International Politics – India’s General Elections

May 7, 2009

The world’s largest democracy goes to the polls to elect a Parliamentary government that would govern the nation regarded as the other emerging economic power in Asia.  India being the multilingual, multi-ethnic and diverse society is complex in political nature because of the multi-political factions representing a wide range of social, economic, political and environmental issues.

Further, such complexity diminishes the prospects for any major party to form a government.  In the absence of absolute majority, the winning party often forced to forge alliance with their enemy’s enemy and earn the title Coalition government resembling the democratic outcome in Israel, Germany and Australia to name a few around the world.

Indian election like any other electoral process is not devoid of controversies and the highly decorated stage performances by political figures.  In addition, the involvement of celebrities as surrogates is all too familiar for political enthusiasts.  The interesting feature of the Indian election is the massive participation of the rural and the impoverished segment of the population prominently left behind in the rising economic prosperity prevalent among the society’s middle class.  Obviously, the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots is the topic for many contenders to deal with during any political debates and public appearances.

Do the electorate buy what the political candidates and the representatives offer while seeking their votes?

Even though, the literacy rate among the rural and the poor electorate may not meet the international standard, one should never underestimate the political knowledge of the struggling class in the society.  Unfortunately, the plight of this populace also exploited for political reasons by many aspiring rookie and experienced political rivals alike, in concurrence with the regular politics found anywhere.

India has come a long way and dealt with great many challenges since independence.  In the past decade, the tremendous economic and social progress is transparent in the lower income and middle class population. The achievements in science and technology has been instrumental in the impressive economic growth despite the politics related to outsourcing and the growing , well educated youth population form a valuable asset in strengthening the present and future economic security.

The country is experiencing revolutionary demographic shifts among the rural and urban population creating opportunities for continuous productivity.  Nevertheless, prosperity accompanied by problems is a common phenomenon for developing nations in a competitive global economy.   With the steady economic growth, the inflationary rate requires constant monitoring in correlation with the free market demand and supply factor.  Besides, the sustainable population growth strategy would ease the burden on urban development, industrial expansion and ultimately the environmental goals.

The rural population has been disadvantaged in the globalization trend directly affecting the farming community and served a platform for the ruling party to win the previous election.  Most states prioritized commercial sector over agriculture and abandoned the farmers forcing many to commit suicide, while others moved to industrial towns and urban areas in search of jobs.

Meanwhile, the aggressive promotion of chemical fertilizers and pesticides by the multinational corporations proved harmful to the crops apart from being an environmental hazard.  Organic food producers are in strife due to produce grown with chemical fertilizers arriving from the Chinese border and sold in the Indian fruit and vegetable markets at an unbeatable price.  Above that, the global warming has taken toll with extreme weather conditions varying from severe drought to flooding caused by monsoon rain damaging the crops and vegetation.

Social and economic disparities are visibly widespread among the poorest in both rural and urban parts of the country.  It is important for the new government to address abject poverty, disease, lack of education, medical facilities and provide better living conditions starting with the supply of pure drinking water and decent dwellings.

There is an urgent requirement for investments in infrastructure and environmental friendly energy programs that would minimize oil dependency while promoting efficient transportation. It would be beneficial to the overall economy.

In the geopolitical sphere, India is grappling with tensions all around the borders particularly with the nuclear neighbor Pakistan and the rising instability within that nation from Taliban insurgency and other terror networks.  The Indian side of Kashmir is relatively calm and reflected in the recent democratic state election.

On the northern side, the political turmoil in Nepal is a matter of concern due to the successful influence of China on the existing power, The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Moreover, China’s illegal invasion and occupation of Tibet has led to the fleeing of Tibetan refugees to India.   India has responded well to the humanitarian call in accepting and providing asylum to the Tibetan population.

Across the Indian Ocean, the escalating ethnic cleansing by Sri Lankan government is a contentious issue for the people in TamilNadu, South India.

Amidst the election excitement, the political candidates capitalized on the Mumbai terror attack and were extravagant in the divisive politics with some of them exclusively targeting the Muslim population in the society, regardless of India being the second largest Muslim nation in the world.

If the fundamentalists in BJP and other political parties indulge in polarization, it would be detrimental for national security upon their election.  Likewise, the incumbent Congress Party must refrain from aiding Sri Lankan government in their hostility and persecution of the ethnic Tamil population to settle past political scores.  Such action could similarly lead to the disintegration of the society with a significant representation of Tamils in the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu.

Indian politics deserve a breath of fresh air with young intellectuals in leadership role to guide the nation utilizing modern and innovative concepts in all aspects.  Perhaps, it’s time for the Indian society to renounce dynasty, nepotism and seniority based politics.

India sought freedom on the premise of non-violence and relentless peace process initiated by the founding father and leader Mahatma Gandhi. Any effort by the political factions to dismantle the unity and peace foundation would be disastrous for the country with enormous potential.  India is a secular nation and remains so now and in the future.

Every vote counts and matter in a democracy.  The citizens of democratic nations privileged with the power to elect a government of the people, for the people and by the people should never discard the exclusive right.

On that note, I wish the world’s largest democracy everlasting peace, progress and prosperity.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant


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