11 Things to Know about the 2014 Indian Election

April 22nd, 2014 by Abhi Saini

Over the course of next month, Indian voters will elect 543 members of the 16th Lok Sabha, the lower House of Parliament. Here are eleven key things you need to know about the 2014 Indian general election and the Indian political system:

  1. As many as 814 million eligible could cast their ballots in this year’s election. The last general election in India took place in 2009 with 713 million eligible voters. Due to the large number of voters, the election will be conducted in nine phases spread across five weeks. The election commenced on April 7th and will conclude on May 12th. The final results will be announced on May 16th.
  2. According to the Election Commission of India, 930,000 polling stations have been set up across the country to execute the electoral process. Polling stations have been equipped with 1.7 million EVMs (electronic voting machines).
  3. India’s government is structured as a federal system and is constituted as a sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic republic. Like Canada, the country’s government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. Also similar to Canada, India uses the First-Past-The-Post electoral system where the candidate with the most votes wins.
  4. India has a bicameral legislature which is based upon the British Westminster system. There is an upper house (Rajya Sabha, or the Council of States) and a lower house (Lok Sabha, or the House of the People).
  5. The Lok Sabha is comprised of 545 seats, out of which 543 seats are directly elected and 2 are appointed by the country’s president. According to constitutional requirement, Lok Sabha elections must take place every five years.
  6. The executive leader – the prime minister – is appointed by the lower house. The party holding a majority in the lower house elects its leader as the prime minister. If no party holds a majority of seats, parties forms coalitions until they acquire the required number of seats to elect a prime minister.
  7. India has a multiparty system. There are two are major national parties and an additional 50 state or regional parties. According to the Association of Democratic Reforms, there are a total of 1,600 political parties in India. The majority of such parties register with the Election Commission of India but never participate in any election.
  8. Party coalition plays an important role in Indian politics and legislative policies. No political party has won a majority since 1989 and support from other parties is required to form a working government. The United Progressive Alliance coalition (UPA), led by the Indian National Congress, along with the opposition Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has been in power for past 10 years.
  9. This year’s election will primarily be contested by three major political parties: the centre-left Indian National Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi, the right wing Bhartiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi and the centre-left Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal.
  10. Nepotism and criminality continue to undermine credibility of the candidates in the upcoming election. According to research, “nearly 30 per cent of current members of parliament are from political families; for parliamentary members younger than 40, the figure rises to two-thirds.” Furthermore, according to a recently published research, almost a “fifth of candidates in India’s upcoming elections are facing criminal charges.”
  11. Indian youth will play a key role in this year’s election. It is estimated that 150 million Indian youth between the ages of 18 to 23 years will cast their vote for the first time. 

It will be interesting to see how the election unfolds and if any of the major political parties will manage to secure a majority or once again rely on regional support to form a coalition.

You can also read Abhi’s blog on Republic Day of India and the Indian electoral system.

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