The Elections: a Game Changer?

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, by PRASHAD Vijay

The Indian general election of 2009 is finally over. 445 million voters entered 828,000 polling booths to elect 543 candidates to the lower house of the parliament, the Lok Sabha. An immense state apparatus went into play to ensure that the voters’ will was not subverted by theft (2.1 million security guards were joined by 74,729 videographers to observe the polls). The entire process took just over a month. On Saturday, May 16, the Election Commission released news of the outcome. This is the first election in decades where there was no foreseeable victor; neither was there one singular issue. Four major coalitions vied for position, and the issues on the table appeared to be far more local than national. The result has belied this expectation. The Indian National Congress won decisively, over 200 seats, and for the first time since the 1960s, is able to form a government in Delhi without any major allies. This is a remarkable feat, given that the Congress ran an election promising more of the same, a certain tonic for defeat in anti-incumbency democratic politics. It projected the current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as its leader, even as it had the various scions of the Nehru family as the central icons of the party and of its campaigning (Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi both won their seats this election). Little suggested that the Congress would do better than it did in 2004 (with 145 seats). Read more

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