About 200 million Indians have voted in general election in first two rounds

By Mayank Chhaya-

Some 200 million Indians have voted in the first two phases of the country’s mammoth general election.

The first two phases of the election on April 19 and 26 accounted for 325 million voters represented by 191 Members of Parliament or MPs.

The voter turnout this time between the first two rounds averages about 61 percent and is lower than 67.11 percent that voted in the entire 2019 election, which was the highest in India’s history. There are expectations that the remaining five rounds of voting scheduled for May 7, 13, 20, 25 and June 1 will increase the turnout.

Even if the average of 61 percent is presumed to be the final turnout out of the total eligible electorate of just a shade less than 970 million people, over 590 million Indians will have voted, which will be a record.

In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 37.36% of the votes, the largest by a political party since 1989. In that election the party won 303 seats out of 543 parliamentary seats. This time the number of seats is 544. If the BJP manages to win about the same percentage of votes this time as it did in 2019, about 220 million Indians will have voted for it.

This is remarkable considering that 220 million is just about 16 percent of India’s total population of 1.4 billion. It is true that in a democracy practicing the first past the post system, where the winning candidate is the person who wins most votes, this is the norm. However, at a larger societal level, in the Indian context in particular, the fact that some 500 million Indians, who are not eligible to vote yet, are represented by a party that might win less than 40 percent of the eligible votes is worthy of a serious debate.

Of course, the Congress Party, which is now a shadow of its former self, benefited from this very system for some five decades and it is only reasonable that the BJP gains from that same system.

Purely in terms of election season rhetoric, the BJP and Modi’s early boast of “Ab ki baar 400 paar”, meaning “this time, past 400 (seats)” in parliament along with its allies seems to have been abandoned mid-election. Independent analysts have argued that perhaps there is realization in the ruling party based on their internal surveys and intelligence that it may not perform any significantly better than 2019. If anything, there are those who think that the BJP may struggle to live up to the target of 300 on its own strength. These assertions are, of course, largely conjectural and could turn out to be completely inaccurate.

Voting for 353 seats is still to take place in the next five rounds and it is still anybody’s game even though the BJP universe has already been projecting a sanguine image of Modi as the victor. The prime minister himself has asked the bureaucracy under him to plan for the first 100 days of his third term, which could well turn out to be premature articulation.

It is striking that in a majority of the Indian media and even the foreign media Modi’s win is being projected as a fait accompli, with the only academic question by how much. The Indian electorate has a long history of producing uncomfortable surprises for those making such claims.

Even if Modi wins a third term, he will still not rival either Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, who served the longest in office with 16 years and 286 days. His was also the longest continuous term from 1947 to 1964.

Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi ruled for 15 years and 350 days in three separate terms between 1966 and 1977 and 1980 and 1984.

Related posts