India's National Elections:
The Largest Democratic Undertaking in Human History
On March 5, 2014 at 8pm IST, India is expected to announce its National Election Dates. These momentous elections will be the largest democratic undertaking in human history! India's extraordinary commitment to democracy will be on full display as 815 million eligible voters head to the polls, nearly half of which are under 35 years of age. That's an electorate over two and a half times the entire population of the United States! In the words of the Ambassador of India to the United States Dr. S. Jaishankar, the elections are indeed "India's defining moment".
The elections will likely begin around April 7th, to be concluded by May 15th, and with the new government in place by May 31st. The sheer size of the country and electorate means that voting will be held in six to seven phases with each of India's 543 parliamentary constituencies participating. Of the 543 seats that make up India's Lower House (Lok Sabha), it takes 272 to form a government. Voters will decide the Members of Parliament who will occupy these seats. The magic number of 272 can be achieved by one party winning a majority of the votes or by the formation of an alliance government comprised of smaller parties. This will be the first national election with a choice of "none of the above" option for the voters if they do not like any of their candidates.
Under the supervision of the Election Commission of India (ECI), elections are held in India every five years. The ECI is an autonomous, constitutionally established federal authority responsible for administering all the electoral processes in India. Once the national election dates are announced the ECI will also issue a Model Code of Conduct, which are guidelines for political parties and candidates to conduct elections in a free and fair manner.
With the Model Code of Conduct coming into effect, all government policy decisions will be on hold until the formation of the new government. The new government will present its first budget by July 2014.
Along with the national elections, three states elections will take place in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim to elect new assemblies.
Parties contesting in the elections are the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which has been in power for the last ten years and the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), along with several regional parties including the recently formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, "Common Man's Party").
The U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) congratulates India on this mammoth democratic undertaking! USIBC looks forward to watching this historic event unfold over the coming weeks and to engaging the elected leaders of the world's largest democracy as we continue to deepen the defining partnership of the 21st century.