900 million citizens are set to cast their vote with the announcement of the dates of general elections in India
April and May will witness the voting in seven phases. The counting of the votes will commence on 23 May. The reigning BJP is gunning for a consecutive term. The Congress party is hoping to avert the disastrous defeat of the previous elections.
With the declaration of the general elections in April and May by the Election Commission, the general elections in India will be the largest spectacle the world has yet seen. Out of a population of 1.3 billion, 900 million people are eligible to vote. In a bid to appease minority communities, the BJP recently met representatives of minority institutions, including members from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI). The delegation reiterated the need of individuals to freely express their religious beliefs.
Voting will take place on the 11th, 18th, 23rd, 29th of April and 6th, 12th and 19th of May. Counting will start on the 23rd of May. This year will see the election of the 17th Lok Sabha and a few state assemblies (Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, and Sikkim). Out of the total 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, a party or an alliance needs at least 272 MPs to form a government.
Experts are of the opinion that the coming General Elections, the most significant political event of this year, is a test of the popularity of the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Prime Minister is keen to repeat the epic success of 2014 when his party won 282 seats without support, the first party to do so since 1984 in a general election. The Indian National Congress with Rahul Gandhi at its forefront presents the greatest challenge to the Prime Minister.
The youth Icon for many, Rahul Gandhi strives to overturn the appalling defeat of his party in 2014, when it won a mere 44 seats, shockingly down from 206. The party hopes to turn a corner with the entry of the dynamic Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the younger sibling of Rahul, into the political scene. Many perceive her as the true heir of the Gandhi dynasty.
Priyanka is serving presently as the general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), a critical political move by the party as Uttar Pradesh is the most densely populated state in the nation (home to one Indian in six or 204 million) with the maximum number of seats at 80. BJP won 71 of these in 2014.
The key issues in this election include unemployment, poor farmers, greater inclusion of women and respect and equal freedom for religious minorities amongst others. A meeting with the participation of Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (pictures 2 and 3) was convened last Thursday at the Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi in view of the desiderate Agenda.
Sankalp Patra reported the intention of the representatives of religious minorities (such as Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and Parsees) to be included in the manifesto of the ruling party. A need to further improve the security of minorities and promotion of their rights to the question of strengthening respect for India’s secular, multi-cultural and multi-religious character were some of the concerns listed by Fr Joseph Manipadam, secretary of the CBCI Office for Education and Culture, who led the Christian delegation.
Greater tolerance for the opinions of others, the right to practice and spread one’s beliefs, and protection from the controversial and inhuman acts of mass lynching and discrimination resulting from one’s religious and dietary practices were some of the important demands.
The bishops laid great emphasis on the fact that the next government ought to guarantee “a hunger-free society, poverty alleviation, protection of farmers, promotion of agriculture and care of the rural areas”.