May 6, 2009 : When a nation of over one billion citizens wakes up every five years to elect its leaders, the entire world turns to watch. The “world’s largest democracy*”, India, went to the polls on April 13, 2009, to elect members of the 15th Lok Sabha (or House of Commons, in the Indian Parliament). In a one month-long process, which will end on May 13, 2009, over 714 million voters** will be eligible to vote.
The elections will be conducted in five phases, of which Phase 4 finishes on May 7, and the final phase finishes on May 13. Counting of votes is expect to take place on May 16, 2009, and is expected to be completed on the same day. This is possible because now India uses electronic voting machines, in which votes are registered with just the press of a button.
To get a sense of just how large the exercise of elections is in India, here are few numbers that indicate just what an ambitious exercise this is. Across the country, from crowded cities to remote hamlets, the government has set up 8,28,804 polling stations where voters can cast their vote. In these polling stations, 13,68,430 electronic voting machines will be recording votes.
This would be the first time that the entire country (with the exception of the states of Assam, Nagaland, and Jammu and Kashmir) will be using photo electoral rolls. In these, the photographs of the voters is printed on the electoral rolls. This, coupled with the Electors’ Photo Id Card, will make it difficult for anyone to fake their identity when they go to vote.
Election watchers predict that the new government in India is likely to be a coalition government. In other words, no single party will get enough votes to form a government on its own. Therefore, parties will have to come together and agree to partner to form a government. Whether such a government can last the next five years remains to be seen.
* Democracy: A democracy is a system in which the government is elected by the people, and which works for the people. This is unlike a dictarship, in which one person, or a group of people, rule over the people by force.
** All statistics source: Election Commission of India