I just came back from visiting New Delhi and with India having gone to the polls on April 7th, election fever is pitch-high. From illiterate villagers and untouchable rag-pickers to Mumbai millionaires, almost 815 million citizens are eligible to cast their ballots over the next five weeks--essentially the largest democracy in the world.
And yet, is it really so?
If we peruse the definition of "democracy" from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a major characteristic is: "rule of the majority." Yet, in India, for a decade, a coalition government led by the Congress party has been running the country. Some say it has left the nation "rudderless." The future doesn't bode any better either.
For years the political background in Delhi has been a two-way contest between Congress and the BJP. But in December of last year, Arvind Kejriwal changed that when he led the Aam Aadmi Party (translation: The Common Man) to win 28 out of 70 assembly seats. It was in the country's capital that AAP made political history by forming Delhi's first government by a debutant party--but the novelty was shortlived. After a controversial 49-day term in government, Kejriwal dramatically resigned as Delhi Chief Minster after his political opponents effectively blocked passage of a strict new anti-corruption law.
Now, at this point in time, the overwhelming favorite to become India's next Prime Minister is Bhartiya Janta Party's Narendra Modi. Congress, the mother of all parties, is likely to shrink to its smallest political presence ever.
According to an opinion poll by television channel NDTV, Kejriwal's party is expected to win 2 of the seven parlimentary seats up for grabs in Delhi. The BJP is forecast to win four seats, and Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first premier, only 1.
Whatever the composition of the government that is sworn-in May, there are tough times ahead: lack lustre governance, inability to control inflation and, the never-ending stench of corruption has left the country teeming with problems. The battle for a progressive, tolerant and civilised India still remains to be won.
And, to take a minute to tickle your funny bone--Rakhi Sawant, formerly India's pin up item girl, and Bollywood starlet, now--a political candidate contesting from the Mumbai North West constituency says,
"Don't vote for Modi. Vote for me. I'm SEXULAR!"