India Moves Towards World’s Longest (and Most Crowded) Election

About a billion voters will be called to the polls

Narendra Modi

The countdown to the longest, most crowded, and largest legislative elections in the world has begun in India. The 82-day marathon renewal of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, will begin on April 19, with more than 969 million registered voters in 28 states and 8 territories being called to the polls. About 700 political parties are in the election race, contesting for 545 seats. The State Election Commission has organized more than one million polling stations with more than 5 million electronic voting machines.

According to the Basic Law of India, the Lok Sabha is the most powerful of the two houses that make up the Indian Parliament. This is why political leaders in New Delhi attach such importance to the vote: the party or coalition that manages to win a majority will be able to nominate one of its elected members as prime minister, who, according to the Indian Constitution, “has no limit to his powers.”

The voting process will be divided into 7 phases: after starting on April 19, the next voting days will be scheduled for April 26, May 7-13-20-25, and finally June 1. Ballots will be counted on June 5, after which official results will be announced.

Of the roughly 700 political parties in the race, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian People’s Party, has the most support, according to recent opinion polls. BJP, led by current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who heads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition, which includes dozens of right-wing conservative political parties, favors a policy of strengthening Hindu nationalism in the country, has been in power in India for 10 years, and is at the height of its popularity. The issue of socio-cultural divide between the Hindu majority and the 170 million Muslim population has been at the center of the election debate. Modi has repeatedly said he wants to not only “repeat the previous success of the 2019 elections,” but also further consolidate his control over the Indian parliament. “Our goal,” the Prime Minister said, “is to get at least 370 seats in the Lok Sabha, 67 more than five years ago.”

The main rival to Modi’s coalition is the Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), led by the Indian National Congress (INC) party, whose president Mallikarjun Kharge leads the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament.

All the running parties focused on economic and social issues during the pre-election debates, promising first and foremost to tackle the rising unemployment rate, which, according to official figures, reaches 7.5% of the active population. Youth unemployment is very alarming: according to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, the youth unemployment rate in 2023 “was 45.4% and should be largely attributed to rural unemployment as compared to urban unemployment.”

Nevertheless, Modi’s strength is India’s economic growth. In recent years, India’s economy has overtaken that of the UK to become the fifth largest economy in the world after the USA, China, Germany, and Japan.