Indian elections

The massive Indian election is over with the ruling Congress party utterly routed, winning perhaps just 60 seats in the 543-seat parliament. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi have swept into power with possibly 350 seats, a clean majority that will enable them to govern that sprawling country without having to form a coalition.

The scale of the election is what is truly impressive. The country has 814 million eligible voters, many in remote rural areas. To reach them, voting is held over five weeks with election workers going successively from region to region to try and reach as many voters as possible and maximize the use of their resources. In the end about 550 million or 66.4% of the voters cast ballots.

The country goes to extraordinary lengths to enable people to vote.

Nearly 1 million polling stations will be set up — all with electronic voting machines. Eleven million poll officials and security force members will be deployed. For the first time voters will have the option to cast their ballot for “none of the above.”

But India’s election is like nothing else nowhere else. Former Chief Election Commissioner Quraishi authored An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election and he says no effort is spared to reach the hundreds of millions with ballots, even if it takes elephants, camels, boats, planes or trains.

“You name it, and that is the transport we’re using. And there are some places where none of these transports will go, then polling teams have to walk.”

He says not even the lone priest living in a lion-infested forest will be left without a voting booth.

In the US where voting is so easy, under 60% of people vote even in presidential elections and in non-presidential years, the number is much lower, around 40%. This may be due to the fact that at a gut-level, people in the US realize that we are largely a one-party state that serves a ruling oligarchy and its two factions (known as the Democratic and Republican parties) differ mainly on some social issues. Those who care about those issues are the ones most likely to bother to vote.

In fact, in the US we see a huge effort by Republicans to actually suppress voting by making it harder, under the guise of preventing voter fraud, a non-issue. This is driven by their belief that by putting into place onerous rules to show eligibility and actually vote, they can discourage young and minority voters who tend to vote Democratic.

Election fraud occurs everywhere. I am sure that it occurs in Indian elections too. But unless it is blatant and on such a massive scale that the fraud is readily apparent, I suspect that it rarely affects the outcome.


  1. Trebuchet says

    The scale of the elections is truly impressive. But I’ve seen some concerns about Modi being a Hindu activist who in the past has inspired violence against Muslims.

  2. colnago80 says

    As Ed Brayton has pointed out in numerous blog posts, the Rethuglican gangsters have yet to produce evidence of anything approaching widespread voter fraud. Every claim they have thus far made has been shown to be wildly overblown by orders of magnitude.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    I’m pretty sure this will be a good thing. It’s bad for any party to be in power for over a decade — even progressive, enlightened ones. Corruption is bound to ensue. The Democrats, for instance, needed some time in the wilderness in Congress after the Tip O’Neil years.

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    The scale of the election is what is truly impressive.

    Absolutely agreed there. “Impressive” is an understatement I’d say even – although I’;m notsure what words could do the scale of this justice!

    Election fraud occurs everywhere. I am sure that it occurs in Indian elections too. But unless it is blatant and on such a massive scale that the fraud is readily apparent, I suspect that it rarely affects the outcome.

    I reckon you are spot on there. Agreed.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    Also, if Republicans are really against fraud, then they should be in favor of doing away with the electoral college — the temptation for fraud is much greater when you can identify a few key areas where its effects will be greatly magnified, which is what our electoral system pretty much guarantees.

  6. says

    I have to admit having a preference for the way we still do elections here in Canada, with paper ballots in cardboard boxes, opened under the scrutiny of returning officers and partisan scrutineers alike. It just seems like a lot more work to fiddle things, needing to compromise a lot more people, meaning it feels less prone to fraud on any scale that would matter.

    The election fraud scam is a great one for finding new ways to discourage people from voting, as our federal government is trying to institute right now with their Orwellian “:Fair Elections Act”. It doesn’t pass the simple “does it make any realistic sense” test, though; few elections are decided by less than hundreds, if not thousands, of votes, meaning in order to get any state-/province- or nation-wide effect, you’d have to have an enormous web of conspiracies, involving at least dozens of people in any major jurisdiction, any single one of whom would be enough to blow the whole lid off. It’s a nonsensical fantasy; the likely occurrence of actual fraud is probably well within the margin of error of having pencil-and-paper ballot counting in the first place. Anyone claiming widespread electoral fraud without any evidence of such is a con artist or an election-rigger, and should be derided as such.

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