Country gears up for battle of ballots

Country gears up for battle of ballotsCountry gears up for battle of ballots
Highlights

More than 900 million (90 crore) people above the age of 18 are expected to cast their ballots at a million polling stations in India in the upcoming general elections.

More than 900 million (90 crore) people above the age of 18 are expected to cast their ballots at a million polling stations in India in the upcoming general elections. This is the biggest election in the world history, with over 900 million registered voters, out of which 15 million are aged between 18 and 19. The number of voters is bigger than the populations of Europe and Australia put together. Let us get into the micro details further.

The logistics are unimaginable. There will be nearly one million polling stations, 10.1 per cent more than those in the 2014 elections, 2.33 million units, 1.63 million control units and 1.74 million VVPATs (voter verifiable paper audit trails). This time GPS tracking has been enabled to keep the EVMs' (Electronic Voting Machines) safe after polling. Usually the turnout in our elections is always higher. In the last general elections, it was 66 per cent plus.

It was only 51 per cent in 1951 when the first general elections were held. As for the number of contenders, there were 8,250 candidates on behalf of 464 political parties in the 2014 general elections in the fray. Elections in the country, unlike any other, could always be long drawn because of the need to secure polling stations with Central forces deployment. The Centre for Media Studies has estimated that the cost of last elections (cost for the candidates) was five billion dollars.

Any doubts that it would not double at least now given the levels of bitterness pervading already? Coming to the political parties, they have never been open and honest about the money spent. The vote-for-note concept that has caught up in the recent times has grown phenomenally and it should not be forgotten that a Lok Sabha candidate will be spending close to Rs 100 crore even in some States like AP and Telangana. Most of the contenders promise the parties giving them tickets of footing the entire cost of the MLAs' too.

In a way, in the States going for combined elections, it is a double whammy for the Parliamentary constituency candidate as he may be facing his own party candidates reluctant to foot the expenditure leaving the job to the LS candidate. Sops are a usual thrown in and every segment in the society has become a special constituency for the candidates and parties. Women are given sops, youth are given play kits, Self Help Groups get their share and the list goes on.

Cylinders, cycles, laptops, mobiles, cookers, grinders… what not...? The merchandise that finds place in electioneering puts even a mall to shame. Liquor of course flows like a flooded Himalayan river of monsoon, uncontrollable, indomitable and breaches all barriers of decency. Rallies, meetings and protests… all of these require people and they do come, willingly, for a price again.

Easy money, black money, blood money, excess money, all get into the game and reach back to the people in one form or the other, sadly. Indian elections have their pitfalls. Yet, this is the biggest festival of the country. Celebrate. If possible, be honest and exercise your choice wisely, because it is your future you are choosing and that of your next generations.

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