India is now half way through the world's biggest election. With 815 million registered voters competing to the polls, the election is hosted over five weeks and in 10 stages. The result is due on 16 May.
To understand the political context and current scenario, let us imagine India is a young girl who wants to get married. She wants to go for an arranged marriage (elections); which means her parents, family and friends (voters) help her to find the right match (the Prime Minister). One thing about India is that, everything about her is grand; be it her family (a population of 1.27 billion), her favourite sport (cricket) or her wedding (election).
Last time India got married, it lasted 10 years (to the United Progressive Alliance government led by the Indian National Congress). India was bright and cheerful in the five years of marriage but the honeymoon period didn’t last the decade. The groom and his family made a number of promises, some they delivered and some they couldn’t. As a result, she had to quit her job (economic growth: 4.4% GDP growth rate in 2013 compared with 9.2% GDP growth rate in 2006), serve the members of the groom’s family (scams worth multi-million INR by congress party) who in return took her family (voters and tax-payers) for granted.
The young population expected India to glow with happiness (growth and development) but when it didn’t happen, they chose to do something about it. They formed their own small group (AAP - Aam Aadmi Party meaning Common Man’s Party) and decided to help dear India out. In spite of protest and agitation by India's young generation, the groom’s family could not deliver their promises and as a result AAP put forward their own suitor for India’s hand in marriage, Arvind Kejriwal.
But there is another suitor (Narendra Modi) from a rival family (BJP - Bhartiya Janata Party) who asserts that he can make India cheerful based on his experience in his previous relationship (Chief minister of a well-off state named Gujarat). Gujarat is a beautiful influential model and others like to adopt her health and beauty tips (replicate the development model in their states).
So, analogies aside, there are three main candidates in the election; Rahul Gandhi from the INC, Arvind Kejriwal from AAP and Narendra Modi from BJP.
Gandhi is seen as a front runner partly due to his political lineage. His father, grandmother and great grandfather are all former Prime Ministers and his mother is the current party president. Despite this, many would argue that Rahul hasn’t made a significant political contribution so far.
Kerjriwal, on the other hand, tried to fight corruption by protesting on the streets and later formed his own political party, AAP. He fought an election and was made the Chief Minister of Delhi mainly due to popular support. But after only 49 days, he resigned and began contesting for the Premiership. Consequently, some view Kerjriwal as inexperienced; an agitator rather than an administrator.
Modi is perceived as an excellent administrator due to his work in Gujarat, but he is believed to be non-secular and the 2002 Godhra Riots overshadow his ambition.
Of course in a country of 1.27 billion people, 29 states, hundreds of linguistic groups and various distinct cultures there is no single election strategy for the front runners. Other than the three major parties, local groups have significant political leverage in their respective regions and play a significant role at central government level.
Whilst scale and complexity are typical to India, the extent of youth participation in the 2014 elections is unique. Youth now consider voting to be chic and the pictures of ink smeared index fingers all over social networks testify to this. Just search #InkedForChange on Twitter or Facebook and you will see what I mean!
The three main contenders are not just subjects for the newsroom but also coffee houses, dinner tables, salons, pubs, clubs and bus stops too. Young people realise that in order for India to fulfill her potential and become a true super power, everyone must exercise their right to vote.
The 2014 Indian Elections mark the beginning of a new era of Indian politics. With many young Indians now playing an active part in party politics, the younger generation is transitioning from the passive to active and I am thrilled to be a part.