The Biggest Election The World Has Ever Seen

Cillizza passes along an infographic on the Indian election, which began today:

Indian Election

The Economist explains how India manages to run such a massive voting operation:

One answer is that elections are narrowly focused tasks of limited duration that are regularly repeated. Where similar conditions hold, bureaucrats prove similarly successful. One example is the ten-yearly national census; a newer success is a scheme to build the world’s largest biometric database, which has enrolled some 600m people, scanning their eyes, fingerprints and more. (Whether this data will be put to good use is another matter. It is worth noting, too, that much work was done by private contractors overseen by public officials.)

A second answer is that state employees respond well when given tasks of great prestige and put under careful public scrutiny. Thus India’s space agency last year launched a spaceship to Mars which continues on course, for a remarkably small budget. Similarly, public-health officials recently announced that India had eradicated polio. A third answer is that bureaucrats succeed when free from political meddling and corruption. The Election Commission, like the central bank, is independent. And whereas policemen spend much of their time collecting bribes to pay to their superiors, election officials have neither big budgets to divert, nor much opportunity to extract bribes.

Global Voices has a primer on the elections:

The main contest is between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the Third Front. However, the main rivalry in this election will be between Narendra Modi, candidate for prime minister from the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, and Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the Indian National Congress party and the chairperson of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Hindu nationalist Modi, and its allies are forecast to win in majority of the constituencies, leaving behind the incumbent Congress party and its allies.

Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar also has a primer. On the current polling:

India’s complex electoral math and the difficulty of accurately polling more than 800 million voters makes it hard to call any election. But recent polls show that voters across the country are tilting toward the BJP and to Mr. Modi, a Hindu nationalist who styles himself as a decisive, economic policymaker with a rags-to-riches backstory. That tilt is being seen not only in urban areas and among upper Hindu castes that are traditional BJP strongholds but also, to a lesser extent, among lower castes and the rural poor. The latter usually favor Congress and regional or caste-based parties. Young voters appear to be lukewarm towards the Congress Party’s reluctant leader Rahul Gandhi.

Indian pre-election polls have been proven wrong several times before. This election is different, say election experts. They argue that the past two elections were driven by local issues and candidates, and thus hard to poll. This year voters appear to be focused on national issues like economic growth, inflation, and corruption – pointing to the possibility of a rare split between local and national party preferences.

Danielle Rajendram looks at Modi’s foreign policy:

From what Modi has said, it is clear that economic development will be his priority, and that this will underpin his foreign policy decision-making. Modi has argued that India’s Ministry of External Affairs should place greater emphasis on trade negotiations and promoting Indian businesses overseas, and supports enhancing the role of individual states in building economic and political relations abroad. This emphasis on economic growth speaks to the pragmatism that will likely drive Modi’s foreign policy, and nowhere is this more evident than in his attitude towards China. … Economic links between China and Gujarat are strong, and Modi will be unlikely to jeopardise the economic opportunities that come from closer engagement with China, regardless of his tough rhetoric on territorial disputes.