Indian Elections - The Seventh Phase

India’s seventh, and last, phase of their national elections, known as Lok Sabha, concluded this past Sunday. In this phase, voting was held in 59 constituencies from eight states; Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chandigarh. With this last round of voting, in which another 100 million people were eligible to vote, India’s massive, month-long election has come to an end.

While the results of the election will not be officially announced until May 23rd, that has not stopped private television channels from conducting various polls, interviewing thousands of Indians. Pre-election polling indicated that incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would not be able to form a majority in the parliament, meaning that a coalition would need to be formed. However, exit polls seemed to be indicating that the BJP did achieve a majority, meaning another five years of Modi as Prime Minister. In fact, some polls went as far as to claim that the BJP gained even more seats than its last contestation in 2014, where it achieved a dominant victory and majority. However, India’s television channels have a very mixed record in the past when it comes to predicting election results. The opposition party dismissed the polling, and rival candidate Ghandi tweeted his beliefs that the election schedule was manipulated to help the BJP.  

While India’s massive election process proceeded relatively free from violence, Sunday’s voting was marred by some significant violence in the eastern state of West Bengal. Instances of mob violence and attacks of arson were reported, with the BJP coming into clashes with the powerful regional party, the Trinamool Congress. Desperate to win the seats in West Bengal, Modi visited the state 17 times, where his nationalist rhetoric often sparked sporadic violence. Violence became such a problem in the area that the Election Commission cut campaigning off early on Thursday, a drastic and unprecedented action.

This election has been seen by many as a referendum of sorts on Modi’s leadership over the past five years. Now more than perhaps ever, Modi has become the face of his political party, and campaigns have often adopted a “vote for Modi” message over a “vote for party” rhetoric. While Modi’s government has overseen significant economic growth for India, there have also been significant challenges and obstacles. The victor of these elections will have some massive items to address on the agenda, such as high levels of unemployment, vast numbers of people who feel that they are being left behind or not enjoying the benefits of India’s economic growth, continued tensions with Pakistan, just to name a few. As the world’s largest democracy, and an increasing influential global power, many of the world’s eyes are on India and the results of the election.

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