Editorial: World’s Largest Electoral Exercise Gets Underway

Editorial: World’s Largest Electoral Exercise Gets Underway

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, March 18, 2024, 06:07 PM IST
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Representative Pic | ANI

As India readies to elect its 18th Lok Sabha, the crucial poll battle involving an electorate of nearly one billion will either hand the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party a hat-trick of victories that will ensure it a distinct place in the nation’s history or throw up a surprise rival victor. This important democratic exercise that begins on 19 April will stretch over 44 days in seven phases and include elections to four state assemblies. As parties gear up for a gruelling two-month campaign in the height of what is being predicted to be a scorching summer, the advantage appears to be decidedly with the BJP given its deep pockets and vast resources. The Opposition, on the other hand, will struggle to continue its campaign with limited finances. Three states, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh will have polls in all seven phases. This general election will also be six days longer than the last one in 2019.

The Election Commission has expressed its determination to weed out hate speech and the use of money and muscle power, but past experience has shown that these are all part of India’s electoral landscape. The Opposition has often accused the poll body of being biased in favour of the ruling party and never pulling up their leaders for hate speech. As campaigning picks up, there are bound to be hotheads airing their views. It is for the respective political parties to rein in their star speakers so that the discourse remains within the bounds of decency. The BJP campaign will be headlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has proven that he can sustain a gruelling campaign with ease, crisscrossing the country and addressing several rallies daily. Other key campaigners will be Yogi Adityanath, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani. The Congress campaign will no doubt be helmed by Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge. Parties will vie with each other to woo voters. Apart from caste considerations, youth and women will be the other demographics in play during the polls.

As the planet’s largest electoral exercise kicks off in a month, the world will be watching. Since Independence, polls have largely been free and fair in India and it is in the best interest of all involved that they continue to be so. This can only be achieved by ensuring a level playing field for all political parties. Strict tabs must be kept on violations of the Model Code of Conduct and those indulging in hate speech must be swiftly brought to book irrespective of party affiliations. The abrupt resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel and the swift appointment of two Election Commissioners subsequently have raised some questions. The ECI is duty bound to clarify any doubts that may have risen. Indian voters deserve to be treated with respect, as they have proved time and again that they cannot be taken for granted.

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