Festival of Democracy

Today, Election Commissioner of India, announced General elections for the 16th Lok Sabha.

Between 7th April and May 12th, in the biggest election in world’s history will see 814 million adults eligible to vote, from the remote Himalayas in the north to India’s tropical southern tip, 100 million more than last time in 2009 cast their votes in about one million ballots with Electronic Voting Machines(EVM) in nine lakh 30 thousand polling stations, in 9 phases for fate of 543 MPs.

Besides being the largest democratic election in any part of the world, its the longest, and extremely complex. Political parties have to reach and impress millions of religious, caste, sub-caste, economic groups, geographical groups, ideological groups, rural urban, Urban-rural, Slum vote banks, India Inc., socialist, leftist, liberal, NRI and other opinion leaders, unemployed, women groups, NGOs, radicals, capitalist, secular, communal, fundamentalists, coalitions within coalitions…, millions of groups to address to. An OBC of UP has different demands than the one in Tamilnadu. Muslim of West Bengal has different concerns than Muslim in Mumbai. National parties have to constantly keep finding new and unique ways to communicate with such diverse groups. That’s not all.

Campaigning during April-May is not easy. I have campaigned in 2 elections in Aligarh in the same months. Temperatures are going to be in the range of 38-45 centigrade. Candidates will campaign from 6am to 11pm, covering 10s of villages, going door to door, giving speeches, mostly the same with local twists. Back to the base, they will have long update meetings running till 2-3 am.

There will be severe power cuts, water shortage and dust storms. Most of the villages don’t have roads. Speaking from my own experience I can vouch that you have to be possessed with some ‘madness’ to find such passion, energy and conviction. When you campaign its not about power, its about competition. It’s about victory. When thousands of supporters and volunteers chant ‘jeetega bhai jeetega’, the entire atmosphere fills with collective energy of belief. Its neither for the faint-hearted nor for physically unfit. The speed and alertness of campaign is so fast that if you blink you will miss the cavalcade.

After a lot of blood and sweat, sore joints and throats, blank minds and empty pockets the fate of 543 candidates will be announced on May 16th.

And will be decided the fate of India.

It will be decided whether india is ready to move from religious agenda to social justice.

It will be decided whether India is ready to move from Congress’s idea of growth to the idea of development.

It will be decided whether Indians mean it when they talk about corruption free India.

Their choice will tell whether they want infrastructure, education, health or reservations, subsidies & doles.

This election will be the test of New Style of Politics and its relevance and acceptance.

The mood is very upbeat. In the last 14 elections I have never seen such rational yet highly emotional participation of people. It’s different. It feels different. Most of the traditional voters have made up their mind. And they are showing up in unprecedented numbers in various rallies and social media. Which is why, every party is targeting 100 million new, young voters.

It looks very certain that the future course of India will be decided by these 100 million young citizens of India. I hope these 100 million have the right dreams and rational minds to elect a leader who can drive a country of billion plus to an era of stability, security, development and good governance.

That will be the real victory. A celebration of world’s largest festival of democracy.

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