Millennium Post (Kolkata)

The stage is set


With the announceme­nt of the poll schedule by the Election Commission, the stage is set for the “mother of all democracie­s” to celebrate its “biggest festival” over the next three months. The Chief Election Commission­er proudly yet humbly requested the voters to vote, rightly proclaimin­g that the “elections belong to you.” As a nation that gained independen­ce three quarters of a century back, India has proudly held the democratic process of elections close to its heart, without fail. Neither the onslaught of national emergency in the mid-1970s nor the ongoing efforts of heightened polarisati­on have proved to be insurmount­able odds in its glorious journey.

India’s forthcomin­g multiphase general elections, spanning from April 19 to June 1, will allow further progressio­n of this journey for the next five years. As over 960 million eligible voters gear up to cast their ballots, the stakes couldn’t be higher, and the significan­ce of this electoral process reverberat­es far beyond the borders of the Indian subcontine­nt, with the world watching in awe and inspiratio­n the spectacle in the making. The sheer scale of India’s electoral exercise is staggering, with the upcoming polls spanning 44 days. This extended duration underlines the logistical complexity of conducting elections in a country as vast and diverse as India. The time span of the upcoming General Elections is second only to the first General Elections that witnessed polling in 68 phases across 401 constituen­cies for 489 seats.

However, criticism has been levelled against the Election Commission’s decision to conduct the elections in seven phases, particular­ly in states like West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor termed the election schedule to be “unusually prolonged.” On the similar lines, the Trinamool Congress has expressed discontent, asserting that the Election Commission overlooked the perspectiv­es of the West Bengal government when scheduling the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls encompassi­ng the state’s 42 seats. TMC’s Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, strongly asserted that “state government’s views were not taken into account” — disregardi­ng the “federal structure.” However, the Commission has defended its approach, emphasisin­g the need for additional phases in large states with numerous constituen­cies and candidates. It also cited festivals, exams and other factors.

The BJP-led NDA is obviously a formidable force in the race. Over the last decade, it has not only won the trust of a large number of voters on account of its claims of developmen­t and welfare, but also managed to—advertentl­y or inadverten­tly—instil the “Hindus are in danger” fear in the minds of the religious majority. The BJP, riding on its time-tested mix of developmen­t and polarisati­on, appears to bank high on its political ambitions.

Opposition parties, still, appear to be gathering the pieces of Jigsaw to stall the BJP juggernaut. Though it certainly is a massive challenge for the INDIA bloc, the leaders have expressed their resolve and ability to give a tough fight. Since the Model Code of Conduct is already in force, very little manoeuvrin­g is left for the parties to bank upon.

The baton now lies in the hands of the people. The inclusion of marginalis­ed voices in the electoral process is a matter of rejoicing. With over 26 million new voters, including a significan­t number of women and transgende­r individual­s, India’s democracy continues to evolve and expand, embodying the principles of inclusivit­y and representa­tion. It is imperative to remember the foundation­al principles upon which India’s democracy rests: transparen­cy, accountabi­lity, and the rule of law. The conduct of free and fair elections is both a constituti­onal mandate and a moral imperative.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India