As summer is nearing, the world’s largest democracy India is celebrating a grand festival – Lok Sabha Elections 2019. This exercise will choose the 17th Lok Sabha. The members of the largest party/coalition will then choose their Prime Minister. All the 543 Member of Parliament (MPs) will be elected from single-member constituencies and the President of India nominates additional two members from the Anglo-Indian community if he feels that the community is underprivileged.
According to the Indian General Election 2019 schedule, the election will be conducted in 7 phases, beginning from April 11th to announcement of result on 23rd May. This election also holds higher value as assembly polls will also be held in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Odisha, and this would result in the largest elections to be held in the past few years. Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh assembly polls have already been held on 11th April. Odisha assembly elections will take place in 4 phases. The election dates are 11, 18, 23 and 29th April.
The voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system enables the electronic voting machines to record each vote cast by generating the EVM slips, and according to statistics, a total of 17.4 lakh VVPAT units and 39.6 lakh EVMs have been used in around 10,35,918 polling stations.
In this year’s Lok Sabha election, around 90 crore people are eligible to vote this time. This number has seen an increase of about 90 million compared to the previous elections. It is estimated that about 130 million voters are first-time voters. 2014 elections have seen the highest turnout record ever in independent India’s history, which is about 66.4%. The turnout this year is yet to be witnessed. The first phase of Lok Sabha elections that took place on April 11th saw a voter turnout of 69.43%, hence we can expect a better turnout compared to the previous election this time.
Representatives, Process and Promises:
1,841 political parties have been recognized by the Election Commission of India are contesting in the Lok Sabha elections 2019.
A number of issues that might be a hot topic for debate and discussions include the recent conflict with Pakistan, GST, unemployment, and national security.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) are the two major parties contesting in this election with current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and INC president Rahul Gandhi representing their party as the prime minister candidates. Narendra Modi will be contesting from Varanasi, UP and Rahul Gandhi will be contesting from Wayanad, Kerala.
Let’s have a look at their manifesto highlights:
Highlights of the Congress manifesto
● Introduce a Nyuntam Aay Yojana welfare program wherein ₹72,000 (US$1,000) per year will be transferred directly to the bank account of a woman-member in each family in the poorest 20 percent of households in India.
● Create 1 million “Seva Mitra” jobs in rural and urban local government bodies. Fill all 400,000 central government vacancies before March 2020, and encourage state governments to fill their 2,000,000 job vacancies. Enact a law that requires all non-government controlled employers with over 100 employees to implement an apprentice program.
● Enact a permanent National Commission on Agricultural Development and Planning and introduce a “Kisan Budget” (Farmer Budget) in the parliament every year. Waive all farmer loans in all states with any amounts outstanding.
● Enact a Right to Homestead Act that will provide free land to every household that does not own a home.
● Enact a Right to Healthcare Act and guarantee every Indian citizen free diagnostics, free medicine, free hospitalization, and free out-patient care. Double India’s spending on healthcare to 3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product by 2024.
● Double India’s spending on education to 6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product by 2024.
● Revise the national GST law from three tax tiers to GST 2.0 law with a single moderate rate of tax. Reduce taxes on exported products to zero. Exempt from the GST essential goods and services that are currently not exempt. Enact a new Direct Taxes Code in addition to this revised GST 2.0 law.
● Augment the total length of national highways, increase the pace of construction. Massively modernize the Indian railway infrastructure. Promote green energy. Make India one of the top manufacturing hubs in the world.
● Increase defense spending to strengthen the Indian Armed Forces.
● Enact a National Election Fund, wherein public funds will be distributed to recognized political parties to run their campaign
● Preserve special status and special rights to natives of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution.
Highlights of the BJP manifesto
● Double farmer incomes by 2022 by completing all major and micro-irrigation infrastructure projects, opening adequate markets and modern farm produce storage centers, implement minimum price supports for farmer produce, farmer loans, and all-weather rural roads. Introduce a pension bill for small and marginal farmers.
● Bring all secondary schools under the national board quality preview. Invest ₹1,000,000,000,000 (US$14 billion) in higher education, open new and increase seats at existing engineering, management and law schools. Establish skills and innovations center at block-level in every town. Enhance higher education opportunities for women by introducing financial support and subsidies programs. Source 10% of government procurement from companies with more than 50% female employees.
● Ensure a pucca (lit. brick-solid, modern) house, safe potable water, toilet, LPG gas cylinder, electricity, and banking account for every family. Reduce the percentage of families living under the poverty line to a single digit by 2024.
● Double the length of national highways. Improve fuel quality by mandating 10% ethanol in petrol. Scale renewable energy capacity to 175 GW.
● Electrify and convert to broad gauge all Indian railway tracks.
● Establish 150,000 health and wellness centers across India. Start 75 new medical colleges. Raise doctor-to-population ratio to 1:1400. Triple childcare facilities in India. Achieve 100% immunization of all babies in India.
● Raise India’s ranking further in “ease of doing business”. Double India’s exports, introduce single-window compliance procedures for all businesses.
● Zero tolerance for terrorism, fund resources to strengthen national security, guarantee veterans, and soldier welfare, modernize police forces.
● End special status and special rights to natives of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution because these provisions have prevented the development of the state.
Major party alliances are the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), United Progressive Alliance (UPA) with INC, Grand alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and Left Front with Communist Party of India (Marxist). There are other parties and individual candidates contesting as well.