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  • Women hold placards as they take part in a protest march demanding to vote and reject the current environment of hate and violence in the country, in New Delhi, India, April 4, 2019.

    Women hold placards as they take part in a protest march demanding to vote and reject the current environment of hate and violence in the country, in New Delhi, India, April 4, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 April 2019

The 2019 Indian elections will be held from April 11 to May 19. teleSUR takes a look at the main points regarding the elections. 

On April 11, the world’s largest democracy will go to polls for its general elections. After being ruled by a far-right government for five years, India’s political landscape is going through changes. Parties that traditionally have been opposed to each other, have come together to form an alliance in order to beat the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).

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This will be the 17th Lok Sabha elections (election for the lower house of the parliament.)

Here are the main things you need to know about the byzantine Indian elections.

The Electoral System:

During the 2019 Indian general elections, out of 545 seats, 543 go to elected members of parliament from single-member constituencies in India. The president of India nominates two members from the Anglo-Indian community for the remaining two seats of parliament. 

Indian electoral system follows the first-past-the-post voting i.e., whoever gains most votes, will be declared a winner.

The party which wins the maximum number of seats will form government with their leader as the prime mnister of India.

India has both a president and prime minister. Where the president is the nominal head of the state, the prime minister is the executive head with real powers.

For the first time in the history of Indian elections, electronic voting machines will be used in all the 543 constituencies. According to the Election Commission of India, 900 million voters are eligible to vote this year making it the world’s largest-ever election.

The election will be held in seven phases throughout the country. Each phase will take place in different parts of the country. For example, the first phase will be held on April 11 in the eastern and north-eastern states of India. Then each consecutive Thursday will witness people going to polls in different parts of the country until May 19.

Mugs saying Narendra Modi (NaMo) should be re-elected are on display outside an election rally. | Photo: Reuters

Parties contesting:

The right-wing ruling coalition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP is one bloc that is contesting again in 2019. They won in 2014. United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the main opposition party Congress is another major alliance of center and center-left, in this elections. NDA and UPA have always been the two major blocs in Indian general elections. However, this year, another bloc by regional parties were formed to curb the ruling party’s power. Known as the Mahagatbandhan (Federal Union), various regional parties came together to create the alliance.

Strong resurgence of regional political parties across India is an important factor for this election.

One name that is inspiring enthusiasm among progressives in the country is Kanhaiya Kumar, a candidate of the Communist Party of India and a former student leader.

In 2016, after organizing a program on Indian Occupied Kashmir in his university, he was charged with sedition for allegedly raising anti-India slogans. The accusations were never proved but he was abused, beaten up, and harassed by right-wing supporters of Modi with impunity.

After completing his Ph.D. in February 2019, Kumar chose to contest for elections. He is being seen as one of the biggest challenges to Modi. Though his victory will not mean Modi’s loss, in an atmosphere of hate and divisive politics, gaining one seat by a leftist activist is being hailed as an important turn in the status-quo of Indian politics.

Modi’s main opponent is Rahul Gandhi from Congress party. He is the latest member of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of Independent India.

Kanhaiya Kumar, the leftist former student leader is a formidable opposition of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. | Photo: Reuters

Main Issues:

These elections are crucial for India. Under the BJP rule since 2014, the country has seen the destruction of its social fabric.

The lynching of Muslims with impunity by extremist groups has been taking place all over the country especially the northern belt. The killing of rationalists like Gauri Lankesh, Kalburgi was carried out without justice. Daily abuse of Dalits, Muslims, queer people, and brutal repression of Kashmiris have become regular occurrences.

Along with human rights violations, during Modi’s government, the country has seen the highest unemployment rate in the last 45 years, according to a recently leaked document. Farmers have been mobilizing against Modi’s anti-farmer policies that have resulted in the high suicide rate in their community.

Meanwhile, the BJP's strategy to keep power is to mobilize voters based on two tactics: Islamophobia and ultra-nationalism. After the suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in the Indian occupied Kashmir in February , the Indian government blamed the attack on neighboring Pakistan and Kashmir’s independence movement.

The government created a narrative advocating that only Narendra Modi can save India from such “threats,” which in turn justified their attacks on critics of Modi’s war-mongering policies towards Pakistan, a Muslim majority country.

Many anti-war activists were beaten up along with Kashmiris residing outside Kashmir. Hate crimes increased against Muslims. The government incited ultra-nationalism among people. Islamophobia and patriotism went hand-in-hand.

However, it seems that a silver lining is emerging in which rationalists, progressives, and marginalized communities are coming forward to form an unofficial resistance front in rejection to the policies of the last five years that promoted politics of hate and fear, demanding a change of Indian political landscape.

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