every right to express their opinion, a responsible commentator need to present all sides. For example there is no recognition by these commentators that BJP is non dynastic(almost all other parties barring communists are run as personal properties), non minority appeasing(for the sake of votes) natioanlistic party. One may bash BJP’s Modi as a demon but one should also recognize millions of Gujaratis feel otherwise and that is the reason he got re-elected. It is also a fact that he is recognized as No 1 chief Minister in India today. It is a fact that Gujarat has pulled ahead of many other progressive states on many development parameters(for your info Modi did not do development only for Hindus!). I don’t see any Dawn or commentators from any Islamic country daring to present these facts. So bottom line, these biased views builds only more hatered on all sides and the losers are common man!. An apolitical Pakistani or Indian have the same aspiration. To live with freedom and dignity and have economic well being for himself and his family. Building hatered only affects poor common man!! These commentators do not help in any way!!

  6. Sourabh Jain says:

    I read views presented in this forum and saw a consensus that Indians trust the democratic system of governance. Many people have referred to BJP as a non-secular Hindu party. I don’t support this thought. In India Hindus are 84% of the total population and still there in no national party that focuses on Hindu-centric issues and I think this is how it should be. The irony in India is that Hindu votes get divided between parties and so political parties don’t value them. Hindus usually don’t vote for religion and religion is usually not a big election issue. Many political parties pamper minorities so that minority votes can be isolated and used in their interest.
    BJP does not pamper minorities and so it has been branded as non-secular. Sometime back Narendra Modi was criticized by many Hindu-outfits for demolishing temples for improving infrastructure in Gujarat. Remember these Hindu-outfits have no political representation. It will be difficult for many to believe that a person like Modi whom the media branded the orchestrator of Gujrat riots, demolished temples. The fact is that, media finds it convenient to brand parties and people and they have branded BJP as non-secular party. BJP has many Muslim workers and the BJP manifesto does not have a single word about Hinduism. BJP had Muslim workers even before it came to power.
    Every political party in India knows that they need support from all the communities to come in power. Since past few years I have seen increased concentration on development issues. Caste and religion issues do crop up during election time but they hardly affect the outcome.

  7. undemocratic says:

    For all those who responded to my previous comment, I am repeating that democracy in a developing 3rd world country with 45% illiteracy only brings the corrupt, criminals and bigoted to the power, which in turn brings inefficiency to overall system. Just count number of criminal MPs in our 540 odd seat parliament, it is something like 200+.

    My father used to tell me that only time when he has seen discipline in India was when Indira Gandhi declared an emergency for around 1.5 years.

    Just look at how our politicians manipulate the illiterate masses, they bring childish bollywood stars like Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan, Chiranjeevi, Jayalalitha to garner. Are the real issues to be tackled in the country in the minds of any of these politicians or any of these voters. Look at the way how these crooks get votes, by distributing money, liquor and what not.

    Is democracy a boon or bane for India? I would say it is a bane. Of course, because of democracy, I can criticise anybody I like, I have religious freedom and I can follow any religion that I like.

    But, all these freedom at what cost, just think my friends, overall indiscipline of the population, feces and spit on roads, projects that take decades to complete, police men wielding world war 1 guns not able to even return a decent fire against gunmen wielding AK47s. Even after 6 months of the shameful incident of 26/11 Mumbai attacks, our ‘political leaders’ have not come to a decision to give our police men new guns instead of their world war 1 .303 rifles. How many more decades are needed for these ‘leaders’ to give our police men some decent weapons, may be they will need 10 more 26/11 style attacks to wake them from their slumber.

    If it is not liquor and money that decide the votes, then it is caste or religion. It seems like issues that concern development are not all factors.

    Democracy is a huge drain on the resources of a poor country like India. If Delhi allocates 100 Rs for a project hardly 5 Rs reach the intended people and you know where the rest of money goes. Do we need such a system to carry on for ever?

    Just take the case of China, if Chinese had not implemented their 1 child policy, their population would have been 2.5 billion instead of the current 1.3 billion. This kind of control in China would not have been possible in China if it were a democratic set up. Also, don’t forget that China has a much bigger land mas compared to India and Indian population is tipped to cross that of China’s in another decade or so. Just think of the disaster that is waiting to happen in India. Do our politicians care about any of these things?

    What india needs is miltary rule of at least 20 years

  8. AK says:

    “What I also find interesting is that Indian readers continually profess a secular outlook, yet parties like the BJP and Shiv Sena are so popular. What explains their continued popularity. What is it about Hindu nationalism (is that the right way to describe those parties’ ideologies?) that so many people find appealing?”

    Well, the truth is that Pakistani terrorism via ‘Non-State Actors’, is the biggest support-booster for right-wing parties like the Shiv Sena. If you take Pakistan out of the equation, I believe, these parties will lose a big chunk of their supporters.

  9. Prakash. N says:

    Amina Shah:

    Don’t be pessimistic about Indian elections. I agree that the system is not perfect but at least, it is in place and giving some results. On the bright side, imagine one fifth of the world population is going to elect its government. Given the complexity of the society, we should appreciate Indian population as it is still united and living as one nation. Yes, we still have poverty. But the poverty has no religion, cast or community. For last 6 decades, the progress in uplifting the poor may not be as expected by our founding fathers but there is significant progress. We have achieved whatever the little progress without compromising national pride and with freedom. Please ask any chinese, they will tell you the importance of freedom. China may be doing better in terms of economy, but life without freedom feels like sleeping in attic of a palace. Hope you will see my point.

  10. Rah says:

    Some commentators are saying that the plight of Muslims in India is deplorable. This is largely true. But the plight of Muslims is no worse than that of the downtrodden Hindus who constitute a large section of the population. It is nothing to do with religion. There is much economic injustice in India – rich get richer and poor only get marginally better each year. During the last 15 years or so, India’s economy thrived. Now, India must focus on ensuring that the benefits reach the needy including Muslims. I believe that there is generally a mood in the country to do just that. There is much awareness. Institutions are stable and getting stronger. Technology is used pervasively in implementing development and welfare schemes. The next 15 years mark uplifting of poor, thereby creating a huge market which further leads to India becoming a giant economy.

    When people think of Indonesia or Malaysia, Islam does not come to mind. People think of them as successful countries giving quality of life to their people. As India becomes prosperous, there will less and less talk about religious this and Islam that.

  11. farzana says:

    Ali Agha,

    do you realise there are issues other than just religion that indian voters vote for…like – economy,developement, employment, etc..

    BJP is not adverse to developement nor is it as regressive as left parties when it comes to economy…

    Shiv sena is a regional party popular with marathi speaking population in mumbai particularly…probably because marathi speaking population see their self interest in voting them to power…

    Democracy works on vote banks…Political parties say things that voters want to hear. If Narendra Mody were to stand for election from a muslim dominated constituency… he will say things they would like to hear…
    At the end of the day, no politician in politics say what they mean…

    Hope you get the drift…

  12. Fersos says:

    In India the biggest Business is Politics and as the World knows Business is always secular as every Business/Politician will try to cover the widest customer base possible.So while Democracy in India will remain enduring it will remain corrupt and dirty.
    The poor value their vote immensely while the chattering classes who complain the most often are too lazy to cast their vote. Politics is definitely the route to upward mobility for many so people organise themselves and form Parties. Not only does India have a whopping 715 Million voters,it has over a hundred Political parties. It is natural that when you have hundreds of Parties each with small spheres of influence the verdict is a fractured one so Indians have no escape from coalition Politics. Also the pace of reforms will remain slow and cannot match totalitarian China because the common agenda will be narrow.
    Most constituencies have over a Million voters and the serious candidates need to spend millions to mobilise their supporters. It is a big Investment but very few will get elected to enjoy the fruits of this investment. Elections are like a mela – very colourful,vitriolic speeches,lots of noise and constant Partying. Election is also the time the most powerful are reduced to the role of pleading beggars – so the poor and hungry feel really empowered to kick the non performers on their backside and send them packing.
    In India 60% of the population is very poor and always voting. There is not a chance in hell that any tinpot Dictator can come and derail Democracy because Millions on the street can overcome all the World’s Armies put together.
    Jai Ho !!

  13. Kaushik says:

    I have seen numerous Dawn correespondents talk about the plight of muslims in India and how they have suffered.
    I must admit that it is, to some extent true. What I fail to understand is why Pakistan/Islam’s lack of concern for other religions is easily forgotten? Remember the lakhs of hindus who were in pakistan after the partition? What happened to them ? Why arent there so many hindus in pakistan now and those who are around, why are they living in fear ? You dont see the same treatment meted out to muslims in india the way hindus are badly treated in Pakistan.

    Is regrettable on Dawn’s part to be myopic.

  14. shankar says:

    I love dawn. My respect for pakistan has gone up since I started reading it. Let nobody in Pakistan doubt India’s secular credentials. The Christian community is thriving in India. The Muslim community in South India is thriving as well. The Muslim community has enormous political leverage. The North Indian muslims are behind a little bit, because I believe the cream of that community left for pakistan during the partition and has still not recuperated that loss. The goverment and religion are quite separate. Hindu religious heads have no say in governance and Mr. Javed Naqwi, ( refer India needs a change of heart ) for every break in into a Church, 100 new chuches get built in India.
    Most Hindus, like me, are a little worried about religious conversions. Hinduism is helpless against it and the goverment has no draconian laws like Pakistan’s blashphemy laws to protect religious exploitation and so thousands of Hindus keep getting coverted to other religions, mainly to Christianinty.

  15. Harsh Wardhan says:

    BJP is forced to adopt secular agenda,though reluctantly, because of the political necessity in India.

    No political party in India can do political business at national level purely on religious/communal grounds.

    Politics based on Communalism, religious fanaticism is no longer acceptable at mass level in India which is a good sign.

    Bal Thackery,Raj Thackery, Praveen Togadiya & Co are dying regional phenomenons.

    Indian democracy is a poorman’s show.

    This is what he can put on the table.

    Harsha Wardhan


  16. Avanti says:

    Democracy is a self correcting mechanism. It moves slowly, very slowly, but over the long term, it only moves in the right direction. Issues get sorted out eventually.

    In the 60’s, there were language issues – Tamil vs. Hindi and so on. Those are gone. Naxalites came and left. Punjab problem is gone. At the same time, there are always issues, and new ones keep coming. It’s a never ending process.

    Doesn’t matter how much you hate India, you must appreciate the Indian voters. They, as a mass, do not get influenced by issues like castes, religions, and terrorism that the politicians like to exploit. Indians have learned to live together in harmony despite of multitude of differences. Overall, a minority person / woman has more opportunities and potential in India then in many developed world.

    Regardless, there are umpteen million problems in India, but at least as a country, it is moving forward. The credit goes to Indian voters.

  17. Firoz says:

    Ali Agha,

    I understand your concern about Hindu hardliner parties like Shivsena and BJP. Let me tell you that very same people of India voted out BJP from the power in last election after Gujarat riots. It was BJP who nominated Dr. Abdul Kalam as a President of India and every Indian is proud of him. When you talk about Shivsena look at their numbers in parliament. They won’t achieve power with those number foreseeable times. If you notice their support it declining day by day. Look at the readers’ comments in Times of India regarding Sivsena, Bal Thakeray and his company. You will find almost everybody oppose him in India including Hindus. BJP tried Hindu votebank politics but they never achieved power with that policy. People of India have come a long way in democracy and realized that only secularism can lead to the progress nothing else. Let me remind you that India is a country with 1.2 billion people, 8 major religions and sects. Incidences of intolerance are far negligible compare to the demography of the country. I am not claiming that India has perfect democracy. We have our own issues but we realize that these are the issues and we are progressing slowly but steadily to resolve those issues. Identifying the issue that is what makes democracy work.

  18. Rah says:

    Ali Agha, you wrote ….

    What I also find interesting is that Indian readers continually profess a secular outlook, yet parties like the BJP and Shiv Sena are so popular. What explains their continued popularity. What is it about Hindu nationalism (is that the right way to describe those parties’ ideologies?) that so many people find appealing?


    There will always be religious and communal bigots in any country. I live in US, and we see the country polarized between conservatives (read as Christian conservatives) and Democrats. Yet, will of the majority and rule of law prevail.

    Similarly in India too, parties like BJP and Shiv Sena will be popular in certain times (it is cyclical). Imagine if they are given sole authority over the country (as Pakistanis so willingly gave it to Zia and the mullahs), they will enforce their bigoted vision. When people and those chosen by people are placed above all else there may be a chance left for Pakistan to survive as country.

  19. vj says:

    Replying to undemocratic,
    Please do not compare China and india , you dont know inside of it and also democracy has its own pace and speed for any progess in a healthy way, our democracy and people still not mature as of US , but if you see down the line 20-30 year democracy will emerge as winner , china started refrom very early after two decades india started its reform.
    Regarding your Nano west bangal example if that happened in China then they (people’s liberation army) will kill thousand of pepople there to acquire that land and you will never come to know.

  20. Ali Agha says:

    The comments from the Indian readers are enlightening. It is truly encouraging to see a country at a similar level of socio-economic development enjoy a stable democratic system.

    What I also find interesting is that Indian readers continually profess a secular outlook, yet parties like the BJP and Shiv Sena are so popular. What explains their continued popularity. What is it about Hindu nationalism (is that the right way to describe those parties’ ideologies?) that so many people find appealing?

  21. hn says:

    To those who say democracy is what is keeping India from catching up with China I say democracy is what separates Inida from Pakistan. The progress made by India cannot be undone easily. Chinese progress can be undone by another peoples revolution after which they will have to start all over.

    Take this instance for example: When the the Chinese govt wants to build an airport, the people on its path are simply displaced. They have no legal or political discourse for justice. In India on the other hand, the air port does not get built due to protests from people who will only move if they get their due. What is progress here?

  22. Sunil says:

    I am sure just like past 15 years, Significant number of Indians , Instead of casting their vote will vote their caste (Thanks to ex PM VP Singh). Its a shame but IMO leaders of some regional political parties are very much comparable to your leaders and most of Indians are vulnerable enough to be exploited by them. Thankfully unlike Pakistani establishment we have few good national leaders who will ensure further belief in a democratic system. Kudos to dawn for discussing India on a positive note.

  23. Harsh Wardhan says:

    The show of democracy in India is at humongous cost.

    The country moves at snails pace.

    Amazing to see how people are fooled by politicians,power of money,bollywood,amazing to see how people are beaten up by police,goonda-politician nexus and suffer from inept governments, from totally corrupt state machinery which a lot of places even doesnt exist i.e Naxal infested areas.

    People no longer believe in politicians who have to hire movie stars,cricketers to attract crowd.

    Do we Indians really have faith in our democracy what we taking here about and making big deal out of that ????

    Truth seeker,
    Harsha Wardhan

  24. Rah says:

    Mudassal, your comment is very objective. In India, the military and intelligence agencies are subservient to our political machinery. The efforts of our military and their campaigns are inline with the policies and guidelines laid out by elected representatives of people. Hence, we are able to defend our land from both internal and external threats.

  25. Rah says:

    Amina Shah, you are right that there are still many problems in terms of opportunities available to weaker sections of Indian society. However, India is making steady progress in providing opportunities for everyone. India is no less corrupt and poor than Pakistan. But, thanks to our democracy and rule of law (imperfect, albeit), much progress has been made. Today, we are strong in many spheres of economy. We are viewed as a stable and trustworthy-for-investment country.
    Women in India have fewer opportunities than men, but that can be said about many developed countries as well.

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